1. Start With the Prep
Food photography isn’t just about the finished product. There are many times that just watching someone cook is enough to make my mouth water and my stomach rumble. Whether you get in close or scoot back to get the entire picture, use the visual senses to stimulate the viewer’s other senses. Can you hear the sizzle? Smell the grill? Feel the warm summer sun? Taste those charcoal kissed veggies?
2. Get Up Close
When you step back to get an overall image there are times that you can miss certain elements. Depending on the food, it may be better to move in close to initiate the senses. Moving in close will allow you to show off the texture of the food. In the image below, can you see where the cold ice cream meets the hot brownie and starts to melt? Yum.
3. Keep It Real
It’s fun to use a vintage technique, sepia, etc. when processing portraits but when it comes to food photography it’s best to keep the colors true to life. There’s no quicker way to turn your viewer’s appetite than to show them a meal with poor, desaturated colors or glowing neon colors. Keep the colors alive and real and you’re sure to draw them in.
4. Keep It Simple
There are many textures and colors present in foods and it’s best not to distract from an item with busy surroundings so you avoid drawing away your viewer’s attention. Keep it simple and clean so that the focus stays where you intend.
5. It’s All About the Light
It’s very important to find good light when photographing food. Inefficient lighting, or the typical artificial kitchen lights, will not result in the best colors and often give you poor white balance to struggle with in post processing. For the following image, I placed the plate on my cutting board and put it on the highchair with the fridge in the background. The window is directly beside me while the mouth watering sandwich is slightly pushed back and to the side of the window.
6. Shoot the Clean Up
Just because the food has all been gobbled up doesn’t mean you have to set the camera aside. There are always great photography opportunities after the main event is over. Tell the full story of your meal and photograph the kids helping to clear the table, licking the bowl etc. Capture the joy (yes, I said joy) that comes from scrubbing the dishes, and sometimes, you can find beauty in an empty, ready to be cleaned dish.
7. Freeze the Mess
No, we’re not talking about leftovers here! While I consider it to be inappropriate to photograph an adult shoveling food into or falling from their mouth, there’s nothing cuter than a happy baby once they’re finished with a favorite. Make sure and grab those images while they’re young!
April Nienhuis, Oklahoma
Director of Online Media | CMU Instructor
website | facebook | twitter | pinterest | instagram | google+ | mentoring | ask a pro
Being a second shooter for the past six years has encouraged April Nienhuis to find a creative approach to photography. While the main photographer works her magic posing and taking the more timeless images, April searches for unique perspectives and compositions that will be complimentary. As much as she enjoys fun and somewhat quirky imagery, her work tends to elicit a tranquil factor that many find soothing yet mysterious. Not believing in tying yourself down to one style, she loves a bit of everything – color and black and white, natural and artificial light, traditional portraiture along with the more abstract. April is also the instructor for CMU’s workshop Shooting 202: Exploring Creative Photography. Other than photography, April likes to cook, read, decorate and organize.