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4 Simple Techniques for Food Photography & Styling at home

Hey everyone! Andrew from Wilkinson Cameras. The current situation is far from ideal,  and I’m going to try help you make the most of being stuck indoors.

Food, to me, is one of the simplest but most enjoyable pleasures in life. I love to cook, for myself, for friends and for family. Something that a lot of people don’t tend to remember is that ‘we eat with our eyes’, and this is very true, especially when it comes to food photography.

We want whoever is seeing this picture to taste the food without even coming close to it! So with that being said, here are my 4 simple techniques for better food photography at home!

 

1.    Plating

‘Steak’ Nic Taylor Photography/DSA ’19 Food Winner

This isn’t necessarily a photography tip in the way we would normally talk about ISO, composition etc, but more about making sure the subject looks as stunning as possible.

Making sure we use the right plate, bowl or eating receptacle. You know the kind. A steak that’s plated on a wood plank.

A white plate is the standard for a blank canvas of food, and this is of course my immediate recommendation for most dishes, but if you want to feel a little more creative, here is a little list I’ve put together for plate colour vs food type:

  • Green foods (Salads, pesto, certain pastas) – Yellow plate
  • Beige/brown foods (Chicken, Potato) – Black or dark brown plate
  • Red foods (Beef, tomato, red wine sauce dishes) – White plate
  • Desserts (Any dessert) – Colour match the garnish (Cherry, red. Caramel, brown)

Now that we have plate colour out of the way let’s talk about the rest of the plating.

Make sure, where possible and applicable, to include your cutlery. Cutlery in food photography gives the dish a certain grounded reality, and it gives the viewer the sense that they can dive straight into the dish.

Break down the dish in the foreground or background. Have you cooked a steak with thyme in the oil? Have a bundle of thyme in the background. Chilli flakes, lemon/lime slices in the foreground or background for Asian/Mexican dishes is perfect.

Garnish as if this plate was being presented to Michelin reviewers, and garnish with colour. Topping proteins with sprigs of basil, rosemary or topping a sauce with finely chopped herbs brings an element of colour to a dish.

Accessories – linens, cutlery, glasses, ceramics etc unusual accessories that add character

2.    Use a tripod to experiment with height

A good tripod can make or break pretty much every photographic situation and food photography is no different!

Experiment with height in your shots because a lot of food can only be truly perceived from above.

Think about it, when you’re in a restaurant you eat from above, not parallel to the table! This of course translates beautifully to our photography. Think of dishes like tacos, cakes, pizza or anything that either opens up from the top or is garnished on top.

You can then use this to create different layers, use a chopping board or a cake stand to create depths from the table it’s being presented on. Adding height creates a natural frame that can be worked with, especially when shot straight on.

If you’re not shooting directly from above, it’s also important to think of your background. Using layers as well as our accessories can create the depth that we’re looking for.

Manfrotto BeFree GT XPro Carbon Tripod is perfect for this as it easily allows you to create depth in the shot with a sturdy base and tight locking system for its tilt and pan. The extending arm that provides horizontal depth is perfect for shooting top down also.

3.    Lighting

Edgar Castrejon/Unsplash

Lighting food properly is absolutely key when it comes to showcasing textures and colours of dishes.

Lighting from the side is my starting point, as this is the easiest, and most general way to bring out the texture in food. This is especially true for bread and meat. If you’re trying to shoot something with a lot of textures: Sandwiches, burgers or pittas. This can be especially useful.

Diffuse your light! Softening or diffusing your light. Using a soft box or a reflector should help, this makes sure that you avoid any harsh shadows or miscolouring’s of food.

Phottix Raja Quick-Folding Softbox

Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2

Lastolite Reflector 50cm

If you’re using natural light, make sure you modify it. This is easily done by using a reflector, and this will easily improve any shot. You can also make use of the reflector to block any light from blowing up a part of your image that you wouldn’t want doing so!

Rotolight Neo-2 LED Continuous Light

This continuous light, with the option to use as a flash is perfect for using as the direct light on your subject.

4.    Editing

Now, if we’ve done everything we can while shooting, editing should be pretty easy! But there are a few things we can do to maximise what we’ve captured.

First, we could look at sharpening the picture.

This would give the edges of what you’ve shot, more definition and truly make it pop. Use the sharpen tool in whichever editing software you like, and play around with the different levels. See what works, and ask a friend to see what they think also.

Something that I’ve learnt in my time at Wilkinson HQ is the power of cropping. (Thanks Alex!)

Making sure that your image is straight is the first key part to a good crop. So make sure that horizon line is straight, and tilt it as you see fit. Next, find an aspect ratio you like. If it’s for Instagram, try a square aspect ratio, it usually helps with a universal viewing experience on all devices.

Make sure your white balance is how you’d like it, of course, it’s always good to have this done this before hand using the camera’s software, but if not, we can still fix it.

White balance CAN be used creatively, warm tints for homely dishes, cooler tones for a more ‘pro’ feel.

Finally, ‘HSWB’ or highlights, shadows, whites and blacks!

Curves tool in Photoshop

This tool will allow you to completely control the contrast and tones of the image, and is generally down to you and how you feel your aesthetic can be. You can also use this to correct over exposure, and sometimes even under exposure.


So that’s it!

I hope you enjoy your food photography endeavors and remember, the Wilki Team is still available online and on the phone if you need any product information or advice (01772 252 188)

Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram if you’ve taken a particularly good one, especially some cake!

Stay safe,

Andrew

 

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