how to improve your food photography

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Food Photos

In today’s visually-driven social media scene, paying attention to the quality of your food images is more important than ever.  The difference between a so-so image and one that’s been carefully staged, composed and edited can mean the difference between a few repins to the post going viral.   Just by following these five easy tips, you’ll notice a marked improvement in your food images.

  • Pay attention to lighting.  Don’t use a flash.  Even in situations where lighting is dim, food looks better without a flash.  The best lighting? Natural light.  During the day, move your plate near a window if you can.  In the evening, I use EGO artificial light boxes to shoot my food photos.  These lights can be spendy for the beginning photographer, but there are lots of other affordable options on the market as well.  Avoid shadows whenever possible.  Sometimes that lighting can also be too harsh, so use a filter to diffuse harsh light.  Bed sheets and dryer sheets can be handy for diffusing light.
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds.  I’ve seen a lot of amateur* food photos taken on the kitchen counter with outlets, dirty dishes and even beer cans in the background.  If you’ve got crap on your counter, clean it up or move the plate somewhere else.  Remember, avoiding distracting backgrounds applies to not just your countertops and tables, but to your plates and serving ware too.  However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  Don’t over-stage; you want the food to be the star of the photo.  You can’t go wrong with white plates and solid-colored dinnerware.  *Oh wait… that was me at one point!
  • Stage your food.  Staging your food goes beyond just wiping spills off bowls, adding a garnish, and putting food on a pretty plate.  Your backgrounds and props set the mood for your photo.  Some of my favorite props were purchased at thrift stores and garage sales (antique graters, pitchers, etc) and look great in backgrounds. I also love an old board I stained to look like an old table (pictured above).  You can use 12×12 scrapbook pages that look like old wood and fabric scraps to look like tablecloths and napkins.  Walmart sells fabric squares for around $1.  Look for ideas on FoodGawker.
  • If your image is blurry, do a re-take.  Sharp, crisp photos are insanely important when trying to make food look appetizing.  Even if your photo is clear, a sharpening filter (there is a free one on sometimes helps.  
  • Get feedback.  Practice makes perfect, and so does knowing what you’re doing wrong.  I submit my photos to FoodGawker.  They only accept the most visually-appealing images, so don’t be upset if they reject you (I’ve got more rejections than acceptances).  They will give you a short explanation of why your photo was rejected.  It can range from the vague “composition” to a more specific “white-balance issue”.  The nice thing is, this feedback gives you valuable clues on what you can be doing better with your food photos.  There are also Photography Groups on Facebook that you can utilize to improve your photography skills.

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