Part I: Tips For Photographing Food
Like a Pro For Your Blog or Website
1. Choosing a Digital Camera
(please skip to #2 if you already have one)
You’ll need a digital camera with good optical zoom (the higher the number the better it usually is, ie. 10X is better than 6X) and it should offer a macro feature. The macro feature will allow you to take extreme closeups of the food you are photographing…perfect for showing the precise swirls on the cakes you decorate, the intricate druplet pattern on a perfect raspberry, etc.
Like optical zoom, in general, the higher the number of megapixels the camera can process, the better the details in the photographs will be (and the better they will look if they end up being printed out at larger sizes).
Before buying a digital camera, don’t forget to spend a little time reading customer reviews on various cameras on Epinions.Com or Amazon. YouTube also has some great video reviews where you can see what various cameras come with right out of the box, as well as a visual demonstrations of their features and flaws.
The number one cause of blurry photographs is the inadvertent movement of your hands or body while you are taking your pictures.
The easiest way to fix that problem is to get a tripod. Tabletop tripods are short and extremely portable, and are great for photographing items on counter-tops and tables. However, in many cases, a full size tripod will do all that and more, as well as to help you take good photos in places with uneven flooring or rocky terrain by quickly adjusting the length of the individual feet of the tripod as needed.
If you’d like to forgo buying a tripod altogether and are relatively handy, you can also learn how to make your own image stabilizer for under $5 here.
If for some reason you don’t have a tripod (or DIY image stabilizer) with you and you need to take a photo, try keeping your hands as steady as possible while holding your breath to minimize camera shake and blur. Standing with your legs spread out somewhat wider than usual will help stabilize your movements as well.
3. Good Lighting Makes a Big Difference
Light stands are the perfect way to provide good, even light in the photographs you take. However, they can be expensive, so here are a few less pricey alternatives:
You can use 2-3 clamp lamps (often available for less than $10 each in office stores, auto part stores, and general retailers…or even less if you buy them secondhand at thrift stores, flea markets, or garage sales) and position them as needed.
For shots taken in our kitchen (like the ones you see throughout this blog post) we used the light from a set of tracklights we installed in the kitchen for the purpose.
Additionally, if you have fluorescent lights in the room where you are photographing regularly, you might want to shut them off before taking pictures and rely entirely on the light from the incandescent bulbs in your photography lights as fluorescent light can often distort the colors and tones in your photos.
When you first begin taking food photographs, you’ll probably start out by working with the plates and tableware you already use in your everyday life. But eventually, you may get bored and want to expand your choice of culinary settings and backdrops to better compliment your food compositions.
If so, a visit to a local thrift shop or garage sale can be a great way to inexpensively purchase a variety of single plates, bowls, baskets, pitchers, and trays to liven things up in your photos. The national U.S. chain Tuesday Morning (and other closeout retailers) are also a good source to try.
5. Think About What Story You Want Your Pictures to Tell
Every photo tells a story, so before you take a photo of a memorable meal or visually striking food combination you’ll want to decide what your “story” for each photo will be.
Is the story the vivid colors of the food you are photographing? The mouthwatering way the cheese captures the light as it melts on top of a sinfully, juicy burger? The shape of the meal itself and its visual relationship to the plate on which it is staged? The country in which the dish’s flavors are commonly found (ie. Italy, Hungary, or Greece)? The texture of rough, peasant bread, topped with a constellation of golden sesame seeds?
Use the story ideas you come up with as visual cues to help you come up with exciting ideas for props and plating concepts to use in your photographs.
Do you want to display the peasant bread on a standard plate, or would it look better staged on a rough hewn butcher block or cutting board, or nestled in a basket? Would you prefer to photograph that sushi in closeup on a shining stainless steel cookie sheet, a traditional Japanese plate, or artfully positioned on a clean river stone? What about photographing that macaroni and cheese right in the pot, or that pizza while it’s still on its wooden peel? Should you photograph those fruits singly, in pairs, or by the dozen piled up in a bowl?
6. A Few Practical Food Presentation Ideas
You can brush a little olive oil over vegetables (watercolor or clean small paint brushes will work) to give them a warm, buttery sheen.
Don’t forget to dip or brush a little citric acid (a little lemon juice works well) on the exposed cut portion of apples, pears, peaches, avocados, etc. to keep them from turning brown before you can take your photos.
A small water mister (usually $2 or less) can be used to perk up raw vegetables and salad greens in between shots. You can also put a large bowl of ice under a staged plate of cold foods to help keep them fresh looking until you are ready to take your photographs.
7. A Final Note
Lastly, don’t be afraid to try new things and play around with ideas. Once you get comfortable taking your own photographs, it’s surprisingly fun and satisfying.
Note: This article is also available in the following convenient format(s)…
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