“The camera eats first”
For the sake of social media, we’ve all become accustomed to taking photos before eating our food!
But the question is, how do you take unreal food photos that will make your viewers hungry just by looking at it?
High-quality food photography is crucial for the success of Philippine restaurants/cafes in 2020!
Having food images that perfectly capture the essence of the dish you serve can make a huge difference between getting high sales or high losses.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of our top food photography tips that will help you turn your meals into a work of art, even by using your smartphone camera!
The most crucial thing when taking good food photos is using light to bring out your food’s good side!
Always try to shoot in natural light instead of artificial lighting.
This is because the few rays of natural sunlight will highlight the brightness of your food instead of creating an ugly yellow or orange overcast from the artificial light.
However, you should avoid shooting directly under the sun as it can give your food dark shadows.
It can also cause your photo to be overly exposed, especially if the food colour is very light.
If the photo is overexposed, the shape and texture of the object will look washed out.
The ideal lighting would be under the shade on a sunny day. This way, you will get the brightness from the natural light and maintain the sharp textures and features of the food.
Here are some more things to consider when choosing the best lighting:
- If you’re taking the photo indoors, use natural light coming in from windows! Choosing the table near the window easily allows you to take advantage of the natural light source.
- When taking the photo outside, you can find a shaded spot easily under trees or even putting an umbrella over the food.
- Light the side of your food to bring out and balance lots of texture, for example, food with lots of layers such as sandwiches and burgers.
- Avoid lighting from the front as it tends to create harsh bright spots in your photos. This can make the food look bland or unappetising.
Remember, good lighting is key to emphasising the features and balance the colour of your food.
Choosing the right lighting is the first step in taking a great food photo!
The next thing to think about is the way you want to frame your photo.
There’s no clear right or wrong way to frame your food but these are a few things to keep in mind:
Choosing the right angle depends on the part of the food you’re trying to emphasise.
For example, if you’re taking a photo of a sandwich, try cutting it in half and shooting it from a side angle. This will show off the different layers and the juiciness of the ingredients.
However, side-shots won’t work for everything.
A birds-eye view or flat-lay style works best when you have flat food elements such as a bowl of soup or cookies.
A 45-degree angle is best to show off food with height.
The one angle you should avoid though is shooting from a front-facing downward angle. This is the angle that a person sees when the plate of food is placed in front of them. Whilst there are some exceptions to this, the food doesn’t look as interesting or emphasised when shot from this angle.
What makes your food photos pop?
You want to keep your photo saturated and the overall feel of the photo a warm colour.
Studies show that warmer colours, such as red, orange and yellow, trigger a reaction in our brains that increases our appetite. The colour green also gives off a natural or organic feel.
Try to compliment your food with backdrops that have complementary colours to keep the colours balanced.
If the setting is too messy or too colourful, the viewer can easily get distracted and their attention won’t be on the food.
The 5 types of backdrop that work really well for food photos are:
- Interesting textures (but not distracting)
Dark food looks better on a cool or neutral backdrop, whereas light food looks better on a saturated backdrop. Wooden and textured backdrops look great with any type of food!
But these are not the only backgrounds you are limited to. Sometimes cloths with subtle patterns can look good too!
Play around with different kinds of backgrounds, but just make sure that it looks neat and tidy!
When taking food photos, the focus is another important thing to consider. Try experimenting with focused, close-ups or less focused backgrounds.
One good photo-taking hack is to keep the food in focus and blur out everything else in the background. You can do this easily with portrait mode in your smartphone camera.
‘Rule of Thirds’
A good rule to follow is the ‘Rule of Thirds’. Imagine your frame is divided into 9 even square grids.
The main subject of your photo should be positioned at the intersections of the lines or along them.
Smartphones now have grids on their camera app for this very reason!
However, it doesn’t always apply to every photo. If you are zooming into the food, for example, a doughnut to show off the chocolate filling, the rule of thirds would not apply.
Photos by YG Coffee
To make your food photos more interesting, you could place background dishes, utensils or other small decorations around the main subject.
A popular way to do this is by placing some of the dry ingredients that you used in the dish in the background.
This creates a ‘visual’ recipe for the food photo. Some other great decorations you could use are different coloured spices, fruit pieces, nuts, chocolate pieces, fresh herbs etc.
You can also use cooking utensils or cutlery to spice up your backgrounds.
To make things more interesting, you could even use things found in nature or seasonal items e.g. flowers, leaves, Christmas ornaments etc.
But remember to not overload the background otherwise it’ll be too distracting. Just like the photos above from YG Coffee, their background is blurred out so the image is focused on the food/drink.
Always consider how the colours of the food, your background and the decoration work together.
You want them to complement each other instead of being too different that it becomes distracting.
Thanks to the wonderful evolvement of social media and the various photo editing apps, we don’t need to use professional photo editing software like Photoshop to edit your drool-worthy food photos.
Smartphone apps such as VSCO Cam, Snapseed and Lightroom make this easier by having pre-set filters and user-friendly features to edit photos.
Here are some tips for editing:
Saturation describes the intensity of colours in the photo. By increasing the saturation of photos, it brings out the colours even more.
As mentioned before, warm colours tend to be more appetising, so increasing the saturation for these colours makes the image more irresistible.
Increasing the brightness makes the image more appetising and eye-catching.
Contrast is separating the dark and light areas of the photos. Increasing the contrast gives the image more detail.
Control the white balance:
Adjusting the white balance can make the image “warm” or “cool”.
As previously mentioned, it is suggested to use a warmer white to make the food look more appetising.
Sharpen the image:
Sharpening the image means bringing out the details in terms of shapes and lines.
Your image should already be pretty sharp if you have good lighting and a good camera but increasing the sharpness a bit can make the image clearer and bring out more definition.
Photo by Siam Yum
Spice up and bring life your food images by including human elements into your food shots!
Just by looking at the pictures above, you can tell that Siam Yum is nailing the game!
When people go out to eat, they usually do so in groups. By adding a human element within the frame, your photo will naturally tell a better story and brings out a sense of communal eating.
Here’s how you can include human elements in your food shot:
- include someone’s hand in the photo
- use people in the background of your shot
- capture their action of eating/drinking/cooking
Get someone to hold a drink or reach for a dish across the table.
These lifestyle shots tend to resonate with customers more since it seems more realistic and relatable.
Some final words of wisdom
When judging whether the photo is good enough to post, think about whether YOU would eat the food if you saw that photo online?
Did it make your mouth water?
Remember that food photography is mostly about experimenting.
Trust your gut and go with your instincts, try out different angles and lighting to see which one works best for you.
There is no defined rule as every food picture is different, so use these tips to help you but don’t be afraid to try different things as well!
We hope this article empowered you to take that first step into mastering food photography for your restaurant in the Philippines!