For the Love of Food!
Natasha Desai invites gourmands to try their hands at food photography.
This article was originally published in May 2017.
“Food, Glorious Food!” sang workhouse boys in the musical Oliver! And why not? A steaming hot bowl of curry, a pie with a crumbly crust or a juicy steak of chicken can inspire anyone in to spout poetry. And what better a way to profess your love for food than to photograph it?
Whether you’re a food blogger, a beginner who wants to shoot food or you simply love food, photographing the subject is not as daunting as it may seem. Keep a few simple things in mind while shooting and your photographs will surely leave your viewers hungry!
All About the Light
Using natural light is one of the best ways to photograph food. Set up your dish near a window or a source of light and let it work its magic. Make sure you turn off any other source of light like bulbs or tubelights, as it can leave a mixed light cast on your photographs. You could also use a large sheet of butterpaper or a simple white sheet to cover the window for a softer, diffused light.
If it is a overcast day and there isn’t enough of natural light available, use a simple source of light like a lamp and a reflector instead. You could also position a soft box right behind the dish and shoot into the light for a natural-looking rim light to the dishes. You could also backlighting to enhance the steam for a hot dish, just make sure you have a reflector to fill in any harsh shadows.
Check Your White Balance
Getting the White Balance right is crucial to making your food shots look delicious. The colours need to be correctly captured or else, the whole dish could look unappetising. Set the White Balance according to a white piece of cutlery or alternatively use a grey card and your custom white balance setting.
Control the Depth of Field
A shallow depth of field is the best way to draw the viewer’s attention to the food. Find the nicest looking element of the dish and focus on it. Or, focus on the part of the dish that is closest to the camera. Shoot with a wide aperture like f/2.8 and bring on the bokeh! Everybody loves bokeh.
Try a Different Angle
Don’t get stuck photographing food only from one side. Ask yourself, what can you do differently? What if you shoot liquid being poured into a vessel, or right from the edge of the table or at a tilt? Overhead shots are one of the best ways to photograph flat food like salads or pizzas or chapattis. Also, you don’t always have to include the entire dish, you could crop to include only a part of the whole.
Layer the food
If you find the food looking too flat, you could layer is with a dollop of cream, or a garnish or stack them on top of each other in the case of something like rotis. Ensure the garnishes are complimentary to the dish.
Use Complimentary Props
Use similar textures and colours as the food to further enhance it. Smaller bowls of dips, garnishes, or even the basic ingredients make for wonderful props. Use cutlery that does not distract from the food and make sure it is clean!
Don’t be Afraid of Postprocessing
Simple adjustments to contrast, white balance, brightness will only help your photographs look better. You could even remove specks of dirt or unruly ingredients anywhere in the photograph.