We’ve all been scrolling through Instagram, flicking through the pages of a magazine or perusing a menu online, only to find ourselves practically drooling over a divinely delectable food photo. A well-executed food or drink snap will instantly attract attention and leave viewers craving more, but how do you get that plate of pasta or cosmopolitan cocktail to look utterly drool-worthy? Here are five tactics for creating mouth-watering food and drink photography …
Have these accessories on hand
First of all, you need to be prepared. Make sure your photography bag is fully stocked and your equipment is charged – this may sound obvious, but shooting food and drinks is often a time-sensitive operation. It’s important to be equipped, organised and ready to go. Having these helpful household accessories on hand can save a lot of time…
- Baby wipes and kitchen towels are perfect for cleaning up spills and crumbs from large surfaces.
- Cotton buds are essential for getting rid of unwanted food marks on plates and bowls. They reach the places paper towels don’t!
- Keep little things in place with Blu Tack and double-sided tape, and use pegs to hang larger items like diffuser sheets.
- Net curtains and white bed sheets make for handy diffusers.
- A hand mirror is great for bouncing light onto your food and manipulating highlights (white printer paper or silver or gold card can also act as reflectors)
- To prevent unwanted reflections on shiny surfaces, dulling spray is a must-have.
Diffuse the natural light for that all-important glow
With any sort of photography, lighting can make or break your food and drink snaps. Many photographers will argue that lighting is the single most important component in creating mouth-watering food and drink photos. Understanding how light behaves and changes throughout the day will take time, but it can take your photography into the next league.
Using artificial light like your flash can steal the delicate details from your images, taking away the real wow factor you’re looking to achieve.
- Always use natural light where possible.
- Shoot during the daytime where you can.
- Position your food next to a window or open exterior door through which direct sunlight shines – this might mean moving around your house, studio or set to follow the light throughout the day.
- When it comes to photographing drinks, try to position the glass between your camera and the natural light source – this backlighting will help add depth to the image and accentuate visually interesting elements such as bubbles and condensation.
Effectively diffused natural light can give your image much-needed depth. A good tip to create this winning light is to diffuse the sunlight using old net curtains or thin muslin material. If you find that you need to bounce some natural light onto your food, use a reflector – this will soften the harsh shadows created on one side of your image. Using black card will add more contrast and enhance the shadows. Keep experimenting until you find that perfect combination of highlights and shadows.
In a space devoid of natural light? Fear not! You can create the glow of natural light using an artificial lighting source like a torch or a smartphone light. If you need to soften the light, use a diffuser such as a white napkin.
Try every angle
Have you ever cooked up your pièce de résistance, tried to photograph it for Instagram and found that it just doesn’t translate well in the picture? You need to find that vantage point that makes your image ‘pop’. Make sure you’ve explored every angle before you stop shooting.
Consider photographing from above with your food on the ground so you can stand directly above it. These overhead shots are very on-trend, and great for flat or hidden foods like soup in an opaque bowl.
Alternatively, if your food is constructed in layers, you might want to shoot from eye-level to better convey the composition of the dish. Get up-close-and-personal with your food subject.
Stay simple with the styling
Remember that the food or drink is the main subject of your image, so always go with the motto ‘less is more’ when it comes to styling.
As a general rule, your food should be plated as if it’s about to be served. If you’re photographing a drink, snap it as it would be presented at a bar: a full glass with garnishes in place. We’d always recommend going with crisp white dishes and clear glasses, especially if you’re new to food photography.
Choose a neutral background that won’t steal attention away from the food or drink. Solid colours are a safe choice. Increasingly, we are seeing a move towards textured backgrounds like wooden tables or marble countertops which also give a nice end-result. Our photoshoot with Hiron Butchers used a wooden board with a dark background and dark accessories.
A simple trick to add some context to your food and drink photos is to use props. Why not add cutlery, napkins and other dishes that complement the plate of food or glass of drink you’re photographing.
Often, people will show ingredients in their shot – these look great in glass containers or loose on the table or counter. Including the ingredients in the photo composition is particularly savvy if you’re photographing a smoothie or cocktail. It helps convey the flavours of the drink to the viewer and produce a much more appealing image.
Edit your shots for the best results
After you’ve experimented with lighting, angles and styling, the final piece of the puzzle is to edit your photos. Editing is where your vision really comes to life. Choose your best image from your camera and have a play around with it in a photo editing programme. To create bright, crisp and utterly moreish photos, you’ll need to consider enhancing the contrast, brightness, vividness and saturation. Make small adjustments at a time until your images pop! Have a look at our final edit from our Chiquitos photoshoot below:
These five top tips should have you well on the way to creating the most delectable-looking food and drink photography. There are lots of simple, inexpensive tactics that will go a long way when it comes to improving your culinary snaps. You don’t need lots of fancy equipment with an eye-watering price tag to create mouth-watering photos.
If you have any food and drink photography tips of your own, share them with us on social media or in the comments below!