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Have you ever looked at a mouth-watering dessert or main dish pictured on Instagram and suddenly lost your appetite when you noticed the dirty stove in the background? Unfortunately, it happens rather frequently. The proper background is important in all forms of photography, and food photography is no exception.
Other factors can also attract or detract from your food photos. Knowing the correct angle from which to shoot your photos, using the right lighting, and choosing great props can make the difference between a photo that is memorable and one people are likely to forget.
Do a little detective work before you shoot. You want your luscious lasagna or decadent chocolate cake to stand out and command attention. Don’t allow a dirty or cluttered background to grab the attention of your audience, although strangely messy an cluttered rooms seem to be okay in fashion shots. Keep them held captive by your delicious food by eliminating any unnecessary items in the photo.
Nobody wants to see a counter filled with dirty dishes or cooking utensils. Make sure the counter or table is wiped clean and is free of junk mail or your kid’s latest school project.
Think of photographing your food like getting ready for a event by setting the scene. Taking the time to properly set things up before you snap the first photo will pay off in the end. First, determine what type of atmosphere you wish to create. Is your dish one that typically would be part of an elegant meal in a fine restaurant or would it be found on the menu at sports bar?
For instance, you just created the perfect triple-layer sandwich to be enjoyed on a picnic. Why not create a picnic scene? If the weather is nice, photograph your creation outdoors. Spread a blanket on the ground. Add a picnic basket, condiments, a jug of iced tea, and some colorful plastic plates and cups. Not only will your outdoor picnic scene appeal to your viewers, you will reap the advantage of getting to shoot your photo in natural light.
An elegant Italian dish will look nice in a fine dining scene. Spread a white tablecloth on your table. Set out your fine china, cloth napkins, and best silverware. A store-bought loaf of Italian bread can be placed in a bread basket to add additional appeal. Purchase a bagged salad at the local store and dump into a bowl. Nobody will know the bread and salad are not homemade, and you will have a lovely picture of a complete gourmet meal to share on Instagram.
Perhaps you are the master of making unique school lunches for your children. Use your child’s lunch box as part of the scene. You may also wish to include a few of your child’s books, pencils, and a ruler. Don’t forget to add an apple, banana, or other piece of fruit for those interested in healthier options for their children’s lunches.
The proper scene attracts the attention of people who are interested in a specific type of food or those who are looking for new ideas for family meals, special occasion dinners, or for an impromptu picnic by the lake. Once the perfect scene is set, you will be ready to start shooting great food photos.
Don’t just limit yourself to only taking photos of the completed dish. If you like to share recipes along with your photos, you may want to consider photographing the process of food preparation. Start by getting a shot of the ingredients before you begin to prepare your food. Fresh herbs, blocks of cheese, uncooked pasta, fresh meat, and vegetables make enticing props when placed next to a cutting board or knife.
You may also wish to photograph a step-by-step process on how to prepare your special dish. This is especially helpful to new cooks who may not be familiar with certain cooking tasks. It will be more time consuming, but the new cooks who follow you on Instagram will appreciate the extra effort.
Dark rooms are not photo friendly. Even the best food and the most stellar scene won’t matter if the light isn’t right. Natural light is your best friend when it comes to photography. Consider setting up a small table in front of a door or window to use when taking your pictures. This will allow plenty of natural light in for your photo shoot. White sheer window curtains are perfect for diffusing natural light.
Avoid using flash if possible. Flash photography is often too harsh and will create an unpleasant glare or shiny areas over the food. This is very distracting and may make the food appear fake rather than real.
If you are using a camera instead of your cell phone or tablet, you will have more options for selecting the perfect settings. Taking a little time to learn about the various features on your camera will go a long way towards making you a great food photographer. Become familiar with the special settings on your camera, and experiment with a variety of settings to see which ones you like best.
Food looks best when it is fresh and ready to eat. Respect the fact that some foods just don’t hold up well in certain conditions. Frozen desserts have a short shooting life when sitting on a warm kitchen table. Fresh salad greens will wilt quickly in warm temperatures.
The same is true with hot dishes. Food can dry out rapidly when exposed to air. Plan to shoot your photos as soon as your dish comes from the oven or off the stove to capture the most natural and appealing photos.
Like other types of photography, it is not uncommon to take dozens of photos before you get one that grabs your attention. Once your scene is set and you have adequate lighting, take several dozen photos. Shoot from a variety of angles. Try a few shots using different settings on your camera. Take photos up close and from a distance. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
If you have a macro feature on your camera, you can capture great up-close shots. Zoom in and capture shots so realistic your viewers will almost be able to taste the food.
Once you have plenty of photos, view them to see which ones grab your attention. Analyze the photos to see if any adjustments need to be made in the lighting or background. Be confident. Usually the photos that stand out to you will be the ones that will stand out to your Instagram viewers.
People love food, and learning the proper way to capture great food photos will have food lovers flocking to your Instagram in record numbers. Food photography is not only fun, but it is also rewarding when shared with others. Taking a little time to learn the right way to photograph food will help you take photos that you will be proud to share on Instagram.