Published on January 25, 2018
Art Director at BrandDirections, Inc.
Taking great photographs of food is a unique skill set. In fact, there are some photographers that specialize in shooting only food – there are also food technicians and food stylists who help contribute to the final image. As an art director working with these professionals, it's important for you to understand what it takes to compose a successful image that complements your design vision. Here are a few tips that will help you with your mouth-watering shot.
1. Make a Photo Guide: Even if you’ve been doing this for a while now you need a starting point to organize your thoughts and plan ahead for your next shoot. A photo guide may take you a little time upfront but will save you a headache later on. So what should the photo guide contain? It’s a list of things like ingredients, accessories, backgrounds, lighting, and photo examples that you envision for each of the photos you will be art directing. This will also enable your client to give their input before the photo shoot even begins. Additionally, it saves the food stylist time if they know exactly what to buy for each shot and what the look and feel should be. The photographer will also be able to set up the lighting, angle, and any variations for each shot if you have examples upfront.
2. Move that Camera Angle: Just like human subjects can be photographed from more flattering angles, the same goes for food. Remember, it's important to acknowledge that the concept you see in your head might not always make the best photo and you might need to change direction. That’s one reason why you should shoot a dish from more than one angle. Get the shot you think you want but then take a few minutes to recompose and take another. Variety is important, particularly if you are shooting for a client. Also keep in mind that different angles will be better (or worse) for different types of shots.
In the examples below, the cupcakes are photographed from two different angles. Is one better than the other? You and I may or may not think so but the client is sure to have an opinion.
3. Extreme Temps and Getting It Just Right: Many photographers and food stylists will tell you that you have a short window of opportunity to get the shot once the food hits the – lights, camera action! To a certain extent, they are correct depending on what you are shooting. Hot dishes like pancakes with butter and syrup and cold dishes such as ice cream are going to look their best when they are still hot and fresh from the skillet or cold right out of a freezer. To help with these kinds of shots, have the food stylist do a quick “stand in” for the purpose of composing and to make sure that your camera and light settings are where you want them. Once everyone is ready for the real thing, bring out the “hero” dish that has been perfectly selected and prepared. Running test shots with the stand in will help take the pressure off when it’s time to shoot the final photo.
The takeaway? Using these basic tips will get you started on producing some mouth-watering food photos. If your mouth doesn't water when editing your photos, you did something wrong.