Food and Beverage Photography Tips

Whether you are a photographer looking for tips to better your food photography or a marketer that benefits from using food photography in your marketing pieces, the following article will discuss some tips and techniques to ensure you get the most out of your food and beverage photos.

What makes a great food photo?

Food photography requires an emotional connection between the subject and the viewer. When someone sees a photo of food, it should:

  1. Clearly depict what the food item is
  2. Entice the taste buds and inspire the viewer to want that food and/or beverage item right then and there!
  3. Focus on certain details and textures of the food you may not normally notice
  4. Make you see the food item in an artistic way

It’s the job of the photographer to accomplish these goals by creating this emotional connection through the various techniques described below.

Tips for Better Food Photos:
Food photography is a skill few photographers choose to perfect because of its complexities. But if you pay a little attention to the details, it’s not difficult to get some quality food photos for use in your marketing materials. And you don’t necessarily need a huge megapixel camera and studio, (Although in the right hands, it definitely helps).

Here are some areas to focus on when shooting food and products or when picking shots to use if you’re a marketer:

  1. Lighting – This is the make or break for any food photography. First of all, ditch any on-camera flash! This will give the food item a paparazzi photo look and guarantee no one will want to eat it. Use multiple off-camera strobes or in a pinch, a nice big window with filtered daylight as the primary light source for your scene. Shadow areas still too dark? Hold up a white tablecloth and bounce some of that daylight back onto your food item and watch your food come to life!
  2. Angle – Shooting off angle can make for some interesting food photos. Try rotating your camera a bit and watch what it can do for the drama affect on your food photos. These beverage shots are perfect examples of these techniques.
  3. Composition – Shooting a wider angle shot may fit all of the plate in the photo area, but will not always create the best photo. Trying to fit everything into your shot means shooting too far away and can cause you to lose the details and nuances of the food item itself. Coming in for a tighter shot helps make you feel a closer connection to the food item. Don’t be afraid to try some macro shots too.
  4. Depth of Field – Depth of field (the different areas of the photo that are in focus and out of focus) helps to create more drama for food items and helps to focus the viewer’s attention where you want them to focus. In the cake example here, the light fluffy cake is the primary focal point guaranteeing you’re going to see that and connect to it before anything else.
  5. Props and Stylizing – To complete the food photo, you want to ensure the food looks it’s best. And this means making sure salad looks green and crisp, meat is plentiful and looks juicy, and beverages look cold and refreshing. Adding a cloth napkin or a lime wedge can do wonders to making the food photo look more inviting. Carbonated beverages really sparkle if you drop a little salt in it right before the shot. Almost any meat product looks better when sprayed with some vegetable oil. And vegetables and greens look fresher when misted with a little bit of water.

Other things to remember:
Know your subject matter – What kind of food will you be shooting? This will help you bring the appropriate props with you like napkins, silverware, breadbaskets, etc. You will also know if you’re going for elegant looks or more down-home goodness.
Know your photo environment – Are you shooting in a studio or on location? Make sure to bring the right lighting equipment with you such as strobes, umbrellas, soft boxes and diffusers.
Know your objectives and target audience – Know how your client intends to use the photos. Do they need to be landscape or portrait orientation? Do they need full place setting scenes or tight close-ups and where will they use the shots most? This will help you plan your shoot for success.

Final Thoughts:
Does it meet the primary criteria for what makes a great food photo listed above? If so, then you’ve got a great food photo that will make people’s mouths start watering. And remember, once the shoot is done, you get to eat all the food!

Oh, and just to prove you don’t always need fancy equipment to take a great food photo, here’s a shot I took at lunch the other day right from my iPhone without any special lights or equipment! Do you think it meets the 4 primary goals of a food photo?

What do you think makes a great food photo? What’s your favorite food item to photograph (and then eat)?