Sometimes you just have to take a picture of the meal that you’re about to eat. Maybe you just spent hours creating the perfect soufflé. Perhaps you snap food photos when you travel, with photos of the ceviche right alongside images of the beach. Or maybe you just like to keep your Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook pages stocked with delicious images to make your friends drool.
Whatever your reason is, we’re all compelled to snap food photos from time to time. Whether you like taking food photos for your own pleasure, or to share your culinary adventures visually with friends and strangers, food is a tricky subject to capture on film. Cameras have no setting for taste or smell, so you have to make up the difference with style.
Professional food photographers use tricks, like substituting glue for milk, to make their images more appealing. But you don’t have to gunk up your cereal bowl with glue; just use the following tips to take better food photos that are as tantalizing as possible.
1. Take your photo before your first bite. Truly this is common sense, but often we dig in to dine before remembering that we meant to take a photo. At this point, forget it. No one needs to ever see a photo of a half-eaten plate of nachos. Please.
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2. White makes the best background. There’s a reason most fancy restaurants use all-white dinner plates, and that’s because nothing makes food look tastier than a blank white background as a canvas. If you take most of your food photos at home, consider how your dishware is affecting the photo.
3. Use natural light. Your kitchen is probably bright, but restaurants are often dark. Using a flash in this setting can create overexposure; instead choose to eat at a table by the window or in an outdoor area to take advantage of the natural light for your photos. Skip the flash when taking food photos for best results.
4. Consider your angle. The overhead angle is the most popular choice for plates of food, but not necessarily the best. Try a few different angles to find which works best for your meal: overhead, close up from the front, close up from the side, or a composite picture perhaps with the table, restaurant background or other diners.
5. Don’t forget about composition, which is the visual arrangement of the photo. Use outside elements to give your plate of food context, including utensils, napkins, condiments, wine glasses, table flowers etc. By indicating human involvement with the meal, these items will make your photo more appealing.
6. Add style. A bowl of chili will always look like a big brown bowl of mush. Use your personal style to perk the picture up with color and texture. Add slices of bright green jalapenos or sprigs of cilantro, nestle blue corn chips by the bowl or top off the image with a big white dollop of sour cream.
7. Eat. Can’t get the ideal image, just the way you like it? If you’re still fussing with your food after a minute, give up and eat. Life is too short to let your food get cold while you’re playing with your camera settings. Social media sites are full of people who would rather capture an image of an experience than actually live it. Don’t be one of them.