My passion for taking food pictures started while on a trip to Hong Kong. While most of my friends had to work during the day, my friend Derrick managed to find time in his busy schedule to take me to Shenzhen, China. We hopped on a train, found our way to a restaurant in Shenzhen and sat down to enjoy a late lunch. Now before I continue, I must point out that every time Derrick recommends a place to eat, it has always been fabulous. From the hole-in-the-wall dumpling place in Dalian (China) to the hot-pot (fast-food style) in Hong Kong, his choice of food has not disappointed me.
As always, Derrick was responsible for ordering our meal. When the food arrived, I tried to take pictures of each dish. Derrick politely watched me struggle for a bit before finally asking me why I only took food pictures from the top down (top view). He explained to me that when taking pictures of my food, I should do so from different angles, distances and settings. I must have looked very confused so he used my camera to take a couple of shots. Wow! If photos could talk, they would definitely be telling a vibrant story! Check out the two photos he took on my camera…
… and compare it with my two photos. The first one was taken before Derrick gave me pointers and the second one was after my quick 5 minute lesson. See some improvement?
With this experience in mind, I decided to “digg” an article on food photography. In 10 Food Photography Tips to Make It Look Tasty, the author, Yi shared some ideas on how to make food photos look delicious. Many of the concepts presented in her article are tips and tricks that Derrick also taught me during the 5-minute lesson. For example, I remember one of the first things Derrick said was to turn off the flash and use natural lighting to capture the moment. He also told me to practice zooming in on the photo subject. This would fall in line with tip numbers 3 and 6 in Yi’s article: use natural lighting and get close up. Simply learning those two techniques greatly improved the outcome of my photos.
Yi also discussed the importance of colour contrast between the food and the background. I find that keeping a clean and simple background reduces the distraction to the observer and allows the food subject to stand out as if in the spotlight. In addition, like Yi explains in her article, angling and zooming in on details builds dimension and texture into the photo. It does make a big difference to the overall presentation of the shot.
One other tip that I picked up from Derrick but that does not appear to be within Yi’s list of photography tips is the beauty of imperfections. At that time, I must have been obsessed with trying to capture every detail in one all-inclusive photo. Derrick assured me that it was acceptable to take a picture even if the food on the plate was not evenly distributed or a slice of cut pastry was crumbling. It all depends on how you frame the picture.
Sometimes we get caught up in trying to capture everything in the perfect picture, but lose sight on the fact that some of the best results are obtained by the simplest and most natural details. Have you had that experience with photography? What other pointers have you been given to take better food photos?