10 Top Food Photography Tips

A fixture on everyone’s social media feed, who isn’t desperate to know how to go about snapping that dazzling dauphinoise or that mind-blowing meatloaf? Beyond this, though, food photography is a professional artform – it’s a still life sub-genre used to display and advertise dishes for commercial purposes, whether you’re promoting your own services or are hired to promote someone else’s. 

As a medium, food photography can be deceptively tricky to master. If you’d like to give it a go but just aren’t sure where to start, read on and find out how to take pictures of food that’ll blow everyone away.

Want to create photos that look as visually tantalizing as they are delicious? Check out these top 10 food photography tips to help get you started!

10 Easy Food Photography Tips

Food photography uses the same essential compositional basics as photography with just a few extra elements to pay attention to. Here’s 10 food photography techniques that’ll elevate your food photography to the next level!

1. Find The Perfect Angle
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Pick the best angle to show off your food's most beautiful aspects. (https://fullofplants.com/vegan-rose-water-cupcakes/)

Before going to photograph your food, think about the qualities that make it unique: does it have any particular embellishments, an unusual shape or a notable structure? If so, place your camera at an angle that’ll highlight these qualities. 

The above image, demonstrating the height and decoration of these cupcakes, wouldn’t look half as appealing or impactful if shot from above; you wouldn’t be able to see the attributes that make the cupcake so attractive and unique.

2. Supporting Characters
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The bright hues of red peppers add stark contrast and draws attention towards the main subject. 
(Shutterstock)

Use your foreground and your background to accentuate your subject. You might, for example, want to create a narrative that focuses on the main dish’s creation. This could be achieved by placing ingredients, utensils, or sauces that were used to create the dish in and around the frame.

3. Negative Space Is Your Friend
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Dedieu's use of negative space places the skillet of mushrooms at the center of the composition and focuses attention around the dish. (https://trendland.com/jean-pacome-dedieu-still-life-photography/)

Alternatively, you might want to eradicate your background completely, opting for muted plain canvases and surfaces to create negative space instead. This gives your audience some room to breathe and compartmentalise what they’re seeing in front of them.

In the above image, for example, the viewer’s eye is drawn instantaneously to the dish. As such, its craft can be appreciated but, unlike an extreme close-up or macro shot, it isn’t too invasive and doesn’t overwhelm the senses.

4. Natural and Muted Tones
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Keeping it clean, simple and pure, this photo doesn't add too much clutter and keeps the colours toned down to not subtract away from the focus of the photograph. (http://ansonsmart.com/galleries/food-1/)

In a similar vein, it’s important to be mindful -whether you’re using negative space or a busier background – of your supporting tones. Whilst props and tableware can contribute a lot to your picture’s narrative, it’s best to reign it in.

Resist the urge to show off your fanciest and most colourful props; they’ll only upstage your dish and detract from the subject, plus your food will really pop when surrounded by neutral tones. 

5. Keep it Light
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Natural morning lighting paints a scene of tranquillity, sophistication and calmness. (https://twolovesstudio.com/blog/4-must-haves-beautiful-natural-food-photography-lighting/)

As with any type of photography, light can really make or break an image. For best results, opt for natural light. Artificial light – unless handled with great skill – will look forced and obvious. In addition to this, it’s always best to use back, side, or top lighting. Light coming from the same angle or direction as the camera will only lead to your image looking flat and washed-out.

Natural light should be used whenever possible, with special care being taken to ensure that the foreground, background and focus of the photograph are all well illuminated.

6. The Human Touch
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The focus is food-oriented, but who's to say you can't show off a little of your own personality and add a human element? (Unsplash)

Despite all these formalities, and despite how daunting it might sound to capture that perfect image, food photography (much like food itself) is to be enjoyed. Not everything has to feel rigid, distant, and stiff. 

Sometimes, humanising your photograph, especially if you’re promoting to a certain demographic, can add warmth to the product. This can be done through capturing the normal relatable mess that can unfold in the kitchen, such as some stray crumbs or dashes of icing sugar, or, as above, a hand to add a human dimension.

7. Less Is More​

Keep it simple! Minimalism is very en vogue right now and, especially when there’s a purpose behind your picture such as advertising, you’d do well to avoid cluttering the shot with random objects that contribute little to your message.

The best strategy? Start with just your main dish and slowly add in additional elements. That way, you’ll be able to step back and objectively evaluate whether the object enhances the photo or distracts the viewer from the dish.

8. Tripods: An Invaluable Tool
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Nothing ruins a great shot faster than having the subject out of focus. (Shutterstock)

Sometimes, poor lighting just happens. It’s unavoidable. But there are few things worse than snagging the ideal shot – complete with perfect composition and flattering lighting – just to find that the camera shake has turned your image into an absolute blur. Enter the tripod – if you’re using any camera with an exposure of longer than 1/60 of a second, such as a DSLR, you might want to invest in a tripod. Better safe than sorry.      

9.   The Trusty Tilt-Shift Lens
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Control all the elements of your composition with ease by utilizing a tilt-shift lens. (https://twolovesstudio.com/blog/using-tilt-shift-lens-food-photography/)

To elevate your food photography skill further, you might want to try shooting with a tilt-shift lens. 

This is great for this niche because you can dictate the plane of focus with precision, striking the balance between depth of field and control over blur. A good composition will compose of a background, a foreground and the subject. A tilt-shift allows you to create these 3 things naturally – drawing focus towards the subject instantly. 

10. Experiment
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Don't march to the beat of another's drum - experiment to create your own unique visual aesthetic. (https://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/trends-news/article/food-cubes-art)

If you take one tip away from this article, then please let it be this one: experiment! Explore with different angles, move around to find the best light source, shoot in locations other than the kitchen and, above all, have fun with it.  

Key Takeaways On Food Photography Tips

Food photography isn’t that much different from regular photography so the main tenets of composition, lighting and perspective still holds true. However, you won’t be approaching food photography with the same approach as portrait photography. Here’s our list of 3 key food photography tips to take your food photography to the next level:

Know your angles

You won’t be shooting a picture of a cupcake the same way you would with soup. A profile view of a cupcake is a great angle to show off all of its delicious texturing and frosting but you might want to consider top-down angle when it comes to other meals such as soup or charcuterie boards. 

Tilt-Shift Lenses

These special lenses allow you to blur perspective and shift focus towards the main focus of your composition; the food. Tilt-shift lenses allow you to blur the background as well as the foreground to naturally draw focus towards the most prominent subject. 

For portrait, landscape or even general photography, a tilt-shift lens isn’t necessary unless you want to experiment with different media expressions. With food, however, tilt-shift lenses are nigh essential for capturing that perfect food shot. 

The Human Touch

It’s food photography, not wedding photography. There’s no need to worry about including your hand or fingers in the shot and taking the glamour away from the newly married couple. Including an action shot of the creator’s hand drizzling sauce over a dish or stirring a pot adds a human element and aids in providing character to your composition.

Thea Christie

Written By Thea Christie

Thea is the Content Marketing Lead at Advesa and possesses a strange love of grammar, syntax and punctuation. In the past, she’s worked as a content specialist for publications in the startup, SME and tech space. When she’s not storytelling, she’s busy being a travel junkie. @theachristie