July 30, 2020
Are you taking photographs of your homemade cookies or awesome barbeque and posting them to Instagram? It’s gotten to be part of the fun of cooking – but not if it shows up in your feed as a drab, brown blob. Maybe you just spent two days perfecting a loaf of sourdough bread – and the picture you took just didn’t convey how delicious and perfect it turned out. We have some tips for you on today’s podcast that will help make those photos better.
Our contributor Janet Keeler sat down with her husband Scott Keeler to talk about the nitty gritty of photographing food. Scott is a longtime photojournalist at the Tampa Bay Times. They worked together there when Janet was the food and travel editor. And their marriage has survived both that and her pandemic panic baking.
Five Tips for Taking Great Food Photographs
Longtime Tampa Bay Times photographer Scott Keeler gives these tips to make your food photographs look good enough to eat and to get you more attention on social media.
- Find the light. If possible, shoot the food near a window to take advantage of the natural light. Even simple food, such as a grilled cheese sandwich, can look appetizing when the light hits the gooey cheese and toasted bread just right. The best light to shoot in is from dawn to about 10 a.m. and then 4 p.m. to dusk. Avoid harsh mid-day sun, which will make your photos flat.
- Train your eye. Study food photographs in magazines, cookbooks and online. Notice where the light is hitting the food and where it’s coming from. It will usually be from the side. If you are shooting food at your home, start studying how the light comes in from certain windows and what time of the day it looks best. Last afternoon sun often has a golden quality.
- Equipment. All the expensive cameras in the world can’t make up for a lack of vision. A smartphone can work just as well as a $3,000 camera. Focus on angles and composition before you shell out the big bucks. You don’t need professional reflectors to bounce light into shadows. A light-surfaced cookie sheet or even a white napkin can work.
- Style like a pro. A lot of food is brown or beige – pasta, chocolate, bread, meat – think about adding garnishes to add contrast and interest. But the garnish has to relate to the food. For example, halved cherry tomatoes, grated carrot, diced radishes and parsley give macaroni salad more eye appeal. A red pepper strip on a chocolate cake just for the sake of color doesn’t make sense. Linens, plates and utensils can add to your photo. What is the story you want to tell? If it’s a country picnic then use rustic props such as wooden spoons rather than formal holiday silverware.
- Be brave. You must have the proper light to make a good food photo. If you are in a restaurant, this might require you picking up your plate and moving toward a window. It’s a good way to make friends! A food photographer in the wild can’t be shy.
Explore The Zest
Host: Robin Sussingham
Producer: Dalia Colón & Robin Sussingham
Photo Credits: Dalia Colón