How to Take a Handsome Picture of your Handsome Food: A Brief Tutorial

The holidaze are fast approaching and there little time left to tighten up your photo chops before you have take a picture of mamma’s mean roast beast (amen). And so, it’s with an abundance of holiday spirit, that I’ve decided to share some tips for taking better food pics. 

1. Focus: please let your picture be in focus. Cameras and camera phones come standard with autofocus, but this is not always your friend. To correct an inaccurate autofocus learn how to adjust focus manually. Nobody’s getting excited about blurry food. 

2. Lighting: make sure the scene is well lit. Whether it’s with artificial or natural light, make sure the subject is covered in complex light (it’s not overly light or dark, but bathed in a balance of tones). One way to protect your photo from being under or over lit is by not positioning your light source behind your photograph. 

For example, this photo is blown out with white light overwhelming the subject: 

Whereas this photograph is too poorly lit, with the colors looking unremarkable and dark:

3. Compositon: I’ve got two things to address here. 

 A. Symmetry: center it, or don’t, but be beholden to some rule of symmetry. As far as rules go, the rule of thirds isn’t bad. 

 B. The correct angle: the a best angle is not the same for every subject, especially when it come to food. Juicy foods demand close-ups, colorful foods beg for some distance—so better to behold their magnificence in full. Think of what emotion you want your picture to convey. With a burger, maybe you’re shooting for total devastation, an empty plate. you’re so close to the burger in this picture, that you can easily imagine devouring the sandwich whole. 

Top-down aerial photographs, while perhaps apropriate for a complexly plated meal or an assortment of items, but it doesn’t work with sandwiches (it’s important to see what’s between the bread):

4. Proper editing. Please, don’t over filter your food photos. Food is something real and tangible, and you want your photographs to communicate that. Applying a hazy filter to the landscape you took on vacation to illicit a sense of nostalgia may make some sense (but not much), the same mode of thinking does not apply to food. For the most part you’ll, if the photograph is well lit, you’ll want to make miner adjustments to make the colors pop. 

Below is a photograph that follows the guidelines I’ve listed. The picture is in focus. Natural side light provides complex tones and textures to the subject.  The burger is not centered, but occupies the left 2/3 of the frame, with complementary room for the chips and the restaurant in the last 1/3. The framing is close-up, letting us examine and admire the sandwich’s toppings. So it looks pretty good overall, yeah? 

Hopefully this is of some help to you, our dear readers. Happy eating, and may the holidays look more delectable to those in your social network than they ever have before!