Gabriela Lupu, a Romanian photographer living and working in Paris, France, is the food blogger behind Cooking Without Limits and shares practical advice on the art and business of food photography. Here are five tips from Gabriela on taking photos of your dishes.
1. Do the dance around your dish.
It’s all about angles. So, move around the plate! Shift up and down and to the side. Tip-toe, crouch, step back, and get close. Capture the dish from many vantage points, then select your favorite take later.
Zooming in very close on your subject can help show detail and create interest, and most modern point-and-shoots have a decent “macro” mode, right out of the box. Try to create interesting angles, either by getting very close to your subject, in a three-quarter angle, or by shooting from the absolute top-down. Some plates of food look better from above, or from the side, or at a 45-degree angle.
2. Look to the (natural) light.
Not sure where to set up your photoshoot? Don’t restrict yourself to the kitchen! Instead, start at a windowsill.
Just see how beautifully the sunlight comes in. If the light is too strong, add a diffuser, such as a white curtain, to soften the light. If taking pictures during the day doesn’t work for your schedule (as it often doesn’t with mine) then I’d suggest investing in some lighting gear. Do not use your built-in flash. Ever!
3. Keep the background basic.
Always remember that your food is the star of the shoot. The details you add should enhance the image, but don’t let anything outshine your culinary creation.
Keep it simple: it’s still the food that’s the hero. Try to avoid colors or patterns that clash with your food. You can use a chalkboard, a baking pan, or fancy linens or paper that you can put under your scene. Cutting boards or pastry boards also offer a great background for photos. Something about a marble pastry board always looks good in my opinion. For a rustic look you can build your own small wooden table. It’s easy to move, store and put it anywhere in the house.
4. Play around with props.
One way to get comfortable with food styling is to create one setting for your photoshoot, and then experiment with various props. Put your dish through a series of “fittings” to achieve the overall vibe you’re going for. Country rustic? Clean and modern? Vintage? Grow a collection of props, from jars to dishcloths, that you can use again and again.
After seeing a lot of photos on the web, I was so desperate to find not only props but also good props. I was looking in all the shops around my town, but nothing made me happy. And then, I discovered 2 second hand shops. It was like paradise for me. I manage to find a lot of great old things and the most important thing, very cheap.
Don’t forget about the flea market. If you have something like that around your house go and check it out. If you hear about a yard sale, go and check it out. Ask your friends or family. There are some treasures hiding in their houses.
5. Polish in post-processing.
Our free Photography: Developing Your Eye II course covers basic image editing.
Try to take the best picture you can while shooting. But don’t be afraid to edit an image lightly before posting it. Photographers use software like Photoshop and Lightroom for editing, and there are free tools online as well, like PicMonkey, Pixlr, and the native tools in apps like Instagram. Basic tweaks include cropping, rotating/straightening, sharpening, and slightly adjusting the exposure, contrast, or saturation.
I used contrast to make a bigger visual impact and exposure to make my photo a little brighter. Sharpening is done at the end because the effect can be negated by other techniques if you apply it early on in your process.
Most of these techniques are easy to use, once you start playing with them. It will take a while to learn them, but in the end you will become better. Use them carefully because in the end you want to show your food looking the best and real.