Honestly, this is why I think many people take up photography, at least in the beginning.
And food, truly, is my favorite thing to photograph. More than people, more than places. I would say that I like photographing wildlife the most, but I don’t photograph wildlife. That’s a dream.
Fortunately, however, food is probably the simplest thing to photograph well. It doesn’t move, it doesn’t have opinions, it’s highly coveted, it’s colorful, and it’s always presented nicely. The formula for a perfect subject? Just kidding…
A Quick Guide to Looking Tasty:
0. This is always the ground rule for everything: create good lighting (a post on different types of lighting will be coming soon!). The best lighting is natural — it illuminates your subject in a way that doesn’t distort color and highlights it in a way that organically draws attention to a subject via a “spotlight” effect (part of your subject is lit, another part is naturally thrown into shadow, just like in real life). The easiest way to achieve optimal lighting is just to grab a window seat if you’re eating out, or arrange your tempting plate by a window in your house if you’re eating in. Notice how the light hits your subject, and how this brings focus to certain elements of your image. Think about how the lighting in the burger picture and the Nutella crepe picture (that was absolutely delicious) work differently.
1. Consider your angle. There are a couple of options here that I find to work well: aerial, head-on, or looking-down. Aerial shots are good for capturing presentation, an entire spread of food, or are good for food that fills only a small portion of a dish (see the ravioli photo from this post). Head-on photos are excellent for capturing texture (like the whipped surface of mousse, the flaky rolls of croissants, or the simultaneously smooth [avocado] and ridged [Angus patty] textures of a good burger). Looking-down shots are the ones that look most natural, because they are taken at the angle you would typically be sitting in. These are best for incorporating a background into your image, like in the tea & biscuits photo.
2. Consider your background. But first think about what background means. It doesn’t always have to be the restaurant you’re sitting in — it could be your mountain of cajun fries that you subtly arrange to spark further jealousy among your friends. It could be the rooftop garden that gives your tea & biscuits more of a relaxing and local vibe. It could be the wooden tables and chairs in the restaurant of your overwhelmingly hipster town, or the cool drinks (like water!) you ordered with your meal.
3. Focus on your finest attribute. To make this easy, is it texture or color? More often than not, focusing on either of these two things is the best way to create an irresistible photo. Edit to enhance your attribute of choice. If you go with texture, pay extra attention to the lighting, and how lights & darks play into the surface of your food. This is the harder option, but luckily for my Instagram users, I would suggest playing with the “structure” feature. If opting for color (make sure you have enough white and at least a little green in that case), play with saturation and highlights.