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How to Take Great Food Photos | Bay Area Food Photographer Tina Case

November 04, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Lavendar infused strawberry shortcakeStrawberry shortcake infused with LavendarLavendar infused straweberry shortcake. Yummy.

What is it about great food photography that makes us want to take a bite right off the screen or page?  It's about the lighting, the right angle and, of course, a great photographer!  Sure we see lots of our friends posting photos of what they are about to eat (or in the process of eating) on Facebook and Instagram with a zillion #foodie hashtags.  Many of those photos are great.  What separates out the great food photos from the so-so food photos?

[Check out my food and restaurant photos here]

As a photographer the "feedback" - pun intended - I receive from clients when I take food photos is that the image instantly makes their mouth water and want to taste, smell, touch and of course, eat the food in front of them.

I first started taking food photos for a client who owned a farm fresh-to-table business.  She had amazing fresh vegetables and fruits to photograph.  I started pouring over various websites about food photography to learn more about how to take great food photos.  One of my favorite food photography sites is Miki Duisterhof.  Check out her website and galleries for amazing food examples.  

Then I just start shooting - all of the food in front of me.  My friend's food, my family's food - any food I could get my hands on.  What began as a project has become a great way to build my portfolio and clientele base.  My first food contact lead to on-going regular work with a number of restaurants, diners, food trucks and food businesses including Dishcrawl, the amazing brainchild of founder Tracy Lee.  Tracy's entrepreneurial spirit has spawned hundred's of Dishcrawls around the country - and beyond.  

Great Food Photography | Tina CaseHow to take great food photos Here are a few techniques to build a great food portfolio:

  • Lighting the Dish:  Lighting is the single biggest element to great food photography.  Whether you are using natural light or strobes, it is essential to have full, bright lights placed over the plate or table.  That is unless your lighting is setting the mood, then it all depends on the circumstance.  But in most cases people want to see the savory details of the food such as the flakey pie crust or syrupy drips of sauce.  To get those layers of detail, it is essential to have wonderful lighting.
  • Bokeh: Figure out what you want to focus on in your shot.  Is it the beef in the burger or is it the toasted bun?  I typically use a wide aperture of 2.8 and focus on a specific detail in the food.  Perhaps it is a drop of gooey honey or water that was on a fresh vegetable. Having a crisp, sharp focus on a piece of food makes it more interesting and draws the viewer right next to the plate.
  • Frame it: have the image cropped in camera - you should not have to do much post cropping if you frame and focus correctly the first time.  The most important food element that you are photographing should be framed using the rules of thirds.  
  • Make 'em want to take a bite: Whenever I take a food photo my objective is to make the viewer want to take a bite.  The food should look so savory and delectable that it makes them want to eat, drink and be merry.
  • Color is key: It is so important to get your white balance correct so that the colors are accurate.  The browns and reds from the juicy steak or the golden brown from the french fries need to pop off the screen.  But if your browns and reds are muddy or purple it definitely won't reflect well on the chef or on you.  So take a few test shots based on the lighting in your environment and set the white balance.

How to take great food photosTaking great food photos Food photography is a wonderful way to add to your portfolio and clientele base.  So get cooking and start your food photo gallery today!

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