Food Photography Tips for Chefs

Food photo tips for chefs

Editor’s note: Food Photography Tips for Chefs was originally published in May 2018 and updated in most recently May 2022.

Being a chef we know that you can cook and present great food, but do you know how to photograph it? Food photography is everywhere across social media. But what are the building blocks of a great food shot? We asked some stellar food photographers in our network. Here are seven quick food photography tips you can start using today.

1. Food photography tips for chefs – your angle tells the story

Consider the food you want to photograph. It’s size, shape, height and what makes it unique. Then angle the camera so as to best highlight these qualities. Where you place the camera will influence the type of story you tell. Food photography is all about telling stories.

Look at enough professional food photography, and you’ll see the same angles get used over and over again. Some plates of food look better from above (pizza), or from the side (burgers). When shooting a glass, keep in mind that there will be lens distortion that will make it look curved, shoot drinks from right above or straight on.

Try moving around the plate and taking photos at various angles, so you have a bank of shots that you can pick from later.

2. Light

Try to steer clear of overhead lights or lamps or your built-in flash. Take photos under natural light as much as possible and move around to find your best light source. You’ll want to make sure that your shadows aren’t so dark that detail is getting lost. Side and black light are used most frequently in food photography.

Next, try to spot obstacles that could crop up in shot. Stick to non-patterned plates and bowls so the food stands out more. Double check plates for smudges and table clothes for creases. Both those things are easy to fix in person and surprisingly annoying to Photoshop out later. Don’t shoot on a shiny surface, wipe down tables, and if you plan on featuring hands make sure fingernails are neat and clean!

3. Food photography tips for chefs – pick your hero object and surround it

That’s the item you want to highlight. Generally, this will be the dish you’ve just cooked. You’ll then be looking to add detail around it. Make sure that your hero item is well lit.

4. Use simple props and limit your colour palette

When considering props, tableware and backgrounds search for items with neutral tones: greys, browns, blacks, silvers, whites, as these will make the colour of your food ‘pop’ in shot. Simple plates, cutlery and raw ingredients make great props. They elevate the story of the shot and give your composition physical depth. Place a few objects in the foreground and background, but don’t go overboard!

5. Dress your food

Toothpicks make anything possible. Toothpicks can hold up food stacks and perfectly position that one rogue piece of food that won’t stay put! Make vegetables glisten by brushing them with a bit of olive oil or mist a salad with water. It will make it look fresher.

6. Food photography tips for chefs – make it look ready to eat

Your food should look one step away from eating it — that means caps off bottles, straws in drinks etc. You want someone to picture themselves in that moment just about to eat your dish. Your photo should be enticing them to eat it or share your photo with their audiences. Which is why it’s so important your shot looks authentic and real.

7. Check your shot isn’t looking too staged

If it feels too staged, it doesn’t create that same feeling – even if it’s a great photo. Food is full of emotion, and driving an emotional connection sells food.

Get snapping!

There’s no such thing as a best lens for food photography. If you’re shooting for Instagram, the best camera for food photography is the one with you. The iPhone has a perfectly good camera for small and quick stuff. The INF filter looks good on 99% of food shots.

Troubleshooting common food photography issues

Photos are blurry

Blurry photos are caused by camera shake. Solutions include:

  • Use a tripod with a remote so your camera stays completely still while you’re shooting
  • Use a faster shutter speed
  • Hold your camera steadier, easier said then done!

Your colours aren’t true to life

Colours come alive when the white balance is set properly. If your plate of food looks very blue, yellow, pink or green, use your software’s white balance tools to fix it. If you shoot in RAW format, you’ll have an easier time adjusting colour balance later.

Food photography tips for chefs – post your food photos regularly

There’s no secret formula to making your food photography a hit. Consistency on social media – Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest etc. – works better than anything else. If you make great food, present it well and take engaging, clear photos of it.

Read: Get a Chef Blog to Land That Next Job

If you regularly post these photos across social platforms that will undoubtedly drive greater interest in your food and grow your audiences online.

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