By: Annie Herrmann & Natalie Lewis, founders Fish Eye Design
Beautifully styled food and sophisticated photography can make the difference when you present your food to new customers. Most people eat first with their eyes, then their nose, and then their taste buds. Draw them in, make them want to try your dishes, and enjoy their experience. Whether you style and photograph your foods yourself, or engage a professional, here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Less is More
When plating your food to be photographed, use smaller quantities than what you would typically serve. Though the idea of a large pile of food seems better for a photo, the exact opposite is actually true. The less food that you have to make look appealing, the easier your job of styling it will be. You can then focus on making sure every leaf is perfectly placed, every drop of sauce is placed where you want it, and every morsel looks bright, juicy, and delicious. Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate or a shallow bowl as opposed to a deep soup bowl. You can still create the illusion of a full portion by plating less food on a smaller serving dish.
2. Light is Everything
Without light, there is no photo. It is imperative to find the best possible light available to you and then work to control that light in order to flatter the food. If you are only working with natural light, shoot near a large window or take your food outside into the open shade. You can manipulate your light with a simple piece of white foam core by allowing the light to bounce off of the white surface onto your food, highlighting the natural contours of the dish. Be sure to study light everywhere you go and take note of it whenever it speaks to you in everyday life. By doing so, you will begin to grasp a better understanding of how it affects photography, and you then will gain more control of making it behave the way you want it to in your food photos.
3. The Yum Factor
The main focus of a food photo is to make your viewer want to eat the food and maybe wipe the drool off of their chin! Think carefully about what makes your specific dish irresistible. Is it melted cheese that is oozing out of the bread? Or syrup dripping down that waffle? Or perhaps the texture of a piece of fried chicken. When you know the yum factor, be sure to highlight those unique features! Your props should simply support the yum factor, not steal the show.
4. Strive for Imperfection
Take a bite out of that cookie, splatter some of the sauce on the table, or dig that fork into the perfect piece of pie. We believe that photos of food should look like food! Viewers eat with their eyes first so try creating visual interest and movement by helping your food take on an appetizing reality. Just remember to shoot it in its original format first, and then continue to shoot as you dig in. Don’t be afraid to play!
5. Color and Texture are Important
If your dish is lacking color, try playing up the texture, and vice versa. Often times a pasta dish or piece of meat can lack visual stimulation so add a pop of color with some fresh herbs, or place your subject on a textured surface or on parchment paper. Small textural and color changes can make a big impact. Try several variations and select the ones you think look best.
6. Prepare our Props First
With hot foods, there is generally a shorter window of time to get the shot before the food flops. Think ahead and choose your overall setup before preparing the dish. It’s also a good idea to take a few test shots with a “dummy dish” to test out your lighting and props. Once everything is set to go, you can more easily get the shot just right while your hero dish still looks hot and fresh.
7. Tell a Story
What do you want to communicate to your viewer? Is it a pile of cookies that grandma made? Or a warm bowl of soup for a cold winter day? Or perhaps it’s springtime and you want to use color to communicate the time of year. Play up the elements in your composition that illustrate the story you want to tell with the photo. Go with an overall mood for the dish and then select your props and a surface to support that mood. Darker surfaces tend to feel more dramatic while lighter surfaces and colorful props feel more playful. Be consistent and most of all be creative!
Fish.Eye Design is a unique and sophisticated collaboration between two creative minds, chef and photographer. Annie and Natalie specialize in recipe concept & development, comprehensive food styling & design, and editorial product & food photography. For more information, visit fish-eye-design.com.