Taking a picture of your food before taking a bite has been a trend in Instagram for quite a long time. People have been updating their Insta feed with photos of ice creams, sundaes, pizzas, burritos, fancy brunches, and mimosas since the genesis of Instagram. Eating food, without sharing a snap of it with friends, leaves the meal incomplete.
However, snapping pictures of different food items for a portfolio, online menu, blog, or website, is an entirely different ball game. We know hundreds of people who have tried their hands at food photography because they already had the “experience” of clicking yummy photos for their Instagram and Facebook. In most of these cases, they soon realized that their endeavors were failing because ice cream does not want to remain frozen till they get their perfect shot and pancakes don’t look as delicious as they do on other professional websites.
Food photography is notoriously difficult even for the most veteran photographers. There are hundreds of well-known award-winning photographers, who don’t delve in food photography at all.
Here are some of the most common issues food photography poses to the rookie photographer –
All the photos you take come out blurry
It is a common problem with mobile phone cameras and budget cameras that don’t come with image stabilizers. The most common cause of blurry photos is shaking hands or camera. You need to hold your camera steadily, if necessary, use a tripod. Check out the camera and tripod sets with remotes that this professional film and video company uses for perfect photos. You can also hasten the shutter speed so the exposure is less and the chances of capturing the shaking motion are even less. Typically, reducing the ISO does not work in favor of the image quality since it reduces the light entering the camera.
The colors in your photos don’t look real
That is one problem every photographer and Instagrammers has to deal with while clicking pictures of food. Whether it is a latte or a margarita, you might have trouble capturing the true-to-life colors of the items in front of your lens. They might appear too blue, too pink or green. Instagram users often complain of this problem even with a plethora of different filters available for their use. You need to set the white balance properly to bring out the real colors. While shooting in a RAW format, adjusting the color balance is easier during the final edit.
Another problem most rookies face is the dilution of the color of the main food item. If you pick too many colorful props, you might end up distracting the observer. You do not want vibrant napkins and salt shakers to upstage the food! Pick something neutral and sober that uplifts the colors, and amplifies them.
Your photos don’t make the food “pop.”
It is common knowledge that some food photographers use replicas of real food items to make the subjects “pop.” However, most restaurants and food bloggers don’t consider that ethical. They want photos of the actual food they have prepared. The only way to make real food items pop on the table is by using lenses to narrow the depth of field. It can highlight the subject of the photo, while slightly blurring out the rest. Of course, most professional photographers also rely heavily on editing software to accentuate the sharpness and tweak the levels. These simple edits can make the photo of any food really pop.
The food in your photos does not look enticing or real
While taking pictures of food items, you should consider the foreground and background as well. If your object in focus does not look lively, it is probably because it does not have any accessories to liven it up. You should think about surrounding the main dish with the natural ingredients like the sauces, spices, and cooking essentials that you have used to make it. Mason jars, checkered napkins, herbs, and glasses are some of the most common foreground accessories that can make an item pop. Additionally, placing abstract art, vases, or handmade cookware in the background is a prominent trend in professional food photography right now.
The setting of your photos does not look natural
Any professional food photographer tries to keep the background as natural as possible by using natural light sources. Using overhead lights and camera flashes is a big NO-NO. These lights are too harsh and can ruin the photo completely. Most importantly, if you are photographing delicate items like sundaes, gelatos, and ice creams, they will melt faster and leave you with weird gleaming reflections in each photo. You need to focus on all sources of natural light and ensure that these lights don’t distract your audience from the main hero of your shot. Try placing a diffuser between the window and your food. If you don’t have a ready-to-use diffuser, a thin white bed sheet will also do. It will soften the light and reduce the harshness of the shadows that direct sunlight causes. Experiment with the black and white cards (you can buy them at any craft store) to set the light-and-shadow on the item.
The final touch after photography
After you shortlist the photos that look the best and highlight the right subjects, it is time for the edit team to take over. If you are handling the edit all by yourself, then you are possibly biting off more than you can chew. Most professional photographers have assistant editors, and even if they don’t, they have the experience that allows them to take photos and complete the editing in one swift motion.
Unless you have a grasp of photo editing software, something basic like creating and adjusting various layers on Adobe Photoshop might seem impossible. If you have shortlisted your photos, it is time to give the professional team of editors a call. Do not forget to hand the RAW image files over to them. Always remember that the finest touch of editing can elevate any photo from an amateur to a professional level.