How to Take Pictures of Food
Taking pictures of food is one of the most difficult skills a photographer can master. To learn how to take pictures of food photographers must acquire knowledge of light, camera angles and the nature of the food being photographed. If lighting or other photographic elements are off, pictures of meals can look unappetizing, potentially ruining the intent of the photos.
Why Take Pictures of Meals?
If learning how to take pictures of food is so difficult, why do people invest time taking food photos? One reason is that taking picture of food opens up a number of career paths for photographers, including in the following areas:
- food packaging
Each of these areas has specific rules for food photos. While photographers taking pictures for food packaging must make the pictures of food look as realistic as possible, photographers taking advertising photos can be more artistic and creative with the food in order to present it in the best manner. When taking pictures of food for a magazine feature, photographers need to make the food look as delicious as possible.
Outside of professional photography, amateurs may enjoy learning how to take pictures of food, either as a way to break into professional photography or for the challenge of it. Wedding cakes, Thanksgiving feasts and even picnic baskets may become subjects for the amateur photographer.
Food Pictures: Texture and Color
Taste and smell are the two things people most often associate with food. However, because neither sensation can be captured on film, photographers taking pictures of meals have to rely on other features, such as texture, color and presentation.
For texture to come through, food photos usually need to be taken at close range. When trying to capture a food’s texture, look at the food you’re photographing for its most dominant texture. If you were photographing grapes, for instance, you would want to focus on their smooth, silky texture. Alternatively, you’ll want to emphasize the bumpy curds if you’re using cottage cheese as your subject. Food photos that can capture texture are invariably better than those that don’t.
Also, the background of a food photo should contrast with the color of the food. For example, photograph a creamy Alfredo sauce on a black plate, rather than on white China, to make the image pop.
Lighting Pictures of Food
As with other types of photography, lighting plays an important role in food photos. One of the goals of food photos is to make meals look three-dimensional. Proper use of light and shadow can achieve this goal.
Because food photographers work with relatively small subjects, they often find it better to use smaller lighting equipment, rather than large studio lights. One of the biggest advantages to using smaller lighting is that photographers can easily move the lighting pieces around the food. As a result, the photographer can decide which angles and shadows work best with the subject.
Depending on the consistency of the food, various lighting conditions will make the food appear in a completely different manner. For instance, while certain foods take on an opaque transparency when lit from behind, others seem to glow. Photographers can achieve unusual effects by toying with lighting when taking pictures of jellies and aspics.
Angles and Focus
Pictures of food look best when taken at close range. F-stops of four to five with an ISO of 200 will keep the food in focus and the background out of focus, drawing attention to the food. For this kind of close-up work, photographers should use a tripod.
Shoot pictures of meals at an angle to give the illusion of three dimensions. The lower the angle, the taller the food will appear. If shooting from above, aim for an angle between 10 ? and 45 ? above the table . Angles from above work best when photographing large spreads of foods, such as Christmas dinner layouts.
Garnishing Pictures of Meals
Garnishes and accessories can transform average pictures of food into art. Think of garnishes as a food photographer’s props. They add interest to pictures of meals and can even tell a story: A dessert fork next to a chocolate cake with a bite out of it implies that the cake was simply too good to resist. Greens, parsley, cutlery, fresh flowers and other garnishes can all liven up food pictures by suggesting the event for which the food is intended.
Preparation and Food Pictures
Preparation and speed are essential elements of how to take pictures of food. Ideally, food photos are taken in or near a kitchen or dining area. Because both the kitchen and the lighting produce heat, pictures of food need to be taken before this ambient heat affects the structure, color and form of the food being photographed.
Crisp greens wilt, desserts melt, sauces congeal: Food quickly loses its luster and photogenic appeal. Because of this, everything must be in place before you bring the food on the set. Tripods must be set up, lighting must be established and garnishes must be ready. The ideal time for taking pictures of meals is a few minutes after cooking.
Digital cameras can make taking food photos much easier. By viewing shots through the LCD screen, you can check to see if your photos are producing the desired effect. For this reason alone, digital cameras are becoming more common for taking food photos.
How to Take Pictures of Flowers Taking pictures of flowers is relatively easy: Flowers don’t jump around, hide from the camera or complain about the need for “just one shot.” However, just because flowers make willing ...
Taking Pictures of Lightning Taking pictures of lightning can be very rewarding for patient photographers willing to sacrifice film in the hope of catching lightning pictures. Lightning is here and gone, an arc ...