Monday, October 4, 2010

10 Tips for Great Food Photography

I am not a professional photographer by any means, but I do get lots of compliments on my food photos.  Today I'm sharing 10 of the things I think are most important to me when taking photos of my food.

1)  Lose The Flash - Natural light works best for me, just out of direct sunlight.  I look for nicely shaded areas in my back yard and naturally well lit areas inside my home.  This usually eliminates the yellow tone that false light gives and any reflections on dishes that a flash might make.

Natural light with direct sunlight in background

2) Planning and Practice Make Perfect - Often times when I know I'm going to make and photograph a dish, I'll write myself some notes, draw some little sketches and really think about how I want the dish to speak to my audience.  Try it, and then when you've made a decision, prep the area and get everything ready BEFORE, so all you have to do is insert your delicious food and shoot!

3)  Pay Attention -   I always look through food magazines, web sites and blogs for food photos I love and use some of their ideas.  You can look for backgrounds, finishing touches, colors, plates, accompaniments (silverware, flowers, etc.).  This could give you exactly the idea you didn't know you had!

4)  Opposites Attract -  When looking at colors for dishes and backgrounds, I try to remember not to put too much of one color in the dish or in the background.  If your food is mostly white, use a darker plate/background to make the food "pop" off of the plate.  I have a color wheel that I use sometimes when I'm setting up photos for my food to let me know what colors are opposite each other.


5)  Get To Know Your Equipment -   You don't have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on professional equipment, but you do have to get something, and its especially important to spend some time getting to know how to use what you have.  One of the best decisions I made was to take a Photoshop class at my community college.  This allowed me not only to purchase $1000 of software for $300 (yes, the student discounts are THAT good), but also to learn some really great tricks and shortcuts within the software.  I consider this my secret weapon and the key to all of my really nice photos.  Rarely do I publish a photo that hasn't been cropped, corrected or sharpened in some way.


6)  K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Silly!) - Remember, we want our audience to see our FOOD and not everything else around it.  The background should draw attention to the food, not lose it.  Avoid busy pattern tablecloths and backgrounds for busy looking dishes.

Blueberry-Orange Tiramisu Trifle
 For example, there's way too much going on in this photo.  In my opinion, a plain white background would have been much better here.  This gives me a GREAT excuse to make this dish again and re-photograph it!

7) Finish the Dish - A final garnish with an opposite color always makes a dish look FANTASTIC!  You will often see a sprig of green mint on top of a red dessert dish.  See color wheel above...ahaaaaa!  Also, if I want someone to know that there's something in a dish that's not visible in the photo, I include that ingredient as a garnish.  You can't see the apples in my Irish Rasher and Apple Mash, but the apple garnish makes it very clear.

Irish Rasher and Apple Mash

8) Take LOTS of Photos - You may have the perfect idea of what you want, and you may think you've got the shot, but keep going and get lots of other different angles, depths and directions.  I always spin the plate around a few times while I'm taking pictures once I find the light I like.  I'm usually pleasantly surprised with a different shot that I wasn't expecting.  Don't be afraid to crop and highlight different artistic angles in your editing software, either.

Sunshine Skewers
The shot I wanted
Sunshine Skewers
A cropped version of the shot
I wanted
turned into the shot I LOVE!

9)  Keep a Portfolio of Your Pics - Especially if you're blogging, competing and/or writing with your recipes, its always handy to have an archive of all your photos.  It keeps me from using the same background and angles too much, and also reminds me of places I haven't used for a while.  It also helps me learn from my mistakes (see Blueberry-Orange disaster above!).

10) Be Prepared - Keep the camera charged and handy at all never know when you'll create the perfect dish spontaneously!  Remember, you're an INCREDIBLE cook, and you could have a moment of greatness at ANY SECOND!  Keeping the camera near is great way to remember what you did when you go to write it down and publish it.  My hubby LOVES acorn squash and I was just throwing together a dinner with chicken, acorn squash and a few other ingredients.  It turned into my Fall Spice Hash, which has been one of my most popular recipes as of late.  I'll post the recipe for this one later.

Fall Spice Hash

Again, these are just my opinions and experiences.  I'd love to hear what works for you.  How do you get your dishes in the eye of the camera?

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