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How to Take Great Photos of Food with your Smart Phone

February 17, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

If you are a chef, an avid food blogger, or just someone who likes to share pictures of delicious food on your social media channels then you will most probably be taking lots of pictures on your smart phone.  If you would like some tips on how to do it better then read on.

Lighting

Ask any photographer and they will tell you that lighting is the most important aspect of any photograph.  For food soft natural light is the ideal.  There is a good reason for choosing natural light and that is that it will render the colours in the food accurately.  Artificial light can dramatically alter the colour of items, remember the story about the colour of a dress that went viral a couple of years ago?  You also want to avoid direct sunlight as this is harsh and will exaggerate unsightly details.  Cloudy days are ideal.  If you can, position your food next to a north or east facing window.  Then stand so you are perpendicular to the light source i.e with the window by your left or right shoulder.  This will give beautiful soft lighting over the food and help you to create a great shot.

If you are taking the photograph outdoors find an area that is in the shade, then even if the sun breaks through the clouds you will still have some soft lighting.  

Which Angle?

The most common and usually the best angles to take photos of food are:

1. From Above

2. At 45 degrees

3. At Plate Level

Which one of these you choose is down to the shape and aesthetic of the food dish you are photographing.  "From above" works well for food that has been carefully arranged on a plate to have an artistic quality typically a starter or main course.  It also works well for showing ingredients or a collection of dishes.

photograph of pancakesPancakesThree different pancake toppings taken from above

"At 45 degrees" works well for most situations and is the most common angle.  This is often a shot you will take as well as one of the other formats.  It gets the viewers attention as it focuses the eye on the main subject.

photograph of rhubarb topped pancakeRhubarb topped pancakeRhubarb topped pancake taken at 45 degrees

"At plate or table level" is ideal for food that has height.  Dishes like desserts often benefit from being taken in this way. Close ups of food items, the crust of an artisan loaf for example also look spectacular when shot at this level.

Photograph of cheesecakeChocolate chip cheesecakeCheesecake photograph taken at plate level sourdough breadCrust of a sourdough loafClose up of a sourdough loaf

Whichever mode you choose try to ensure your phone is parallel or perpendicular to the food, especially if the dish has a straight edge.  For example if you are taking the photo of a dish at plate level you might be able to rest your phone on the table so that it is perfectly level and have the food or plate parallel to the phone.  Taking the same picture at an angle can work and produce a more artistic shot, but does need very careful composition otherwise it will look odd.  The best option is to take a level shot first and then if you want to experiment take one at an angle.  If the angle shot doesn't look right then you will always have a good level shot for back up.

Photograph of cheesecake taken at an angleCheesecake Photograph of cheesecake taken at an angle

Composition

Composition is a blog topic in its own right, however there are a few key things you should think about about when composing a food photograph.  The rule of thirds is a good starting point. Position your subject so that it is on a line a third of the way into the frame.

 

Divide the frame into thirds using two horizontal and two vertical lines

If you are doing a close up, you may well have the food in the centre of the frame, but look at the dish carefully and see if there are elements that you could position on one of the intersections of the lines (maybe a fork if you have cutlery in the shot).  If you are taking the picture at plate level then position the plate on the bottom third line and have the top of the food on the top third line. This will give a pleasing composition (see dessert pic above).

Look round the frame. It is very easy to get obsessed with the main subject and not to notice other items that have crept into the photograph. Train your eye to look round the edges of the frame,  it is a good habit to get into which will improve all your photography.  Is there anything in the photograph that looks unsightly? Conversely would the picture benefit from introducing something extra in the corner, a tea light candle, a flower or some cutlery?

Are you going to take the picture in landscape or portrait format? The size of the dish may determine this as you may only fit it into the frame in one orientation.  If you have a choice then consider where the photograph will be used.  Platforms like Pinterest lend themselves to photos taken in portrait mode. However other platforms like Facebook and websites are better suited to landscape mode photos.

Further information 

Do you need some food photographs taken for your website or marketing materials that need to be better quality than those from a smart phone then please give me a call on 07557 780336.  You can see some more examples of my work here- food portfolio.

If you have got the bug for food photography and want to take your skills to the next level then there are some excellent courses on food photography and styling run by Aspire Photography Training

An essential part of making food photographs look appealing is the styling of the shot.  For some expert tips on food styling check out this article from Stylist magazine.

 

Thanks to Rebecca Gill for the illustrations used in this article to see more of her amazing work click here rgillustrate


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