I want to share with everyone how you can make excellent photographs of your food without breaking the bank but with absolutely wonderful results. And best of all: It’s relatively easy.
I am a professional photographer and my specialty is food and beverage photography. I will not be showing you anything complicated or expensive. It’s easy enough spending lots of money on studio equipment and get some great results, but I will show you how you can make beautiful food photographs without knowing a whole lot about photography and without spending a lot of money.
First, you need a camera. I bet you could figure that one out. So the question most ask me is what camera is needed to make good photographs of food? My answer is that pretty much any camera will do if you follow my directions in this post. The best camera is the one you have with you and even a cell phone camera will do if that’s all you have. You don’t need a fancy DLSR camera to make good photographs of food. If you have one and you know how to use it that’s great. A DSLR camera is ultimately the best camera for shooting any photographs, but they can be complex to use and also expensive for some. The techniques I will be explaining in this post will work for any camera you may have. I will assume you will use some kind of point-and-shoot camera going forward.
Second, you need light. That one was also easy right? Not entirely. The key to a great photograph is the right kind of light. Some may have shot food using the on camera flash and in 99% of all cases I can tell you that’s not the right thing to do. The direct harsh light from a flash right down on your food will make the food look flat and one-dimensional. You should never shoot food images using a flash on the camera. Just turn it off.
You want to have the light coming from behind the food or alternatively from the side. The classic food shot is always shot with light coming from behind using so-called diffused windows light. Diffused windows light basically just means that there is no direct sunlight hitting your food. So any window, door or opening with indirect light will do.
Most of you may say that if the food is lit from behind, what about getting light ON the food? Well, you need to reflect some of the light from the back onto the food. You need something that’s white (or close to white) to reflect some of the light from the back. I will show how to build a reflector for less than $5 but if you don’t have one you can use a napkin, a menu card, a piece of paper or anything that’s white as a reflector.
Third, you need to set up for the food shot. Let’s take a look at my first image. It’s shows the setup I made for a shoot I did in our kitchen at home using windows light and two reflectors made of foam board. You can make these for less than $5 and all you need is some tape to make them able to bend. Look how much light is reflected onto the front of the sushi? That’s all it takes. Had I not had my homemade reflectors I could use whatever was available in white to add light to the front of the food.
Look at my next image. It was made using the exact same setup. Notice how the backlight makes nice reflections in the food and adds depth to the image?
Okay, so how in the world are you going to put all this together if you want to capture food photographs when you are eating at restaurants? Thanks for your patience, here is the check list how to do that:
1. Bring your camera and preferably one reflector to the restaurant
2. Ask the waiter to be seated by the window with no direct sunlight
3. Once you have ordered, get your reflector out or find something that’s white as a substitute. See how you can do a good setup before the food comes out
4. Once the food comes out, place the food according to your setup and make 5-10 good shots of the food. The key is not to think too much about how much to crop the food. Just shoot a wider shot that includes all or most of the food. Be careful with reflections in the table. You may have to adjust the camera angle up or down.
5. If there are more dishes switch the food items out and shoot again.
6. Hopefully this should not take more than a couple of minutes ☺
7. Now, enjoy the food
Once you get home, you can work on cropping and enhancing the images using your preferred software.
The reason I suggest shooting a wide shot of the food, is that cropping in-camera is pretty difficult unless you have some experience doing it. I think it’s better to get a wide shot and crop later than finding out you missed the shot because you cropped too much in camera.
I made two more shots of sandwiches that I just recently made in a Jason’s Deli restaurant. I only had a menu as a reflector for these two shots, but I followed the directions above to capture the shots.
I hope you enjoyed this post and will start making great photographs of food for all of use to share.
And remember: it still takes some practice to get good food shots even using my directions in this post.
I wish you happy shooting.