We’ve all had this experience at least once… Food photography gone horribly wrong.
Someone we follow on Instagram says:
Hey, look at this amazing meal I just had.
And all we can think is…
That looks like pureed cat food topped with a dried out, splotchy parsley leaf.
If these crimes against food photography were limited to the average John and Jane Doe’s of social media, I wouldn’t be complaining. Unfortunately, we also see professional marketers and major food brands making some of the same silly mistakes.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s good that companies are trying to embrace food photography. After all, sharing experiences with food is one of the key ways that we all stay connected, both inside and outside of the screens and social platforms that occupy so much of our time.
Ways Marketers Can Step Up Their Food Photography
Whether you’re an amateur food enthusiast, or a business that is looking to improve their food marketing strategies, it’s time to sit up and pay attention. Why? Because I’m a classically trained chef who has found success in traditional restaurants, corporate dining, and digital food marketing. A lot of what I do revolves around helping food brands present their products in attractive and creative ways.
Here are seven things you need to keep in mind before taking a picture of food:
Food Photography Tip #1: Take Lots and Lots of Pictures of the Same Thing
Look at that veggie burger up there! Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?
It took 20-30 pictures, with various angles, background adjustments, lighting changes, and other tweaks, before we got this one. This also went through a bit of post-processing to adjust for lighting and color saturation. Imagine if we had only taken a couple photos: We’d end up representing our product or recipe with a sub-par image.
Food Photography Tip #2: Pay Attention to Lighting and Don’t Be Afraid of Color
We have a strong preference for natural lighting, whenever possible. You can purchase big, expensive light boxes to simulate natural light, but in my opinion there’s no substitute for the soft light of an overcast day, or a shaded area surrounded by sun. There is a fully enclosed porch just off of our production kitchen, which is where we do a lot of our photography (weather and temperature permitting). True sunlight (filtered by shade or clouds) makes color “pop” in a way that is very hard to replicate with lighting equipment.
Food Photography Tip #3: Background is Just As Important as Foreground
Make sure your backdrop isn’t an empty room, stained tablecloth, or anything else that breaks the immersion of the photo. At the same time, you want to make sure that your carefully assembled background won’t cause the viewer to pull away from the focal point of the photo. Ultimately, you need to use your best judgement on what’s going to work based upon what you’re photographing: The goal is to make the viewer feel like they’re a part of the picture — that they could jump through the screen and take a bite!
Food Photography Tip #4: Variety is the Spice of Life and a “Messy Table” is Okay
Remember you can “mix it up” and still stay within your general color palate or style. All the other photos were taken on a plate or similar object. Here, we put everything directly onto burlap and scattered the ingredients in an “intentional” sort of way. It’s okay to have a messy table, as long as it looks good in the photo!
Food Photography Tip #5: Give Yourself a Visual Guide
If you’re bringing the food to the camera, instead of bringing the camera to the food, it’s a good idea to give yourself a visual guide as shown above. Seriously, painter’s tape is my best friend! Using this method ensures that you know the range of your shot and avoid setting everything up, only to realize that it all has to move three inches to the left.
Trust me, I know from experience: That really, really sucks.
Food Photography Tip #6: Approach Videos Like a Chef (Hint: Mise en Place)
“Mise en place” translates to “everything in its place” and it is one of the first concepts that a professional chef is taught. The key is to have everything organized and displayed how you want it to look, before you hit the record button. Otherwise, in the editing process you’ll find yourself having to meticulously cut out minutes upon minutes of unnecessary video.
Food Photography Tip #7: Invest in Good Equipment
Okay, maybe the above is a bit excessive, but you get the idea! In order to get reliably positive results with your food photography, you need to have some good equipment. We primarily work with a Canon DSLR Camera (a slightly older 2013 model) and a Canon Vixia HF R80 camcorder, two different types of stands, and a handful of other accessories.
Here’s the thing: Even if you have the right equipment, learning how to use it effectively is a whole different ball game. If you’re struggling with making your food product look great, why not ask for a little help?
Let Us Help
In addition to helping food-focused brands promote themselves online, Road Warrior Creative is also a full-service digital marketing agency that currently partners with 100+ businesses across eight states, coast-to-coast. Whether you’re in Fort Collins, Colorado or in the Pacific Northwest, we’re here to help your business accelerate its online presence. Do not hesitate to reach out to us and start a conversation.