Food photography is among the most demanding fields of photography out there. It is considered as a sub-genre of still life photography, devoid of the presence of any being with life. Instead, it involves careful action of taking photographs of food that may be used for a number of purposes, mainly for commercial usage. Some of these include advertisements, magazines, and menus, among others.
The Kinds of Lighting Setup for Food Photography
Just like in any type of photography, achieving the optimal lighting is one of the essential requirements for capturing quality food shots. This is needed to enable photographers to convey their artistic vision when it comes to the food they’re taking pictures of. As a result, the details and the overall message of the photograph in question come off in a clear manner to those who are viewing it.
Of course, this won’t be the case when you take photos with subpar lighting conditions. The same can be said when you don’t have sufficient experience in maximizing available light or setting a competent lighting system to illuminate your food shots. This will result in photos filled with shadows or details of the food itself not understandable to the viewer.
Rather than run the risk of shooting with insufficient knowledge, the wisest course of action is to be familiar with the proper lighting styles you can use when taking food photos. Shown below the two you should know.
Natural lighting is defined by the absence of any external item that produces light to illuminate a subject. It uses natural sources of light, mainly sunlight, to produce the required illumination for a food photo.
The main draw of using this kind of lighting setup is the natural look and glow it bestows upon your food. While some may say this can be achieved with the use of artificial lighting, the end result of a well-planned food photography session using natural light may be more enticing to some.
It is important to remember that when using natural lighting, the food photos should be taken at a certain time of the day. You may need to position your food set up near a window large enough to illuminate it. At the same time, you might require additional tools, like a reflector, to help you control the direction of natural light. Moreover, it is best to schedule your session according to the number of dishes you’re going to take. In doing so, you can best determine the time needed to finish your photography task using natural light.
Even if it is a preference for some, natural lighting possesses some detrimental aspects to it. For one, the amount of time available to use sunlight is limited. It can also be reduced by other factors, such as rainy weather or an abundance of clouds in the sky. Another trait that may be of consideration is the difficulty of directing and optimizing natural light. Since there is a time limit to this lighting style, the direction and intensity of the light source, which is the sun, may change constantly.
Although there may be several detrimental aspects to it, natural lighting is still popular with a lot of food photographers. This is because of its availability and the almost-zero cost attached to this lighting method.
As the name suggests, the method of artificial lighting entails the need for items that produce light. Anything that can act as an external light producer, such as strobes or speedlights, can be considered as an artificial lighting source.
For this kind of lighting style, photographers must be careful in mixing the amount of light they’re going to use with the settings of their camera. To get a crisp and sharp food shot, individuals normally set their aperture to a high setting to ensure everything is in focus. This is also done to control the amount of light and prevent the photo from being overexposed.
Professional photographers and enthusiasts alike go by this lighting method to properly illuminate their food setup. This process involves the use of the said lighting sources and positioning them in such a way that will flatter the subject. In this case, the subject is the food you’re taking photos of.
In some cases, some individuals prefer using a one-light setup for their respective food shots. This option is ideal because it allows you to mimic natural light and give you more control over it. At the same time, a one-light setup for food photography won’t be as expensive as using a two or three-light setup.
Speaking of the latter, a multiple-light setup offers more flexibility when lighting conditions are such a struggle. If you have the necessary equipment, you can position these strobes or speedlights in such a way that will really make your subject stand out. You may eliminate any trace of shadow from your food setup to get your desired result.
On the other hand, you need to really be knowledgeable on how to set these multiple lights up and the corresponding settings on your camera. A lack of knowledge in this area will only result in either overexposed or underexposed photos. Also, acquiring multiple light sources and the gear needed to support them will be costly.
The List of Essential Food Photography Equipment
A tripod is a tool that allows you to place your camera in a singular position without the danger of any movement. Its design employs a trio of legs that grant balance and stability to securely hold your camera, making it a useful piece of gear for food photography.
In essence, a camera is a central tool for food photography. It functions by capturing images of your subject and storing them in digital format. The types of cameras range from those built into phones to the complex interchangeable lens variants. The latter has more means for photographers to control their desired settings, including the ability to change lenses. For food photography, the best option to consider is to use a camera that has this capability and a way to connect wirelessly to external light sources.
This piece of photography gear is engineered with several glass lenses contained in a circular tube made either of plastic or metal. This series of components work in unison to capture an image using a field of view set by the design of the lens. Moreover, the aperture of a lens determines the amount of light entering your camera and the depth of field you’re allowed to use. All of these qualities are found in this component and are useful for food photography.
As its name suggests, this piece of gear works by reflecting light onto the direction you prefer. It usually comes in a circular shape with a metallic-like surface that possesses reflective properties. A reflector is handy for food photography sessions using natural light or a one-light setup.
Those who don’t prefer using a source of continuous light may go with a flash. It attaches to either the hotshoe of a camera or a lightstand. At the press of your shutter, a flash will emit a strong flash of light that will provide adequate illumination to your food shots. It is more affordable than a dedicated strobe and can be readily used for other types of photography.
Since a flash or a strobe cannot fire off on its own, you would need a remote to trigger their respective functions. This device attaches both to your camera and to your artificial lighting source. When you press the shutter, the remote sends a wireless signal to receivers connected to the flash or strobe, which would then trigger them to emit light.
