How To Get Started In Food Photography

There are days where you open up and it is flooded by amazing top-down photos of food. They not only look really delicious but they somehow look aesthetically pleasing to the eye too as you wonder if you could ever learn to take the same quality of photos.

Food photography is indeed an intricate art but it isn’t as daunting as it seems. With the right tools, you too can learn how to create a feast for the eyes. Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started in food photography.

Step 1: Research

Research? What has research got to do with taking photos? Don’t dismiss research as just a waste of time. Before you even lay your hands on a camera, look out for some food photos that inspire you. Select a style that you’d like to try out, be it flat lay, or side portraits.

Study the photos carefully and try to break down what makes the photo looks nice. Is it the color? The angle? Or perhaps the lighting? It’s likely to be all of the above, pieced together delicately to make a big picture just like pieces of puzzles. Take your time to understand each piece and elements.

This is also where you’ll also be determining your style. Some photographers like hard shadows, while some prefer lighter ones. Some like moody shots, while some like bright and cheery ones.

Your style is a reflection of what kind of photographer you are and is entirely dependent on your creativity.

If you’re stuck, going on Pinterest can give you an idea on the kind of styles that have previously been done and provides a baseline of inspiration that you can then modify and form your own.

Step 2: Invest in gears

While it doesn’t come cheap, it is absolutely essential to invest in camera gears. After all, what differentiates between photos is the smallest of details which can be easily seen in a photo captured with higher image quality.

Before we touch on what kind of cameras to get, let’s talk about the details we are looking at. Take note of the water droplets on fresh fruit and vegetables, the color of your plates, the crisp and tenderness of the meat…these are what makes photographs stand out, and only a good camera would be able to capture these details. Cameras with a good dynamic range and low light capabilities would be advantageous as it helps to bring out highlights and shadows when editing in post-production.

Types of Cameras to get.

Even though your smartphone may have a high-resolution camera, the size of the sensor inside which captures the photo is less than 1cm (whereas a mirrorless or DSLR is at least 2–3.5cm). If your budget allows it, getting a full-frame camera is recommended as it allows you to capture the intricate details. The larger sensor acts as a big canvas allowing more details to be captured.

But if your budget does not allow it, go for the second-best tier of digital cameras also known as APS-C cameras.

(If you are looking for a recommendation, the Sony Alpha 6300 mirrorless digital camera with 50–60mm lens is pretty affordable at USD$998.)

Lights

Lights are also very important. Be it strobes or LED, lights help to showcase the food in a new light (literally). Good food photography usually aims to resemble the natural light that comes in through the windows. Hence, getting good lights and diffusers to soften the light is essential to creating this soft feel.

Step 3: Plating & Props hunting

After you’ve got yourself a nice camera and good lights, it’s time to go shopping for props. They are important for the aesthetics to convey the mood and feel of the dish.

Find yourself a nice looking plate, some garden leaves, or even just a table cloth. You don’t just want to see a dish on a plain surface. Anyone can do that. Props help to enhance your photo by adding texture and can help make the dish you are taking look a little more unique. For starters, check out IKEA or your nearest dollar shop for cheap props! Different types of cutleries, be it silver, gold, wood, or some other exotic material, also give different looks depending on the style you are going for.

Background paper

Another thing that you should get is some good background paper to simulate different surfaces. You want to be able to transport your viewers to a different place with different textures and smells to give them an idea of how ‘tasty’ the food looks. So do look out for wood backgrounds, concrete backgrounds, or even marble backgrounds that are able to resemble the kind of look that you are going for.

Bonus Tip: If you are tight on budget, go for backgrounds that are more versatile such as a grey concrete or white marble, they can easily complement most dishes compared to ones with a strong color such as red or green.

Food Styling Tools

During the course of the photoshoot, it’s also handy to have some styling tools on standby. This can be as simple as getting napkins. There are likely to be spillages from the oil or water from the food at the sides, and wiping the plate would give it a clean look and make it easier for you to edit as well.

You can also consider getting a spray bottle to keep the veggies on the dish looking fresh with a little misting of water droplets on it.

Step 4: Network

Before getting paid photoshoots, you would need to start off doing it for free. You need to create unique content to show your clients that you are able to deliver quality photographs. For a start, talk to your friends and see if anyone is currently baking or cooking their own dishes. Volunteer to help them take photos of their food, and use this to build up your portfolio. Don’t forget to stylise the dishes with extra garnishing and share the final photographs with your friends!

Step 5: Editing

After your photoshoot, you would want to edit your photos to add the finishing touches. If you are able to, do try to take the photographs and edit them in the RAW format to ensure that the details are kept.

If you are unsure of how to edit the photos there are plenty of resources out there. From YouTube videos to full-length photography courses on websites, it shouldn’t be hard to find one.

For a start, I’d recommend investing in some Lightroom presets. Presets function just like filters on but on a more intricate level. They are a combination of exposure, color levels, and image correction that can be done with a click for those starting out. Esty.com has plenty of cheap presets affordable presets so do check them out, it really helps to make your photographs look polished and professional.

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