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How to take better food pics

As they say, the best pictures are taken with whatever camera you have with you, and these days, that camera is most likely your smart phone. Now because I’m quite the gadget girl when it comes to my camera gear, I bought this beautiful Italian-leather camera bag/handbag JUST for my DSLR and it fits perfectly alongside my wallet, iPad and keys. It looks like a regular handbag but with a special compartment for my lens and DSLR. The idea behind it is that I will never be without my DSLR.  But while I do love this bag and take it along to most places, it is incredibly heavy and a bit unwieldy at times so I’ve been finding that I often will just rush out the door with just my iphone and wallet in hand especially if I’m going out to get a quick bite to eat and don’t want to carry a lot of heavy things with me.  So when it comes to food photography at a restaurant, how do you make the best of it when all you have is just your iphone? Well, here’s how!

TIP NO. 1 – LIGHTING

Shoot in natural light, so make sure your flash is turned off. For instance, opt for a table by the window if you can. Play with the available light streaming through. Overcast days are perfect – the clouds act as a natural diffuser providing even light for your photographs. Having said that, it’s OK to create shadows and sometimes that makes for a more creative photo. Just make sure that you control the shadows falling on your food. You don’t want your beautiful food pictures hiding in the dark!

Shilpa Iyer Photography Food Photography
Shilpa Iyer Photography – Even lighting with minimal shadows

 

TIP NO. 2 – PLACEMENT AND COMPOSITION

Have you heard of the “Rule of Thirds” ? Imagine the intersecting lines of a tic-tac-toe board. By placing your subject at those intersections, your image then creates more negative space, thus emphasizing and drawing attention to your subject more, than if it were placed in the center. Along with figuring out where to place your food, this is also a good time to think about how to accessorize your image. Try to create an image that has an action. For instance, if you’re photographing a cake, perhaps use a fork to carve out a bite-sized piece so the viewer can imagine taking that bite. Or if you’re photographing a bowl of soup, breaking off some crusty bread around the bowl or dipping into the soup would make for a very tasty image!

Cocktail picture of a red cocktail against a black wall
Shilpa Iyer Photography – Rule of Thirds

TIP NO. 3 – NEUTRAL BACKGROUNDS

Shooting against a neutral background helps draw the eye to the subject. If your backgrounds were distracting, it would compete with your food and the viewer would be confused as to which to look at. Wooden tables or even neutral table cloths are great backdrops.

an easy lunch consisting of an open faced salmon sandwich with capers
Shilpa Iyer Photography – Neutral Background

TIP NO. 4 – ANGLES

There are different approaches to how to take your image after you’ve set up your scene. You can angle your camera from a sitting position, which would be natural for someone sitting at a dining table about to dig in. I would go for this shot if your background isn’t distracting. If you have a lot of traffic in the background of your image, any interruption of people walking would detract from your beautiful food.

An overhead shot creates a more artistic or “cookbook” style image with no distracting background. This shot works every time even if you have something minimal to photograph. Just make sure your subject is off-centered (following the rule of thirds above).

Taking your image at eye-level works for when you have one food item that is stacked high. Think burgers, or sandwiches or even nachos! If you’re trying to capture each layer or focus on something specific (like melting cheese off the burger, or oozing egg yolks), this angle is perfect!

Shilpa Iyer Photography – Playing with Angles

TIP NO. 5 – TELL A STORY

Food photography can be compelling just on its own if you have a really interesting dish to feature. However sometimes, food really stands out when there is a story to tell. For example, try shooting some your breakfast alongside a book, or a cup of coffee. It’ll draw the viewer in and give them a sense of what your mornings might be like. Adding non-food elements to your food photography makes your story come alive!

Food styling and photography at Sunday Suppers, Brooklyn, NY

So there you have it – 5 easy steps to whipping out creative food photos with your smart phone!

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