2. Square dishes always look classy.3. Smaller is better — small dishes are easier to fill up with food, which prevents your plate from looking bare.
Do as much as you possibly can ahead of time. Food should be photographed as soon as possible after preparing, which means you’ll need a space for
photographing ready to go, an uncluttered kitchen, etc. Here’s what I do before I start cooking:
1. Clean up, do all the dishes, clear countertops
2. Pick out dishes3. Set camera up on tripod, pick out background
4. Clear your photography space
5. Think about the dish: do you need a garnish? Special utensils? Placemat?
Prepping all your ingredients neatly will keep your kitchen more organized, cut down on cooking time, and allow you to focus on the task at hand. And mise en place photographs make for killer filler photos, as well!
Simple Setups, Natural Light
You don’t need to invest in lots of studio equipment to get great images. The very best lighting you can get is free, and it’s coming through your windows every day. Here’s a shot of my “studio”: A table, next to a window. Done! Well, almost. Since I shoot with natural light only, a lot of times it’s slightly too dark to hand-hold my camera and get a clear image. Use a tripod and you’ll be amazed at how much better your photos get, especially with PnS
cameras. Even balancing your camera on a can of tomatoes or a pile of books can save a shot. Tripods very drastically in price, but I have a cheap $30 that has done the trick for well over a year now.
Behind the Scenes
There are lots of ways you can make backgrounds for your food shots. My favorite backgrounds are just simple 20×30″ foam-core boards that I spray painted on my porch, a different color on each side.
I love these because they’re cheap, easy to make and customize, easy to store, and fairly durable. I once bought this kit that comes with colored paper, but soon realized the paper gets destroyed after a few uses: it tears, it gets ugly creases in it, and if you spill anything on it at all it’s ruined. The big foam-core boards, on the other hand, wipe clean and don’t bend, and if you do ruin them they’re easy to replace.
As you can see in the photo to the left, they’re easy to swap in and out during a shoot. You can try all different colors before picking the right one for the dish you’re photographing.
One tip: buy matte finish spray paint – glossy paint will cause unsightly glares in your photos.
I start out photographing the process of the recipe–chopping, special techniques, assembly, etc. Once the dish is done and plated, I’ll take some “basic” shots which help me establish the lighting, background, what props/garnishes are needed, positioning of the food, etc. I gradually work my way towards a photograph that feels complete to me, making sure to get all different angles. I try overhead, straight on, close up, environment shots, and many different angles. My photographs start out boring and move towards interesting as I shoot. It’s hard to explain how I plate or frame, but it involves a lot of photos and looking at each photo and saying, “Hmm, the image looks too bare” or “I need to figure out how to emphasize this particular quality of the dish.” As I said before, the more photos you take, the better chance you have of getting that perfect shot.
What kind of camera do you use?
How do you get such nice photos? Any tips?
Practice, forethought, and a few easy tricks. I use colored backgrounds (spray painted foam boards or large sheets of construction paper), and take care to use natural light. I buy a fun dish or two whenever I go to Target. I think about what the setting should look like, how I’ll plate the food, and what colors would go nicely with it before I even start cooking. I don’t have a studio, so all the food you see is made by me in my kitchen, placed next to the window, photographed, then eaten. I use a tripod (never a flash!) and shoot a LOT of photos. I’d say that I take over 100 for every blog post you see, and then I delete the vast majority during the editing process. I use Adobe Lightroom for corrections (cropping, color boots, contrast, white balance, etc). I have a simple rule: if I don’t have a good photo of it, it doesn’t go on the blog. Period.