Food photography has exploded in the past decade, partly thanks to the rise of social media and smartphones. Unlike twenty or thirty years ago, it’s now easy to “share” a meal with friends–or, at least, share what the meal looks like.
Whether you’re excited about trying something new or proud of something you’ve made, a food photo communicates more than just the dish itself. It’s a way to remember a sweet moment, share a part of your culture and identity, or make a solitary meal less lonely.
Snapping a food picture is also a quick opportunity to practice your photography skills. Capturing the beauty of a dish is a challenge that can take hundreds of shots to get right. You can learn a lot about lighting, composition, and contrast from a simple bowl of cereal.
To minimize your frustration (and make sure your food doesn’t get soggy or cold), consider taking a long approach to this goal. Instead of focusing all your attention on one meal, spread out your “photo shoots” over many meals. Take a few shots, learn from those photos, then enjoy your meal.
If you prefer long, intense photo shoots with hundreds of photos, consider making something exactly for that purpose, rather than spontaneously creating a photo shoot right before a meal. Reserving time for food photos can also help you learn more from the shoot, as you plan beforehand and reflect afterwards.
Wish you could make meals beautiful enough to photograph? If cooking isn’t your forte, try focusing on simple ingredients first, like fresh produce or eggs. Food doesn’t need to be fancy to be photogenic.
You can also ask local restaurants or bakeries whether they’d be willing to let you photograph their food, like this photographer did. Friends or family members might feel honored to have their meals photographed, too. You might even end up starting a food blog together.
For additional inspiration, check out these mouth-watering photos of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. They were selected from the awesome photographers in our Flickr group. Feel free to add your beautiful food photos to the group, so we can be inspired for our next photo shoot (or meal)!
If you’re new to food photography, try to start with breakfast. It’s often the simplest meal of the day, so you’ll have fewer elements to think about. That simplicity can make composition much easier, especially since breakfast foods tend to be photogenic already. If you’re missing color, just add a few bright strawberries or oranges. Need contrast? Try a bowl a cereal.
If you plan your photo shoot around the golden hour–one hour after sunrise–you’ll also have excellent lighting. Learning under these conditions will help you build confidence so you can approach lunch or dinner without feeling discouraged.
You’ll probably need to work a little harder to get a good lunch photo. Lighting and composition may be more difficult to figure out, particularly with harsh sunlight. Like breakfast, aim for a simplicity. Bread and a light salad can look stunning in a photo. If the meal is messy or complicated, try to include white space with a white plate or tablecloth.
If you’re uninspired by your homemade lunches, consider visiting a restaurant or cafe for meals that are already colorful or well-composed. Then, at the very least, you can capture the atmosphere of the eatery, too.
Dinner is like lunch, only with the possibility of darker lighting and a more relaxed, sociable setting. If you preparing dinner at home, you could try photographing the ingredients along with the final dish. This idea could also work for a dinner with multiple dishes or condiments. You could photograph each dish or condiment separately, then combine them in a diptych or triptych.
Many desserts allow for more creativity and experimentation than regular meals. You can decorate them with photography in mind and organize the elements more easily than, say, spaghetti.
Usually, you can take more time photographing them, too. Unless they’re going to melt, like ice cream, you have freedom to take pictures from every angle without the dish cooling off or getting soggy. Friends and family may also be more patient with photography during dessert, after they’ve had a good meal. With their hunger gone, they may even begin to offer ideas, leading to more original photos and fun.