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Food Photography - How to take Mouth Watering Photos of Food


One of the most common requests for tips that we get is for advice on how to take good photographs of food. If your house is anything like mine it has a shelf somewhere full of cook books (my wife is rather addicted to them) - most of which are filled with stunning photos of all kinds of food dishes. Some of them are mouth watering to read. Taking good photos of food is not as easy as it looks - lighting, composition, angles etc are all potential problem areas. We thought we'd take a look around the web and find some of the best food photography tips available. There is not a lot written on the topic but here are some quality starting points for budding food photographers:

Also check out Digital Photography School for more free Digital Camera Tips on All Topics.

The Fine Art of Food Photography
is a good introduction to the topic as it profiles food photograher, Doug Bradshaw - It's sort of like a performance art. When it's happened, it's happened, says Bradshaw of his craft, as he sips red wine and allows an amused smile to creep across his face. Food is very fluid. It's very temporary. You're looking for that decisive moment when everything is at its peak. It's the only thing that I've found that involves all of your senses. As a medium, it's very exciting....

We're selling a dream, says Wigington, whose current task is to make a dreamy ad for Weetabix. You need your audience to say, `I would like to be there, and I would love to be eating that food.' I don't think you really look at all the plates and stuff, but it does make the composition work. There's all this subliminal stuff that we kind of do intuitively.

O'Reilly: Tasteful Food Photography has one of the best articles on the topic we found - Get close: If possible, fill the entire frame of the image with your subject. I took most of the shots in this article with a 75-300mm lens at f-stops of 4 or 5.6. The resulting shallow depth-of-field will throw everything but a few inches of your plate out of focus, blurring the background and highlighting the texture of your food item. So position your camera and tripod on a low angle to your plate, zoom in (using the depth-of-field preview button on the 10D helps too), set your exposure in manual mode at something like f 5.6 and 1/8 second (ISO 200), and fire away....


Lighting: I inquired about the lighting conditions in the kitchen way ahead of time. My Canon 10D has a nifty White Balance option that will let me adjust for various lighting conditions on the fly, but film users must be aware of the perilous lighting conditions they can encounter on a shoot. In my case, two large rows of fluorescent lights with plastic diffusers were mounted directly overhead, providing plentiful, even illumination. Fluorescent lighting, however, will tint an image an unsightly shade of green. To retain the all-important natural colors in my images, I switched my camera's White Balance setting to fluorescent, activating the 10D's built-in color compensation mode. Film users should use a magenta filter to compensate for fluorescent light, or if shooting with stationary indoor lights, switch to tungsten-balanced film.

Food Photo Tips has five simple but helpful tips, here are two: Take the time to setup your shot. Look for distracting elements that might be in the background. We have found that photographing against a white background or a piece of cloth helps significantly.

Use a tripod or stabilizer. Close-up shots are less forgiving to movement than pictures at a distance. It is harder to get a good focus, so the more you can help yourself the better. This may mean just setting your camera on a stack of books.

Food Geeks has some useful food photography tips:

- Try to cut foods in somewhat geometric shapes for a more professional presentation.
- Arrange items on plate in a manner that showcases the strengths of a dish and its high-value ingredients.
- Garnish the dish to enhance the color. Adding chopped parsley gives spaghetti green specks that bring out the red color of the sauce. Adding a lemon wedge to a glass of iced tea takes a drab glass of brown liquid and gives it some juice. Or, consider ladling a sauce on the plate underneath the food, or over the items on the plate.

Food Photography has some more details tips for photographing food - Carefully placed focus depth of field - You'll find that with careful use of focus and depth of field adjustments, you can bring snap into an otherwise dull photograph.

On cameras lacking manual focus, you can usually depress the shutter button halfway down when you have the autofocus marks centered upon the area of interest to lock focus at that distance. You can recompose later by moving the camera about while keeping the shutter button depressed halfway. Depth of field or aperature settings on automatic cameras are usually missing, so you'll have to take whatever you get.

On cameras with manual focus, you will adjust the focus to the point you want, then simply let the focus distance remain fixed while you move the camera about. Most cameras with manual focus will have manual depth of field or aperature control, and again, you can simply set them at whatever is most appropriate for your picture. Wider or more open for a shallow depth of field, smaller or more closed for a deeper one.

When you look at a scene, take a look to see if any part of it grabs your attention right away. It may be the yellow color of a lemon, or the succulent look of a burger, or even the shape and texture of a fruit.

Whatever it is, look again at the entire scene and think about whether blurring them out of focus and out of attention would make them less distracting. Sometimes, you'll find that by doing so, you'll have a much stronger image - one that almost pulls the viewer's eyes directly to the point of sharp focus and attention. On the other hand, if the entire subject needs to be in sharp focus, you may find that you'll need to set the aperature as small as possible to get a wide depth of field, with sharp focus from near to far.

Also check out Tasting Menu - a blog about food with heaps of photography.

Posted by Darren in our Tips category on September 30, 2004