Everyone seems to be taking pictures of their food lately. You see them in restaurants from fast food joints to white linen fine dining establishments. But there is a difference between snapping a picture with your smartphone and achieving professional results The good news is, you don’t have to invest in expensive lighting equipment to produce quality food photography. This article will discuss tips on getting great food shots at home or in a restaurant without flash or strobes.
Light is the single most important factor in any photography and with food it is critical. Your goal is to make the food look fresh and appetizing, not flat, boring and dull. Light plays a vital role in this as it adds contrast, vibrancy and, well, light to the subject. But before getting into the light, take a look at the subject itself. It doesn’t matter how good it tastes, it matters how good it looks.
A successful food image has to look good, with bright colors, contrast, and texture. A brown steak with brown-gray may taste delicious, but is it going to look good in a photograph? If the food doesn’t look appealing, think of ways to make it more so. Can you add a colorful garnish? Oftentimes, you can make the image better by backing up to show it in more context or coming in tight for a detail shot.
And while on the subject of the food and how it looks, you don’t need a stylist or expensive props for your food photography. All you need is a good eye. Don’t just throw the food on the plate. Carefully arrange the main subject, along with side dishes and/or garnishes to give a pleasing sial before you even grab the camera. Don’t crowd the plate. Small portions artfully arranged will show much better than big piles of food plopped on the dish.
Now onto lighting. To light the food, you are going to use the same light that Rembrandt used to light his models’ window light. Find a window that gets good light, but not direct sunlight. If all your windows face the sun, then shoot early or Ate to catch a more diffused light. Next position your food on a surface adjacent to that window. If a counter or table isn’t convenient, put a placemat or tablecloth on a TV tray and set it next to the window.
Now take a picture from the opposite side so that the food is backlit by the window. You may need to adjust your exposure a bit, but you should get a nicely lit subject with highlights coming from the rear. Your picture should be looking pretty good, but depending on the food, there may be a problem because of shadows on the camel, side of the food.
To solve this, get something that will reflect light back into the food. Don’t use a mirror as that will throw too much light, eliminating contrast. Instead, get a piece of white poster board or something similar and hold it up next to the food below the camera. This should throw enough light back into the food to soften, but not eliminate the shadows Adjust your angle and exposure until you have the right exposure.
In a restaurant, you can use the .me concept. Try to get a table next to or close to a window with nice diffused light corning in. Place your food between you and the window and take the shot. You may get enough light from the ambient lighting in the restaurant to soften the shadows If now, hold up the menu or anything white behind the food to throw some light back in.
With a little experimentation, you can achieve professional results and get great looking food shots with no extra lighting equipment.