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What is Food Photography?

Food photography isn't just for the dining industry. Although food photography is used in the dining industry for menus and other items, it is also used in editorial publications, advertisements, and more. Every day we are constantly seeing more and more photographs from the food category. Whatever your forte is, having skills in food photography is beneficial. It showcases how you stand apart from the rest of the crowd, and if you have the experience and ability to deliver. The next time you are working with a photographer or taking pictures, make sure you know all the basics.

The goal of this form of photography is to capture attractive images that can be used in advertisements, commercials, menus, packaging, and books. Professional images are usually a joint effort, typically involving at least one stylist, a photographer, an art director, and more individuals.

What is the key component of a great food photograph?

Just about every form of photography comes down to the lighting of the picture. Other aspects are important. However, if your lighting is bad, your picture will be bad, too. It's also important to remember lighting can be in different colors. For instance, if you take a picture in the kitchen at night, your lighting will generally look orange or yellow. However, if you take a picture in the evening, the lighting will appear to be slightly blue. Food photography requires an ambient lighting (meaning white light).

What are some common techniques used by food photographers?

There are a wide variety of styling techniques used to make food appear more attractive. Common options include using heavy cream in a bowl of cereal instead of milk. This practice helps prevent the cereal flakes from becoming quickly becoming too soggy. Meat and vegetables are not to be thoroughly cooked. Once you remove meat or vegetables from its heating source, it will still continue to cook from the inside. By not cooking them to eating conditions, you prolong the life of the food for photography purposes.

What is the best angle for food photography?

A common mistake used in food photography is to take pictures looking directly down at the plate. Sometimes this view can work. However, in most instances, the best angled shots are taken from either a level or slightly above level shot from your plate.

Is the type of camera used important?

The camera doesn't make the photographer. It's how the photographer uses the camera. Understand all aspects of the camera you're using, as well as how to maximize its potential. Don't let your photography control you by making sure you are able to manually adjust the settings on your camera.

Lighting, angles, techniques, there are plenty of things to keep in mind when working with food photography. Avoid making common mistakes like taking the majority of your photos directly above your dish or not understanding how to things work on your camera. Remember, your goal is different in food photography. You're not trying to make your subject look pretty. You're trying to make your subject look appealing.

by SmartShoot
Frank Haxton

Tips for Food Photography


Use fresh ingredients

Always use fresh ingredients. Not only will this help to keep the overall look of your food in the best form, but it also will help to minimize issues that can arise. Make sure to look over your ingredients closely before you buy them. Look for freshness and for as flawless of raw ingredients as possible. Remember: your food dish and ingredients are often shot up close, so even the smallest flaws and details will show up.


Keep it simple

Don't over analyze every detail of the shot, and remember to leave out items you don't need. Remove anything that will distract from your food. If your item is visually unappealing, show only portions of the food. Maybe feature some of the raw ingredients in the shot. Remember, the point isn't to make your item look pretty. It's to make the food appear mouth-watering and for your viewer to want to know what the food tastes like.


Remember the food's lifespan

The lifespan of food for photographing is a very short window. You have to be ready to take your pictures as soon as the food is finished. Otherwise, prolonging your shot could make the food look unappetizing. Think about salads for instance, as time goes on, they wilt. Plan out your shot before the food arrives. Keep an empty plate where the food will be and switch it out with the real plate when it arrives. The longer you have to photograph, the wider the variety of angles and other features you can incorporate.


There's more to it than just the end result

Always take photos of the preparation process. From chopping up the ingredients to cooking the main dish, there are many interesting aspects aside of the final product. Take photos of the raw ingredients, or showcase before and after pictures.


Please pass the garnish

All the details matter when photographing a food dish. Unfortunately, some food items can appear drab like broth or pasta. Garnish adds that little extra flair to your photo to make it successful. Garnish can be a variety of things, such as herbs or side dishes. The whole point is to add color and interest to your featured dish.


Purposefully undercook your food

To prevent your meat and vegetables from being overly cooked and shriveling, avoid cooking your food completely. Unlike other dishes, meat and vegetables will continuing to cook even after you have removed them from the heat source, keeping your foods looking plump and juicy during your photo shoot. Plus once you have finished taking your photos, you can always finish cooking it and eat it.

Food photography is on the rise. Everyday there is a blog post or Instagram shot featuring what someone had to eat or what drink they ordered at the new restaurant in town. However, it's important to remember, food photography is an art form. You have to be aware of every detail. Even the smallest flaw will stand out when the camera is focused in. Remember the lifespan of your food, to use fresh ingredients, and there is more than just the end result to your food.

by SmartShoot

How much does Food Photography cost?

At first glance, most people want to know exact figures to decide on which food photographer to hire. However, price is only one of the many considerations you need to think about when choosing a food photographer. What is their previous work history? Do they have a portfolio or a specialty niche? Remember these 5 considerations the next time you need to hire a food photographer.

Their portfolio and/or previous work

Previous work history is essential with any job. It allows you to see what type of imagery they have taken, as well as to figure out where there specialty niche is. Don't only base it on their previous photos. Talk to previous clients and make sure their experience was just as successful as their images.

Price is not everything

Price doesn't always get you what you want. You may get a great deal but a poor image quality or a missed opportunity. Costs for photographers vary depending upon the shoot. Some photographers get paid by the day (or half days), while others prefer a set rate per shoot. Often times, this doesn't include the cost of photo editing or physical copies. Food and Prop Stylists may or may not be provided from the same facility, so it is always important to check and make sure with the photographer prior to booking.

Great photos don't just happen

Just because the subject matter is food doesn't mean it doesn't require posing or fussing over. There is more to it than placing a plate down and taking a picture. Knowing how to cook the food doesn't mean you know how to take the best pictures of it. Make sure to choose a photographer based on their abilities. Food photographers are paid to make sure your imagery fits what you want it to be and showcases your food in a way to attract customers.

The camera doesn't make the photographer

Having the best camera on the market doesn't make the photographer a great one. Think of it this way: having the best pots and pans doesn't necessarily mean you can cook. In the right hands, yes, equipment matters. However, if you don't know the basics, it won't matter what equipment you're using. Food photography is more than just zooming in on your product and taking a picture. You have to think about lighting, angles, composition, and various other aspects and details.

Timing can vary

Another aspect to keep in mind is time. The photo amounts that can be taken per day depend upon the complexity of the food and the overall image. A common mistake is to think you can cram a multiple day photo session into a single day to save money. All this does is rush the photography, risk complications, and can even reduce the amount of options for you to pick from in the end.

The next time you have to decide whether or not to invest in a professional food photographer, think about all the considerations. Don't cut corner. Remember to look at their previous work, and look beyond the equipment the photographer uses. You may feel like you are saving more by taking a photographer who charges less or has the flashy top-of-the-line camera, but make sure it doesn't cost you more in the long run.

Find a Food Creative near you!

SmartShoot brings the power of professional photos and videos.

We help businesses and individuals find and collaborate with professional freelance photographers and videographers. Our creatives have delivered over 80,000 projects around the globe.

An example project

New Menu Food Photography Shoot

Book a full day shoot to capture some tantalizing images of your new menu items. Great food photography sells better than any other form of advertisement.

Suggested Price: $500

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