Photographing food is harder than it seems. My photos have improved with practice (lots and lots of it). Here are the best tips and tricks I can offer about food photography and equipment.
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Tips for taking great food photos
It’s all about the light! My best tip for beginners is to become aware of the intensity of the light and how it hits the food, and learn to adjust accordingly. Here are some tips for getting started.
Take photos under natural light. Do not use overhead lights or lamps or your built-in flash. Ever!
Move around to find the best light source. Don’t feel confined to taking photos in your kitchen. Perhaps the light is best in your bedroom in the morning, and in your living room in the afternoon.
Try taking photos from multiple angles. Some plates of food look better from above (like, pizza), or from the side (burgers), or at a 45-degree angle (drinks). Try moving around the plate and taking photos at various angles so you can pick your favorite later.
Minimize clutter. If that spoon, napkin or busy background doesn’t add to the photo, it detracts from the photo. Focus on what is most important, but don’t zoom in so close that viewers can’t tell what the food is.
Troubleshooting common food photography issues
Frustrated by how your food photos are turning out? Read on for potential solutions.
Your photos are blurry. Blurry photos are caused by camera shake. Solutions include: 1) hold your camera steadier (easier said than done), 2) use a tripod with a remote so your camera stays completely still while you’re shooting, 3) use a faster shutter speed, which will require opening up your aperture and/or moving to an area with more light, or 4) raise your ISO to decrease the amount of light needed (this will reduce image quality, however).
Your colors aren’t true to life. When you’re editing your photos, if your plate of food looks very blue, yellow, pink or green, use your software’s white balance tools to fix it! Colors come alive when the white balance is set properly. If you shoot in RAW format, you’ll have an easier time adjusting color balance later.
Your photos just don’t “pop” like professional food photos. Experienced food photographers use lenses that allow them to narrow their depth of field to highlight the subject of the photo. Then they use photography software to tweak the contrast, levels and sharpness of their photos. Sometimes a few little edits can really make a photo pop.
Read on for relatively inexpensive lens and software recommendations that can help you solve these problems and take amazing food photos.
Cameras for food photography
Nikon dSLR cameraYou don’t necessarily need a fancy camera to take appealing food photos. You can probably get by with a point-and-shoot camera for a while. Consult the user manual, use the macro setting and practice!
When you are ready to have full control over your exposure and focal length, save up for a DSLR camera (that’s short for digital single-lens reflex camera). It’s an investment, truly! I typically upgrade my camera about every four years, and currently use a Nikon Z6. It’s amazing.
If you can’t decide between a Nikon DSLR or Canon DSLR, the differences between the two are pretty minimal. Comparable models will produce photos of comparable quality, so choose the best camera available in your price range.
Before you buy, read reviews and go to a local photography store to try them out in person. If one brand’s cameras seem more user-friendly and feel more comfortable in your hand, go for that one. The lens you use for food photos will have more of an impact than the dSLR itself, so I recommend buying the camera body and lens separately.