Whether it's a special occasion or a recipe from a nightly family meal, many of us are bound to be grabbing our cameras and sharing via Instagram, a photo album, or our blog. We put a lot of work into making that moment special. So, before you click away, here are five tips for making food look mouthwatering that I learned in Nicole Hill Gerulat's Food Photography Design Camp.
- Set up your shot before you start playing with your food. You don't want your garnish to sink into your soup. A trick Nicole recommends for keeping croutons or other ingredients that absorb liquid or weigh more than your soup from sinking is to put marbles in the bottom of your bowl. (NOTE: If you're planning on serving the soup, especially to little ones, skip the marbles.)
- Choose your camera angle based on what you want to highlight. To make your food look three-dimensional on the screen (or paper), position your camera a little higher than the subject. If you want to highlight volume, shoot at or slightly below (and up towards) your subject. If you want to emphasize shapes, shoot overhead; be sure to shoot with a tripod so that the camera lens is parallel to your tabletop.
- Consider where your light source is coming from and adjust. Subtract (black foam core) or add (white foam core) light based on what you want to convey. Darker shadows can be used to make a setting more romantic or dreamy. Use mirrors to direct a pop of light, for example to brighten a steak on a bed of mashed potatoes. And never shoot with your subject front lit (light source is directly in front of your food).
- Avoid specular light. Specular light are the highlights that appear on shiny or reflective surfaces. The light is being bounced from the surface directly into your camera lens. Some common places you'll find this happening are on polished silverware and glazed pottery or china. Nicole recommended a couple of tricks: turning or removing the silverware; replacing polished silverware with an antique (tarnished) piece or applying adhesive spray mount; and using stoneware with a matte finish or applying adhesive spray mount to the surface. (NOTE: If you're planning on eating what you're photographing, skip the adhesive spray mount.)
- Don't distract the viewer. If you wouldn't serve a garnish with your soup, don't add it just for a pop of contrasting color. Unless you serve your guests by placing plates and bowls on top of napkins don't do it in your photo. You want the viewer to believe you've plated and served this food for them.
Want more tips for improving your food photography?
Nicole shared many more tips (along with what you should have in your tool kit) with us in our two hour session. She teaches a longer version of this design camp, Food Photography and Styling, at Nicole's Classes, which you should check out. I know I'm definitely going to be signing up for the longer class in May as I learned a lot from my experience this past Saturday at Alt and with Souvenir Foto School.