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02 Apr 2023

Seven secrets of a food photographer

1. Use natural lighting. Light from the window works perfectly because it does not distort the color, it is easy to work with, and photos turn out very natural. Important: do not take photos when the sun shines right in the windows, because this results in hard shadows and overexposure. You may soften the light by using a diffuser which you can find at a photo store or instead use a thin semitransparent paper or a white cloth. To make the photos look more “alive”, during the photoshoot the light should illuminate the object from the side and from behind.

2. If you want to reduce the amount of shadows, install a reflector in front of the light source. As a reflector, you may simply use a paper glued to a cardboard. Take a photo with and without the reflector and see the difference. 

3. Correctly picked props are a big deal. No need to purchase a lot of expensive background paper. Have a couple in your pocket, and also try to shoot in the interior. Try using furniture in your photos as well: piano, stool, potato box, a broken wardrobe door. Such photos look like “life pieces”. For background, you may use not only old wood boards, but also old books with already yellow pages, newspapers, notebooks, and simply pages from them. Napkins, towels, pieces of fabric – they all make the composition of the photo look interesting and add a specific mood to a photo. You can roll or twist the piece of fabric, place it underneath the dish, make it a background.

4. Try to use lenses with 50mm or 100mm focus length. 50mm lens fits for shooting the food at an angle when you want to capture a part of the interior (meaning, not too close), also for shooting the food from the top. For example, if your composition is assembled on the table, shoot it from the top by standing on a chair. It is convenient because you don’t have to climb too high (as opposed to if you use 100mm lens). 100mm lens is necessary for tilted angles because it distorts the image at a most minimum degree, preserving the proportions of the items and their position in space.

5. It is common to shoot food at four angles: 0 degrees (frontally), 90 degrees (from the top), 45 degrees (medium angle), and 10-2- degrees. By the way, if you shoot with your phone or the most simple camera – shooting from the top may be your best option because this helps conceal the disadvantages of your shooting equipment. 

6. The frontal object of the photoshoot should always be sharp and delicious. Most common mistake is to focus on the food that’s put in the background, because our eye isn’t going to catch that instantly. This is unacceptable for food photography. 

Linda Lomelino’s photo of the ice-cream balls pictures them being positioned along the lines of the grid, two balls lay right where the lines cross each other. 

Rob Grimm’s photo pictures shrimps positioned at the horizontal line of the grid, and the most delicious top part of the shrimp on the right is positioned where the two lines cross.

7. The golden ratio. This is the basic rule of composition that exists since ancient times. I won’t go too deep into the explanation, just see how according to this rule, the area of the shot is divided by two vertical and two horizontal lines. You should place the main objects along these lines or where the lines cross. Points where the lines cross are called “visual centers”. It is believed that these points catch person’s attention.