Food Photography Tips: How to Photograph Your Thanksgiving Dinner
With Thanksgiving approaching quickly, food is on everyone’s mind. The holidays are a great time of the year to capture family, friends, and, of course, food. If you’ve ever attempted photographing food you know it is a lot harder than it looks. But, have no fear, we are here to give you some pointers on how to make your Thanksgiving dinner look as good as it tastes!
1. Work with Lighting
As photographers, lighting is usually the main concept on our mind. Lighting in a photograph can make or break your photography, especially for food photography. The best light to use with food photography, in most situations, is natural light. So, if you have a large window that lets lots of light flow in you are golden.
If you are lucky enough to have too much light coming through your window you can always use a white sheet to cover it. You can also use a white board, or piece of paper, to bounce the light back into the shadows in order to open them up (decrease the contrast).
If you do not have enough light coming in through a window you can try to position artificial light, such as a lamp, to replicate this effect. When using artificial lighting make sure you change your white balance so your images do not come out looking yellow and greasy.
With natural or artificial lighting you want to pay attention to how the light is hitting the food. Whenever you are lighting food you are focused on capturing the texture, if the light is hitting the food straight on from above this texture will be minimized. In order to emphasize all the nooks and crannies of your food, you need the light to hit the food at an angle. Therefore, position your light slightly above and to the side of the food.
2. Composition, Composition, Composition
Most people’s first instinct when taking a picture of food is to take the shot as they see it. This might work with some shots, but not for all. Try taking different angle shots and different compositions to create more interesting perspectives. For example, get lower, try different angles, crop out part of the plate or dish, get close, and move back. The more angles and compositions you try the better your shots will turn out.
When you are positioning your food on your plate, try to make there be more food than plate. You want to make the food look bigger than it actually is, this means get in close and put the food on the edge of the plate while cropping out the unused area. This is important when shooting eye level with the food.
When using multiple dishes, or pieces of food in your shot, always remember the rule of 3. As humans we naturally want to pair things together, when you include an odd number of objects in your photo it keeps the eye moving and creates more of an interest and flow throughout your photo.
3. Don’t forget the selective focus and bokeh
A great technique for food photography is selective focus. This draws in the viewer’s eye to the area of the dish you want them to focus on while blurring out the rest, which might otherwise be distracting and create clutter. Try using your macro setting, a macro lens, or using an f/1.8 or f/2.0 to focus on a specific area. Test out shooting one cookie on the plate full of cookies, or a piece of candy in a bowl.
Another way to add interest to your image is with a bokeh blur (blurred lights). With all the Christmas lights starting to come out, they could be the perfect addition to your food photography. As you blur your background, if you position these Christmas lights off in the distance you will have a festive blurry light background that will add depth and make the viewer feel like the dish is right in front of them.
4. Props and creating an environment
What you place your dish on, or around, can make a good photo amazing. Adding a decorative napkin to set the plate on or finding an old, stained cookie sheet can make a huge difference. You can try keeping it simple or you can add a glass, cup, napkin, flower, fork, cutting board, or anything else you can think of.
If you add props to your shot, try playing around with these objects. Put some food on your fork and take a shot as if it was the first bite by focusing on the fork and blurring the background. Try taking a scoop of pie and lean the fork against the plate with the pie still on it. Crumble crumbs around the plate, or on a napkin, even add lipstick to a glass. Try and be as creative as possible to add interest and life to your photos.
5. Sometimes you just have to fake it
What most people don’t realize is the mass amounts of production and styling that goes into professional food photography. If you want your food photography to look like the pros you might have to stage some areas of your meal. Here are some simple tricks, with simple home ingredients, that will make a huge difference:
Vegetable oil: Brush over food you want to glisten.
Glycerin: Mix glycerin and water in a spray bottle to spray on glasses, fruit, vegetables, etc in order to make drinks look ice cold and make food look fresh.
Cardboard: Place inside foods that need added volume such as hamburgers. Cardboard can also be used to prop up the back sides of pies which makes the pie look bigger and fuller.
Cotton balls: Soak the cotton balls in water and microwave, then place them behind your food for instant steam.
Mashed potato: Can be used as a good replacement for ice cream that doesn’t melt!
Toothpicks: Can be used to prop up food for better angles or to make the food seem bigger and increase the volume.
It takes a little bit of practice, experimenting, and creativity to create amazing food photography. But, what better time to get started on perfecting your food photography than Thanksgiving. Take a moment to try out these tricks and let us know if you notice a difference.