Food is perhaps one of the most versatile still life photography subjects you can shoot thanks to its varying colours, sizes, shapes and textures. But in recent years the popular Pinterest-style straight-above shots have made this exciting genre seem a bit predictable.
While these types of shots can be beautiful and do serve a purpose, there is so much imagination to employ when you play with your food. Making your food stand out and look appetizing should be the overarching goal of your food photography.
If you’re in need of inspiration, something we like to do is crack open a recipe book. These images in these books are typically well composed, with strong colour combinations and subject presentation.
So with that in mind, here’s Camera Jabber’s best advice for capturing food images that really pop.
01 Use Aperture Priority mode
Some cameras may come equipped with a Food scene mode, but even so it’s still usually best to stick with your camera’s Aperture Priority mode. Wider apertures, such as f/5.6, f/4.0 or larger, typically produce the most pleasing results when shooting food photography
This is because the wider aperture will soften the background, as well as blurring the foreground, emphasising the food that’s the point of focus in the frame. This makes your food stand out and clearly defines it as the subject.
Even though your background will be blurred with a wide aperture, there are still compositional considerations here, too. You’ll want a crisp, clean background or something that’s connected with the food.
02 Even lighting
You’ll want to make sure you that whatever light you are using for your scene hits the food evenly. This will help avoid any deep shadows or harsh highlights.
As a general rule, the narrower the source of light, the more contrast you fill find. So a broader light source that illuminates a wider area with soft light will be the ideal option.
03 Custom white balance
Your Auto White Balance option is great in most situations, but if you are shooting food photography in artificial or mixed light you might run into some unwanted colour casts. Setting a Custom white balance will help keep this at bay.
To set a Manual or Custom white balance setting, you will usually – it varies slightly by camera – select the correct mode, photograph a white object (such as a piece of paper) in the same light where you will be shooting your subject. Your camera will then use this as its standard to determine what’s white within your scene.
04 Focus manually
Food photography is a good opportunity to step out of your AF comfort zone and switch to manual focusing. Because your subjects are static, you’ll have plenty of time to focus and readjust, getting your shot just right.
Many modern cameras also have what’s called Focus Peaking, to help you nail down that precision focus. With Focus Peaking enables, as you twist the focus ring you’ll notice points illuminate within the frame. These points indicate what is in focus, and as you twist you can see the zone of sharpness travel through the frame. When they surround your subject, you’ll know it is sharp.
Because so much food photography uses a shallow depth of field, pin-sharp focus on your subject is critical. That’s why it’s better to take control in these situations so you can set it exactly where you want, rather than the camera.
05 Best lenses
A 100mm macro lens, if you have one, will be a workhorse for your food photography. Just like the flowers and insects you may use it to shoot, a solid 100mm macro will enable you to get right up close to your subject to capture bags of detail. Macro lenses also have what’s called ‘flat field’ optics, which ensure that the edge of your frame is just as sharp as the centre.
A standard zoom is also really useful in food photography, and is more likely to be in your kit bag than a macro lens. A standard zoom will let you shoot relatively close up and still fit everything in the frame. However, be warned that shooting at the wider end of the focal range can make subjects look a little distorted and unnatural. Standard zooms really shine when used for those overhead shots we mentioned at the beginning.
This blog post was wrote by our friends over at Camera Jabber. Camera jabber is the home of digital photography, with in-depth camera reviews, buying guides, news and photography tips to help you master your camera. For more great content on everything photography, click through to Camera Jabber’s website, here.