Food Photography

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I have a love that competes with my passion for photography. That love is for food. Actually, my cooking hobby came first – I have a vast collection of cookbooks, a website full of my Grandmother’s recipes (and my own creations), and I’m always messing around with something in the kitchen (and I must say, I’m a pretty darned good cook!). Then there’s going out to eat – I would happily blow my entire paycheck every month in restaurants if I could get away with it.

Steak Dinner with all the fixin’s – recipe is here if you’re interested.
Exposure: 0.3, Aperture: f/8.0, Focal Length: 55 mm, ISO Speed: 400

I’ve come to meld my joy of cooking with my joy of photography; in a manner which sometimes amuses, sometimes frustrates, and sometimes embarrasses my husband. See, like most photographers, I almost always have my camera with me. So if we’re going out to eat and the food is presented in a particularly pleasing manner, I take a picture of it. If I’m cooking in the kitchen I tend to take pictures of each step of the process, from chopping the vegetables to the finished dish. My husband, who is famous for piling his plate in an eye-fetching manner, is used to me pulling his plate away from him and taking a picture of it before he gets to eat. It’s getting to be that I like taking pictures of food almost as much as I like eating it.


Lettuce wraps at the Sandstone Cafe in Chandler, Arizona.
Exposure: 1/30, Aperture: f/1.4, Focal Length: 50 mm, ISO Speed: 400

Here are a few tips I’ve learned to properly compose a food photograph:

1. Get in close. Zoom right in on the subject (or get physically close if you’re using a prime lens) and focus on a specific detail. A macro lens or a 50mm prime lens work excellently for food photography, just use a smaller aperture (higher f-stop) on a macro lens since it’s already geared for a very shallow depth of field. For zoom lenses, using a wide aperture (lower f-stop) and faster shutter speed creates the popular effect of blurring out much of the dish but pulling one part of it into detail.

2. Don’t shoot looking straight down. Come in on the food at an angle that is only slightly higher, thereby creating the feeling that the person is sitting down to this particular meal.

3. Whenever possible, light from the sides, not from directly above. Use reflecting surfaces placed around the food to bounce the light where you need it. Even a white linen restaurant napkin can work to direct the light where you need it.

Eggplant bruchetta at the Sandstone Cafe in Chandler, Arizona.
Exposure: 1/13, Aperture: f/1.4, Focal Length: 50 mm, ISO Speed: 400

4. Use a tripod and remote shutter release to make the photo as tack-sharp as possible. Don’t forget about your camera’s timer, too – it can be used in a pinch if you need to prop your camera up on something to keep the shot as still as possible.

5. Try to present the food as minimalistically as possible, on a dish or plate that is neutral in color. This attracts the eye to the subject – the food – and not to the background.

Then, after you’ve done all of that, enjoy your food!

We’d love to see examples of your own food photography. Share them in the Flickr Group, or link to them in the comments! I’m going to go make my breakfast, now…

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