Photo Tip of the Week: How to Shoot Delicious Food Photos
Whether you're photographing a restaurant dish or a delicious home-cooked meal, there are some simple tricks of the trade you can use to produce professional looking images, says Alfonso Calero.
While professional food photography is often done in studios with elaborate lighting set-ups, you can get some amazing results using diffuse natural daylight. Avoid direct sunlight and use a reflector to bounce light into the shadow areas of your dish. Pay close attention to detail especially in the shadow areas and be careful not to blow out your highlights – especially in the food itself. A simple piece of white paper can make for an inconspicuous reflector in a restaurant environment. If you have to shoot at night, try to avoid using on-camera flash if at all possible. Switch the flash off and try increasing the ISO. A pocket-sized tripod can be used to keep the camera stable.
02 WHICH LENS?
If you're after an affordable and effective lens for food photography it's hard to go past the 50mm f1.4. Most manufacturers have one in their lineup, and they're usually priced around $500. The wide f1.4 aperture lets in plenty of light and also offers plenty of control over depth of field. The focal length (around 75-80mm with a 1.5x crop factor, or 50mm with a full-frame camera) is great for a tightly framed shot that adds impact.
The expression 'keep it simple' is worth keeping in mind when it comes to composition. Try to avoid putting anything in the frame that distracts from the main subject. Move the camera angle up and down to find the perspective that makes the food look the most delicious. A top-down view can look great but a 45-degree angle tends to add a more dynamic feel.
04 DEPTH OF FIELD
Using a wide aperture to produce a narrow depth of field can be a useful way to minimise background clutter and put the emphasis on the food. Be careful though to make sure that there is plenty of detail in the areas that matter.
Clean white plates on clean white backgrounds have been popular in food photography for a while. It's a style I like, as you can see from the images that accompany this story, but it's not the only option. If you are going to include a background with some more detail try to include elements that expand on the story of the food. You could consider including some of the raw ingredients or an element that alludes to the food's cultural origins.
06 FOOD STYLING
This is a complete subject in its own right and the people who are good at it have been doing it for years. If you are arranging the food yourself make sure everything on the plate looks fresh and delicious. A chef mate once told me that placing all the food elements on a plate should not take more than five movements. The less you move the elements around, the more naturally they will fall into place. Try to include a mix of shapes, sizes, colours and textures on the plate.
07 SHOOT RAW
Raw images contain more detail than JPEGs. They also allow more control over variables such as exposure, contrast, colour, noise and sharpness. And, best of all, if you're shooting under artificial lights in a restaurant it can be particularly useful to be able to adjust white balance in post-production.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Alfonso Calero moved to Australia at the age of 15. He graduated from the Sydney Institute of Technology with an Associate Diploma in Photography in 2001 and has been professionally photographing food, portraits, landscapes and travel subjects ever since. He started a travel education and tours company four years ago delivering workshops every Saturday morning in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle. He also takes groups of four people to Japan, Philippines, Spain and Tasmania once a year for 10-14 day photography workshops.