I have, from a young age, love photography. I remember my first camera when I was a little girl – it has film (yes, I feel old) and had a purple plastic case that looked like a caterpillar. This camera, I feel, had a huge impact on my life. I took it everywhere and thus began my love affair. I have never been a great photographer: I will never win awards, or have people pay money for my photos. Nevertheless, I’m not bad. And if I love something enough, I will do whatever I can to get better at it. Looking through my own blog and Instagram feed has shown me that my skills in food photography have taken a steep upward curve over time. Today, I wanted to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, to show you how to take better food photos without breaking the bank or needing hugely technical skills.
The importance of background
I do not have a fancy kitchen. No marble bench tops, granite or white wood. Nothing that I would be happy to snap a picture of my food on. So instead, I’ve sourced my own: and they’re cheap.
Firstly, I bought some vinyl roll-outs from Kmart for $3 a pop. These rolls of vinyl are perfect for sleek, more modern photos that make it look like you’ve spent ridiculous amounts of money on your kitchen bench tops. Here’s an example of one of my photos:
My second option is scrapbooking paper: if you’re looking for backgrounds that are more fun and colourful, scrapbooking paper is a fantastic and relatively cheap option. Here’s another example shot:
I think lighting is the single most important factor in taking good food photos. I’ll keep it short and snappy: natural light is where it’s at. Any other source of light is going to make a less attractive photo. This means my photo taking time is limited to daylight hours. I also prefer mid-morning and mid-afternoon because the light is much softer, minimising shadows. Never shoot in direct sunlight. Shoot your photos through a window or similar surface, or if outside, in shade. Here’s an example of a photo taken outside in the mid-morning:
It took me a long time to start thinking about what I’m putting my food on, and the shape and colour of my props. Collect a range of plates and bowls that are different sizes, shapes, colours and textures. Also, think about more unique ways of presenting your food – chopping boards, etc. What is in the background of your images is also important. Sometimes ingredients can add some colour or interest, or you can also use utensils, containers, flowers etc. In the photo below I’ve used a number of props to create a frame for the plate.
Your camera and editing
It may not be too surprising to find what you’re taking your photos on can dictate how good the photos are. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you have an iPhone X – stick it on portrait mode, add a filter and adjust colour and light to suit you. Here’s a photo I’ve taken on my iPhone X:
On the other hand, if you have a DSLR you have a bit more control. If you do want to fade your background like portrait mode, choose a wide f-stop (like 1.8) and if you’d like to, use manual focus. Here’s an example of how I achieved this effect on my DSLR:
Overall, experiment and have fun. Critique your own work and reflect on how your skills have improved. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for their opinions. I hope these tips were helpful!