In some circumstances, you would prefer to view your frame from a laptop than from your camera’s viewfinder or LCD screen. This can be done with the help of a tether cable. This accessory connects your camera to a computing device. Corresponding software is included and should be installed. Once you have done these steps, you can then have a better live view of your shots from your laptop’s larger screen. This benefit will help you see every detail of your food shot and determine if everything is in focus.
After you have taken your shots, you will need to transfer them into your computer and choice of storage. You can then edit them using your software of choice. Some of the popular examples out there include Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Both of these software allow you to adjust important aspects of the photo, such as brightness, contrast, and sharpness, among others. You can also optimize the colors of your pictures to make them pop out.
What You Need to Know about Props and Backdrops for Food Photography
The food alone won’t equate to incredible photos. You would need to spice things up a bit to bring the best out of the food you’re shooting. In this regard, you have several options that may be of big help for your food photography needs. Shown below are some of them.
A backdrop is basically a tool you use to serve as a background for your food photography setup. In theory, a backdrop should not take anything away from your food shot. Instead, it should complement it. Some of the more common backdrop options you may consider are wooden boards, marble slabs, and photo boards, among others.
Once you have found your backdrop of choice, you can now focus on crockery. This category is generally categorized by the kind of tableware you’re going to use for your food photography. Some of the best crockery options that you can check out stylish plates, colorful cups, and classy cutlery, among others. You can place your food on these items or use them as complementary pieces to your photo’s composition.
Fake Ice Cube & Lemon Slice Acrylic Ice Cube
When shooting cold drinks, it’s a must to utilize ice cubes to make them more appealing. The downside to this is that they melt fast. This is where fake ice cubes come in. This prop tool won’t have you racing against time to get the shot you want. You just place a couple of it there, and you’re good. The same logic can also be applied to acrylic ice cubes in a lemon slice-shape.
Food Photography Composition and Styling Details to Keep in Mind
Ask any photographer about the important aspects of a picture, and they’ll certainly say composition is one of them. Composing the various elements of your food photography setup is vital to the overall picture. Sometimes, it is the difference between a poorly-executed photograph and a stunning one. Shown below are some composition and food styling tips every photographer in this field should know.
The Rule of Thirds
Just imagine a grid over your point view consisting of two horizontal and two vertical lines resulting in a 3 x 3 panel. The Rule of Thirds entails the positioning of your main subject inside one of those nine panels. This is being done by photographers for the longest time to place the subject in an area that can be easily found by a viewer. When in doubt about your composition, you can start with this tip.
Arrange the Elements Properly
You just can’t place the elements of your food photography setup randomly inside your frame. You need to see which item or dish works best in a position that brings out the best in the said setup. In doing this feat, you need to keep in mind that your main dish should be the star of your composition. The other elements in your setup should act in such a way that it will highlight the subject. Once you achieve this, there will be harmony and balance in your work.
Optimize Depth of Field
If you use wide-aperture lenses, you can control the depth of field of your photos better. You have the freedom to position your main subject in the foreground and place the supplemental elements in the background. After you do, you can set your camera to an acceptable aperture setting that will isolate the background and bring more focus to your main subject. This will help your viewers know which element of your food photo should they focus their attention on.
Be Creative With Your Angles
Shooting from one angle for all of your food shots may bore your audience. Why not be creative in this regard? Apart from the frontal view, you can try from a 90-degree angle to a flat layout from above. You can even shoot up close if you want to catch all of those details. There’s no limit to what you can do when you don’t hold back on using those angles.
Use Colors That Pop Out
Colors can help you convey a message to your viewer effectively and efficiently. The same can be said for your food photography setup. The good news here is that when it comes to colors, you have a lot of options available. You can try adding spices, side dishes, leafy vegetables, or stylish crockery to your food photos. If you master this, your food images will certainly have a life of their own.
How to achieve the best food photography with phones
Don’t worry if all you have is a phone with a camera for your food photography needs. An interchangeable lens camera may be more ideal, but you can still create the same kind of magic with just this device. Here are some helpful tips that may come in handy when you do food photography with a phone.
Find the light
Natural light is readily available when you need it. You can make the most out of this resource with your mobile device. Whether it’s in your home or in another place, you cay position your setup near a window. After styling it properly, you can then do food photography with your phone. When you manage to find and master natural light, the results won’t be far off from those who use dedicated cameras.
Don’t be afraid to go close or execute creative angles
A mobile phone is certainly lighter than a camera with a lens attached to it. This attribute allows you to execute creative angles or get closer to your subject. Since the device is lighter, you won’t experience any kind of strain. Just don’t forget to make the most out of the daylight and practice beforehand. Doing these things will help you improve in this aspect.
Know the limitations of your phone
Always keep in mind that your phone is not a dedicated camera. Your mobile device doesn’t give you a lot of creative control on how your images are created. Once you understand these limits, you can work your way around them by using the previous tips in this article.
Some food photography tips and tricks to remember
Before you go onto your food shoot session, you need to arm yourself with a couple of tips and tricks to help you out. Here are some of them to keep in mind.
Always keep in mind that practice makes perfect. You should be constant in improving your food photography skills.
Do your best to keep your shots sharp. Blurry food photos won’t serve any purpose because people won’t identify with them.
When dealing with hot or cold food, time is certainly not on your side. Remember that detail, so you’ll make the most out of your time shooting these types of food.
Having a friend around to assist, you will certainly make things easier. This individual can help you style your food elements or hold a reflector whenever you need it. Doing so will help you focus on the shot itself.