How To Take The Perfect Food Photo

Want to improve your Instagram? We asked six talented food stylists and photographers to give us their top tips on taking the best looking photos of your food.
Food photography socials22
Want to find out how to take the perfect food photo? You're in luck. Photograph: Ben Slater.

One of the greatest pleasures of cooking a delicious meal is in the eating of it. I'm not denying that. There's not much that's better than being able to taste all the different composite parts of a dish and recognise how a combination of ingredients can create specific flavours on your palate. That, however, is a very personal experience. If you want to be able to share some of the pleasure of your cooking with someone that's not sitting down to that meal with you then the best way to do that is by taking a sexy photo.

Yes, you can complain all you like about those people who take a photo of their food and post it online but you know what? I’m one of "those people" and I’m pretty sure that you’re one of "those people", too. If you’re not: well, why not? Photographing your food is a great way to document your own cooking journey and being able to look back on all the delicious meals you’ve cooked previously can be a great way of gaining inspiration for future dishes. Taking a good photo of your food, though, is no mean feat. Your Instagram feed is probably chocked with beautiful photos of soups and decadent cheese pulls and seeing all those top shots can make you feel daunted to throw your own hat into the mix.

We’re obviously fairly well-experienced in the world of food photography but to help you figure out how to take the perfect food photo, we’ve enlisted the help of some of the UK’s best food stylists, photographers, and recipe developers. All of these talented people have been kind enough to share their top tips with you, the MOB, to help you take your food photography to the next level. Here’s a few of the essential tips for taking better photos of your food.

Clerkenwell Boy

Clerken Well
Getting the perfect food photo isn't easy. Photograph: @clerkenwellboyec1.

Lighting

I shoot all my pics on my phone, so I prefer to take pictures in natural light (ask for a table by the window if possible). Avoid direct sunlight or artificial light, as the contrast can be too sharp. Never use a flash – not only do the photos look worse, it annoys other diners.

Composition

Find a style that suits you such as 'top-down' or super close-ups (try a 45-degree angle). Play with negative space, or style up your shots with props that convey the atmosphere of where you are.

Filters

Don't overuse in-built filters – try to keep your shots as natural as possible. However, if editing, try to do it manually by playing around with the brightness, structure and sharpness tools. Sometimes it helps to blur or darken the background if you want a sharper central focal point. I like to use Lightroom for colour grading and Snapseed too.

Find Your Niche

Post what you love and what you're passionate about, whether it be travel or food: burgers, pasta, desserts or home cooking. Share your recipes, helpful tips or videos to drive additional engagement with your IG community.

Clerkenwellboy is a food blogger and Instagrammer.

Haydon Perrior

Haydon Perrior Mob 10
Thinking about your composition of colours is a great place to start. Photograph: @haydonperrior.

Colour! Look for primary colours, look for blocks of colour, look for contrasting colours. If the photo is cluttered with a whole spectrum of colours, it's going to be distracting and take the attention away from the food. A camera produces a 2-dimensional image, so you need to simplify things and colour is a great way of doing that. Once you’ve chosen your colours make them pop in the edit, but keep things natural and don’t overdo it – if you think it looks over-edited then chances are it is.

Haydon Perrior is a freelance fashion, travel, food and events photographer.

Sun Lee

Sun Lee
Don't be afraid of getting up close and personal. Photograph: Sun Lee

Get closer! I find shooting close-ups can give focus on the beautiful detail of the ingredients, textures, and colours in a dish. Ideally, a macro lens or macro lens attachment is best, but it's not essential. Even just moving in closer or playing with the zoom on your phone's camera can help. Make sure there is enough light, whether it's placing your food by a window or using an external light source. You might want to rotate the food around so you're focused on an interesting section, whether it’s the colour, texture, or a combination of both. Experimentation and patience is key here! Then, get in close and personal with your camera, check out the subject at different heights and angles and snap away!

Sun Lee is a photographer who specialises in food and drink photography.

Mo Arawole

Mo
Use the weather to your advantage. Photograph: Mo Arawole.

I love natural light, it is probably 90% of what I use to light my food subjects, natural light is unpredictable and that's what I love most about it. I have to adapt and move along with the light and, as a beginner, it is the best light to start with as it is free and amazing.

Your journey will probably start at home, so finding a big window or a small window that brings in a lot of light is a great start, preferably a south or north-facing window. It is also a good idea to know when the best light comes through your window, you do not want too much light, which will make your subject too bright and harsh looking but rather you want a soft-looking image from your natural light, and if you still feel there is too much light on your subject, not to worry, you can use a thin white curtain to soften the light or by moving slightly away from the window. We all know the British weather can be unpredictable however learning the best times you get the most light is key.

Mo Arawole is a photographer specialising in food, portraits and designs.

Ben Slater

Ben Slater
Natural light is your friend. Photograph: Ben Slater.

Natural light, aged wood and vintage cake stands don’t really do it for me. I usually opt for bright, block colours, clean edges and go heavy on sharp shadows. Anyone can recreate this by taking their food pics in direct sunlight (the sort of light you wouldn’t want on your computer screen) on colourful card or paper. I tend to use a flash head for most of my pictures as I am nowhere near patient enough to wait for the midday sun!

Ben Slater is a recipe developer and photographer for SortedFood.

Caitlin Isola

Short Road Pizza credit Caitlin Isola
Don't forget about exposure. Photograph: Caitlin Isola.

Use the manual exposure function on your smartphone for more control over your images — if you long hold on the point you’d like to focus on, your smartphone will hold focus on that particular area only, (which can also be fun to play with) and allow you to slide up and down to adjust how light or dark your images are. Also, turn the grid on, it’ll help you compose your image quicker and improve your composition overall. And use natural light wherever possible — a smartphone flash isn’t gonna do anyone any favours, food or otherwise!

Caitlin Isola specialises in photography and design for the hospitality industry.

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