You might take amazing OOTDs but that doesn’t mean you can take beautiful photos of inanimate objects like food. Everyone loves taking photos of food but the truth is, food photography is tricky business. Get one thing wrong and you’ll end up making the most scrumptious food look unappetising. The good news is, food blogger Girl Eat World (@girleatworld) has shared a few tricks to snap that like-worthy photo for Instagram. The best thing? You don’t even need a DSLR – her tips are based on iPhone photography.
Tip #1: Pay attention to the three most important elements of food photography
Like other types of photography, proportion is perhaps the most important element when taking photos of food. This means paying attention to ratio of background to subject when snapping your photo. When in doubt, take the object further away than you normally would. This allows room for error, which can be easily fixed through framing. I will expand more on framing and proportion later.
The second element is lighting. If you are shooting indoors, find a seat that has the most natural light coming through such as next to a window or under a skylight. If you are outdoors, pay attention to where the sun is shining from and try to shoot in the direction of the sun instead of against it. This means your subject should be facing the sun while your (or the photographer’s) back should be against the sun. This minimises unwanted shadows and ensures you have the best possible angle of your subject.
In the case of poor lighting in a cafe or restaurant, you can still take a picture in hopes to enhance it later. You might be surprised by how well pictures taken in low light conditions can turn out with today’s technology. iPhone 6s Plus has good low-light photography capabilities with its image stabilisation feature – just make sure you are as close to any source of light as possible.
However, in extremely low light conditions, sometimes it’s best to just put your phone down and pick up your fork. Enjoy your meal and company instead!
Thirdly, focus! There is nothing more disappointing than uploading a blurry picture of an awesome dish. In this case, I love my iPhone 6s’ ability to quickly set focus and exposure with a simple tap on the screen to ensure a sharp photo.
Tip #2: Don’t be shy to prepare your subject!
The good news is that restaurant food is relatively easy to shoot, as they usually come styled in fancy tableware that’s Instagram-ready. The same principle still applies to hawker food, which tends to be messy and simple. I find that this adds character and more ‘local’ feel to the photo.
For the sake of taking great food photography, you can always jazz up your photo to inject your own brand of style and creativity with other elements on the table, such as table decorations, drinks, utensils, or even your own accessories like sunnies and wallets. You want to make your photo uniquely you – so go ahead and experiment!
Tip #3: Frame your picture according to the subject
Now that Instagram has added support for full-sized portrait and landscape photos, Instagrammers will find photo-taking a lot easier. Gone are the days we need to worry about fitting everything into a square.
There isn’t a one-stop solution to determine which picture ratio is the best – it all depends on the photo itself. Some subjects may look good in a square frame, others do better in landscape orientation – the trick here is to take a few photos in different orientations and see which works best.
For me, I simply toggle between “square” and “photo” directly on my iPhone camera to see how the subject would frame. However, I recommend to still always take your picture on “photo” setting just in case you change your mind. This gives you the freedom to crop later.
Another tip to frame your subject better is to have the grid turned on in iPhone camera. This helps me frame my shot on-the-go.
Here are some examples!
This picture was originally taken on landscape mode, but I wanted to bring more attention to the food, especially on Instagram, so I cropped the image to a vertical 5:4 ratio. This allows the viewer to focus more on the food rather than its surroundings.
Apart from basic cropping, another tool that I find valuable to editing is the perspective/adjust tool, which exists on popular photo editors like Instagram and VSCO. This amazing tool allows you to fix whatever framing mistake you may have made while taking the picture and straightened up
Tip #4: Edit to enhance, not to transform
When you first start learning how to edit pictures, there is always a tendency to over-edit. I can understand the need to make your image “pop” more by cranking up the saturation, brightness, and contrast – I myself am still very much guilty of this! However, when it comes to food, I find the best filter to be #nofilter, enabling the individual elements of the dish to stand out on their own merits. But this doesn’t mean you don’t have to edit your photo. There is a difference between using a filter to transform the look of the image pre-shoot, and editing to enhance it post-shoot.
So, what do I mean by enhance? This is the process where you make minor tweaks to a photo to bring out its best features while still retaining much of its originality. For example, adjusting filter strength to only 50%, or exposure to 20% to 30%, or just a slight increase to the overall saturation, makes the picture below look so much better, yet staying faithful to the original.
The easiest way to stop yourself from over-editing is to compare your edited picture to the original and see if your editing was “too much”, then reassess your editing again.
For this image, I simply rotated the picture to be vertical, added E1 filter on VSCO cam at +8 strength, and sharpened the image using Instagram tool.
Tip #5: Find your own style
Once you have mastered the art of taking food photos, you can start finding a style that is unique to you. Continue exploring different styles of framing, editing and filter combinations that you like, and tweaking it until you find a routine that you love. Bear in mind that this isn’t a process that just happen overnight, so don’t worry too much about and keep practicing. It took me a long time to find a style that worked for me – a quick scroll through my Instagram shows that my editing style has changed over time.
Tip #6: Practice, practice, practice
Perhaps the most important tip I have is to keep practising. You can read all the photography tips and tricks you want, but if you don’t put it into action, it will all go to waste. So go ahead and snap away!
Text and images: Melissa / Girl Eat World