Saturday, February 5, 2011

8 Tips for Better Food Photographs

While I enjoy taking pictures out-of-doors and even around the house and am often pleased with the results, I've been stumped by taking pictures of food.  It may be that I lack practice as I certainly never took pictures of food before I had a blog.  However, I also think that food photography is fairly tricky .  So I thought I would look online for some tips and ideas on how to improve my pictures - and I'm going to share what I learned in case some of you are interested as well.   I need to say right from the beginning that I only have a point-and-shoot camera and I don't have any fancy lighting so I'm just working with what I have.  I will never have professional photographs, but I just want better ones.  Ones that make my mouth water - just a bit!

One of the best sources was this article I found - Digital Food Photography Tips (Part 1 and Part 2).  He had some great ideas which I thought I would summarize with photos that I found online to illustrate his points.   Some of his tips were for professional food photographers so I'll only include ones that I would actually use at home.  You really should read the original article to get the full idea.   Although I want to improve my photographs of food in general, I thought it would be easiest to compare photographs of a single food item - so I've chosen cupcakes. 


1)  Shoot from a low angle.  In general between 10 and 45 degrees above the table surface is ideal.  The angle you want to avoid is the one we usually see the food at, as then the food doesn't look as interesting.  This photo is taken at an extrememly low angle.

Cupcake Project

Of course, the author did admit that rules can sometimes be broken to good effect, as in this gorgeous photo of banana cupcakes taken from overhead.

Martha Stewart

2) Crop in tightly.  This highlights all the details and textures of the food so you start to drool.

Cupcake Project

3) Use a shallow field of depth.  Or in layman's terms - have something in the foreground in focus and the background out-of-focus.  This next photo does this so well with the row of three cupcakes.  I love the simple styling in this picture.

Martha Stewart

4)  Light from either 10:00 or 2:00.  If you think of the food item as being in the centre of a clock and you are at 6:00, then have the light source at 10:00 or 2:00.  While I don't have any photography lights, I can move myself around so the natural light from the window is approximatately at 10 or 2.  The strawberry cupcake in the next photo seems to have the lighting at 10:00.

Martha Stewart


5) Scrape the light.  This means to have the light just hit the edge of the piece of food so you can see all the texture.  Now I'm definitely no expert, but I think that is what you can see in the next photo - the ridges in the icing and on the cupcake liner both seem to have the lighting hitting so the ridges are highlighted.

Style at Home

6) Keep the main light source low.  This may be tricky when I'm dealing with the sun. There were actually three more tips all pertaining to fill-in lighting - that you should light with fill in lighting; add the fill in gradually; and you should use mirrors to backlight the piece of food.  I think it will be interesting to try the mirror tip.  Again I'm no expert, but the lighting in the next photo seems to be so bright that I'm guessing there is a lot of fill-in lighting to make it look so cheerful.

Eddie Ross
7) Don't overprop.  The focus should be on the food not on all the things on the table.  While I agree, I do love it when the dishes and linens create a mood or add charcter or even tell a story about the food.  Even with the use of some props, simple is still usually best.  This next photo is a good example of not overpropping.  While it does have some props, they are simple and don't take away from the cupcakes.
 
Martha Stewart


8) Watch the background.  This is something that I've struggled with when taking pictures of food for my blog.  Several articles suggested using scrapbooking paper, hand-made papers, or textiles as backgrounds.  I will definitely give this a try because so far I've relied on my backsplash as my background.  For a look at one food stylists props, read here.

I love the blue and white and candles in the background of this photo.

Kraft
A lovely simple white background.

 
Country Living

In an interesting article about styling your food photos (which you can read here), it was suggested that you incorporate elements from the food you are shooting in the photograph.  So you might use one of the ingredients as a garnish or, as in the next photograph, as a prop.
Digital Photography School

Is anyone left reading this, or are you all off baking cupcakes?  I have to admit my mouth is watering. 

I hope to be making cupcakes in the next week or two and I'm going to give some of these ideas a try.  If anyone else takes some food photos inspired by this post, I would love to see them.

26 comments:

  1. I cannot believe this post!!!! You read my mind today. I want to start taking photos of my cooking but like you said it is very tricky!
    I love love to cook and want to add this to my blog. Thanks for the tips Grace!
    Thanks also for the congrats!! I even won my very first giveaway today! How cool is that?
    Pamela :)

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  2. There are some seriously good tips in here! I never really thought about the angle I take the shot from, but I do that wrong all the time. And the lighting at 10 and 2? I totally never thought of that! Thanks for all your hard word finding all those photos to match the tips.

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  3. LOL, Grace! I feel the need to bake! (I saw your comment about "off baking cupcakes", so at least I made it to the end of your post).....

    This is a very informative post. I like it! Thanks so much.

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  4. These are fantastic tips! I know I'll be using these! Thanks so much for posting this!

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  5. Great tips. I am starting my Friday Photo feature again, and now I may just pick food for our next Friday Challenge.

    Thanks Grace.

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  6. Geeze, why all the cupcakes? Now I am craaaving a cupcake!!! Thanks for the photo tips!

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  7. Awesome tips, Grace. A lot to take in too. I guess if I try it I will have to take baby steps. And yes, I am seriously craving some icing goodness.

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  8. I love cupcakes and these photographs are beautiful. I love taking photos too, it does take time and effort.

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  9. Lovely photos Grace, but they are not making an undressed salad and steamed fish very tempting... maybe something with cottage cheese next time, for the challenge?

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  10. Gorgeous! I loved this tutorial. Mind if I put it under my tutorials and of course it would lead back to your blog. I think this is fantastic!

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  11. Great tips Grace, and if it wasn't so late I'd be off baking!

    Kat :)

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  12. Fabulous tips and scrumptious shots! A-M xx

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  13. I am CRAVING a cupcake now :-)

    Thanks for these great tips!

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  14. great tips and delicious cupcakes Grace... you inspired me to bake and photograph them for my birthday this week!
    Love, Maaike

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  15. Wow!! This is so helpful! I love these tips and am so grateful you shared them. Some of them are useful for any kind of photography, but some are very specific to food and solve some of the problems I was having. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

    Donna @ Comin' Home

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  16. What an excellent summary of the tips in the articles. I try out recipes from different cookbooks and put them up from time to time on my blog- with photos of course. Getting good shots of food is really hard. How to make it look interesting and appetizing in a photo- even if it's stew? This advice is soooo helpful. Thanks a million!

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  17. Thanks so much for sharing these tips. I admit my photography skills are horrid, so I'll definitely be practicing these things.

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  18. Now I'm starving! Very helpful tips! Thank you!

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  19. LOVE this post!! I actually have a DSLR camera, and am participating in a project 365 (a photo a day) and a cupcake photo is a GREAT idea!! :) And these are awesome tips!!! Thanks!!!

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  20. Wow. I must have missed this post . . . but I'm glad I found it. I actually HATE food photos b/c mine always look terrible. I'm excited to give some of these tips a try. I'm still trying to figure out how to use all the settings on my new camera!

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  21. Thank you for the tips! This should really help my blog a lot. I'm a new follower to your blog now! :-)

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  22. This is an amazing post Grace! Wonderful information here that we can all try to master!! Angie xo

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  23. fantastic - looks like you have it in the bag!

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  24. Grace, I'm so confused by 4-6. My brain is Jello!

    Anyway, I appreciate you doing the research on this. I'm going to look through your comments and see if anyone else had some tips, too! :)

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