Everybody loves food. We love talking about food, we love eating food, and we love beautiful photos of food. But we don’t want to see someone else’s veggie dinner hastily thrown together on a weekday night; we want to be inspired and tantalized by amazing gourmet experiences. With just a few tricks, you can up your photography game to share edible moments in a way that’s artistic, appealing, informative, and inspiring. Whether it’s for Instagram, HappyCow, or another online platform, here are our five top tips!
1. Find The Best Natural Light
The number-one most important aspect of photography is lighting. Obvious as this may seem, it can be a bit of a challenge to snag that clearly diffused natural luster, especially when at a restaurant or cafe. It’s particularly important to pay attention to this when shooting on a phone, but it’s still key regardless of how fancy your camera is. Light is crucial because it effects the colour of the food, the way the shapes, shadows, and highlights appear, and the spectrum of the background or setting. You’re after diffused natural light: anything that isn’t artificial indoor light (which tints food orange) or glaring sunshine (which casts harsh shadows). A table near a window is usually perfect for this, or going outside with some shade from the clouds or a veranda. If shooting next to a window, it’s best to position your setting so that the light comes from the side or slightly behind the food. If your table at a restaurant isn’t near a window, don’t be afraid to ask if you can take photos at a different table or even outside – usually staff are delighted that you’re excited about the food!
The natural light on these donuts by @vegetaryn makes them totally appetizing and shareable:
Clear light from the side gives brightness and detail to this photo by @themintyanne:
Even with gorgeous lighting, a plate or setting of food may often look beautiful in person but still require some styling to translate that into a photograph. This is because we tend to absorb what we’re viewing within the totality of our experience – the ambiance of the restaurant, the smell of the food, the details on the plates of the other people we’re with. Fitting this into the lens of a camera can be a challenge. Because it will never include all the aspects that are attractive in real life, we have to make that which does appear all the more appealing. Most important is finding the right angle. If you’re with friends and have a table full of a lot of different dishes, capturing an overhead, “flat lay” style shot is usually the best way to include it all. If you’re in a beautiful location with a pleasing backdrop, shooting at somewhere close to 90 degrees will help incorporate more context into the photo. If the food is minimal, such as with gourmet food centred on a large plate, try getting close-up to focus on the details as much as possible. Interest can always be added with items such as napkins, utensils, flowers, or even hands!
This beautiful cake portrait by @caiirose shows how an interesting composition can bring to life a simple plate of food:
Overheads like this one by @elsas_wholesomelife capture an entire table setting with vibrancy and appeal:
3. Use Depth of Field
Once you’ve got some good lighting and a bit of a set-up for your photo, try playing with “depth of field.” This simply refers to the depth, or amount, of a photo that is in focus. By focusing on the food, the background can be allowed to blur, turning an otherwise boring or distracting setting into hazy colours, shapes, and lights. Doing this can prevent the background imagery from distracting from the subject of focus (the food!), and really create a professional looking photo.
4. Enjoy It
Playing with food to make it visually appealing should be fun! It can take lots of trial and error to reach an outcome on camera that matches the reality in real life though, so have patience and always enjoy it. It’s really important to also know when to put the camera away and focus on being with your friends, family, and the beauty at hand, so that capturing the moment doesn’t get in the way of what matters. As well, some situations are simply incredibly difficult to shoot photos in, such as inside dimply lit venues, at night, or if the food is all in a brown or orange tone range; so sometimes it’s okay to save the snapping for next time.
This playful signature shot by @veganfatkid is colourful, close-up, and bright:
Editing can sound daunting, but it doesn’t need to be! Regardless of whether you’re shooting on a camera or from your phone, there are tons of different options to easily enhance your photos. You can edit on a computer in Lightroom or Photoshop, but phone apps such as VSCO or Afterlight also do the trick. When aligning and cropping, keep in mind that vertical photos are often more shareable and visible on social media, simply because of the shape of a phone screen. Be sure to remove any “burnt” (overly exposed) areas but taking down the highlights or whiteness, then tweak the over-all exposure to make sure the entire photo is bright enough. Add some vibrancy or a colour filter to boost the tones, and make sure that it’s clear and sharp. Compare your polished photo to its former original; you’ve taken it next level!
A bit of classy brightness, contrast and colour boost enhances this gorgeous photo by @emmamayes:
We love seeing the photos you capture and the delicious things you eat! We feature photos from our worldwide community every day on Instagram. Show us yours by tagging #HappyCow! We also highlight the best venue photos whenever possible on HappyCow listings, so by uploading your photos to the platform you help others find amazing food experiences like you.
Be sure to follow everyone featured in this post on Instagram!