What is it that makes a food photo perfect, when the melted cheese on that burger causes you to salivate and you can practically taste that rich chocolate cake.
For casual snappers, capturing the perfect image may seem daunting (as many Instagram accounts can attest it's so easy to get wrong...) but there are a few things you can keep in mind to ensure you're those pictures that will have your friends drooling ever time.
1. Lighting Is Everything
In food photography, as in any kind of photography, the right light will make or break your shot. Indoor lighting is often too dim or harsh. If you don't have conditions, try shooting by a window or near a skylight. Natural light is always best, it's rich and can lend an interesting depth of shadow to an otherwise flat image.
Always try to light food from behind, as backlighting really highlights texture. In addition, when lit from behind, steam or smoke will show up well – and that's the money shot!
2. Style It To Perfection
Composition is key to a perfect food photo, so think of the focus point of the final picture. This can be challenging for dishes like soup or stew, unless you add something for a pop of colour or distinctive shape. A sprig of parsley, a sprinkle of cheese, or a spoonful of cream can go a long way to dressing up boring presentation.
Don't ignore the finer details. What about the table, and how you intend to present the final dish? An interesting place setting or cutlery can help add a little drama.
3. Fill The Frame
This is all about balance - what can you see in the image before you take your shot? You might be tempted to get fancy and frame your dish off centre, but this takes some forethought*. Try to keep the focal point of the image at the centre of the frame, keeping in mind that you may need to back up or move forward to get as much of the dish in your shot as you can. You should be close enough to know what the food is, but not so close that there's too much negative space.
*Photographers like to follow the “Rule of Thirds”, which is basically like laying a grid over your photo so you have nine equal parts. In fact, most cameras and cell phones offer this option – take a look at your settings to see what we're talking about.
In general, beginner photographers should aim to have the focal point of their image front and centre, right in that centre square. Eventually you can play around with positioning to create interest.
4. Play With Angles
You may feel silly standing on your chair to get a top down angle of your food but sometimes those shots turn out the best. Be creative with your angles – from above, from below, from the side, etc – and try to show the dish in a way that most people might not look at it.
5. Keep It Simple
All that being said, remember that at the end of the day the point of the photo is to show off the food. Take out anything you don't need, or things in the frame that might be distracting. If the food isn't necessarily attractive, shoot a single portion. After all is said and done, don't be afraid to crop it - sometimes the rule “more is less” will serve you best.