Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Food Photography Basics


If you are a foodie and you love photography, then for sure you'll love this, right? Well, think again. Read what goes on behind the scenes in a world where ice creams are made of mashed potato scoop with artificial color. One of the most popular form of photography made easy in this tutorial and 10 most important tips for food photography inside.


Food photographers should approach their subjects using all of their senses and by using proper lighting technique should capture the color, texture and dimension of a freshly prepared dish. The final result aims to take the viewer to the moment the dish was plated, making him visually feel the aroma  and tickle the taste buds. It’s important to work quickly because food can melt, fade or dry up under the heat of studio lights. Therefore, all lighting should be prepared in advance and a stand-in dish should be used to test lighting prior to getting the main dish.

A great way to start with food photography is by photographing smaller products like desserts (except ice cream) as they are available fully prepared and hold up well under studio lights. Thats why, food stylists use mashed potato with artificial colors to make scoops of ice cream so that they hold up. You can find more such tricks of how food is prepared for the camera in these books below.

Food Styling for Photographers: A Guide to Creating Your Own Appetizing ArtWorking the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation


Lighting for food photography is very similar to that of product photography, and is all about giving the food the maximum shape and texture possible. The position of the main light is critical and will determine just how much shape and texture you end up with. We always try to keep food lighting as simple as possible, often use just window light/natural light on location or one large softbox slightly behind and overhead. Shadow areas are then lit by bouncing light back into the subject using small mirrors or white or shiny silver or white cards as reflectors.



All the images in this tutorial have been lit from behind and overhead. The back light puts a nice glossy shine on the plate and illuminates the detail on top. The overhead light brings out the textures on the lobster. A white card was used to bounce illumination from the main light into the shadow areas, to open it slightly. Looking back, the above images could have used a small mirror/silver reflector to add some subtle punch of light in the shadow area.

Before you begin lighting, you need to know whether it’s going to be high key or low key. Probably the biggest decision a food photographer will make during lighting a photograph, is where to place the main light. The placement of the main light is made to create shape. Another issue that is much more important than most photographer realize is light source size. Boxes are more forgiving, and they’re a lot less textural too. Use a smaller light source to create more texture on your subject. Also experiment with hard and soft quality of the light source.


Low placement of lights create more texture on the top surface of moist food items. Normally in people photography, we keep our main light so high that they don’t get as much texture on skin and because the shadows from high light sources are less distracting. But, in food photography...... it’s not only the light that makes most photographs beautiful, but also the shadows.


Most Important tips for Food Photography

1- Use a lot of small mirrors.
2- Use less overall fill light.
3- Use backlight as main light. Avoid lighting from the front.
4- Add fill light slowly in front with mirrors.
5- Use either a wide or really long lens. Normal is boring.
6- Shoot from a lower angle when possible.
7- Crop in tightly.
8- Try to use shallow depth of field when possible.
9- Add a little oil with brush for the shine.
10- Do not over prop the food subject.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome....very informative and helpful post here. Thanks for taking the time to put it together!

    ReplyDelete