I had a great question come into the ‘Ask Food n’ Focus‘ account recently regarding some basic tips for beginner food photographers. The reader expressed their passion for taking food photos but was wondering what kinds of tips that I could offer. I’m flattered that you view me as a knowledgeable expert! So here are a few pointers that I think can help any food photographers out there.

Lighting is KEY!

I’m a huge fan of natural light. You’ll want to shoot by back-lighting your dish and use a reflector to fill in any shadows. I tend to use a couple of light reflectors to get the best lighting results. You’ll notice the difference in lighting and textures in the two photos below. The photo on the left was taken without natural light or any additional lighting tools. The photo on the right was back-lit and additional reflectors were used to fill in the shadows. You’ll achieve much better photos this way. I would highly advise against ever using a pop-up flash for food photos.

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Styling is IMPORTANT!

I believe that food styling is an art that you perfect over time. I’m still learning but I know that props and colors make all the difference in the world. You’ll want to create additional height and texture for your photos. You’re going to want your photograph to tell a story but just be sure not to go overboard with it. Besides props, you can style dishes with a sprig of parsley or a dusting of powdered sugar. Be creative! Think about what is going to get mouths watering when they see your photos.

Your presentation MATTERS!

Some foods are hard to present nicely. Let’s take meatloaf for example. It’s very difficult to present meatloaf in a pretty way. But stacked onto a pile of mashed potatoes and sprinkled with herbs will make a big difference. You’ll notice in the photos below two variations of the same dish. The photo on the left presents a pile of macaroni and cheese. I’m sure it’s delicious but it looks pretty sloppy. The photo on the right puts the macaroni into a beautiful little dish that looks a lot more appetizing. It’s the little things that will make a big difference!

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Another thing that I want to point out is the cleanliness of your dishes and utensils. Sloppy dishes look, well, sloppy. Clean up any splashes or splashes before you shoot. There’s nothing less appetizing than a sloppy dish!

Try different ANGLES!

Sometimes I’ll take a photo at one angle and I think it looks like a hot mess but when I move to another angle or an overhead shot it looks amazing. We live in a digital age and you don’t have to worry about wasting film anymore so shoot away! Flat dishes, such as pizza, are best shot from overhead. Seriously, you’ll get much better depth in your photo this way. Shoot tall objects such as sandwiches from the side. You’ll be able to show all of the delicious layers this way.

Hopefully these tips help you out. Even if you’re using a simple point and shoot camera you can achieve great photos!