The Secret to Capturing Picture-Perfect Food Photos, According to an Industry Pro
Here's how to make that meal look as good as it tastes.
In the age of Instagram, everyone gets to be a food photographer. But let’s be honest: some of those photos in your feed are pretty unappetizing. I'm sure that meal was mouthwatering, but the bad lighting, off-angle, and brown soupy pasta sauce aren’t doing your Bolognese any favors.
Taking picture-perfect food photos is actually surprisingly simple. We tapped professional food photographer Andrew Scrivani—check out his insanely gorgeous Instagram here—for his go-to guidelines for photographing food.
When setting up for a photograph, what are the key things for the average home cook/photo enthusiast to consider?
First, make sure you have the necessary light available to make the image you want to make. Many kitchens are dark or lit with the wrong color temperature for food, so you need to consider that. Second, it helps to plate food on dishes that are a little on the smaller side. This allows you to have the option to shoot both pulled back and close up without losing the edges of the plate for context. Third, remember that while propping is important, the food is always primary. Try not to get lost in the setup, and concentrate on making the food beautiful first.
What are your top three tips to help the average home cook style their food like a pro?
1. The styling begins at the market. Great looking ingredients are the key to great looking pictures.
2. Keep your greens hydrated and fresh. By soaking your greens and garnishes in ice baths, you ensure that they will look their best on the plate.
3. Slightly undercook most foods to avoid losing color, shape and texture. With foods that require more cooking to make them safe and edible, return them to the oven after they are shot.
What is one surprising tip that you have for getting a better food photo, while still maintaining its edibility?
Plan to work fast. If you plan out your shot, set your camera up, have the lighting figured out, and the set propped and ready, then your food lives on the set for less time and has a better chance of remaining edible.
How can the average home cook/photo enthusiast light food, sans pro lighting gear?
Find the area in your house that has the best natural light. I have seen home cooks shoot food in their bedroom because it has the best light. You need to chase the light. At night, turn off the overhead lights and use practical lights like lamps with daylight balanced bulbs to make a more directional side lit look.
If someone wants to take a photo of their food in a dimly lit restaurant, what are your recommendations to get a better shot?
Go to a better lit restaurant. I do not believe that “good” food photography can happen in bad light. I do not even try to make food shots in dark places because there is no place for them to live. I won’t use them professionally and I won’t display them on social media. Bad light is bad light, and sometimes it’s nice to just eat our food and remember it by its taste.
Do you have any recommendations for types of software that can help with food photography?
I swear by Lightroom, Adobe’s new photo editing software that helps you with both the selection and processing aspects of post-production. Lightroom’s a great way to both edit and share your photos online, because your photos will live in the cloud and can be accessed by any of your devices. I find Lightroom a fast and powerful piece of software for food photography because it gives me mobile access to the tools I use to do photo corrections and color anywhere. If I am taking shots with my phone or Wi-Fi enabled camera out in the field, I can use Lightroom on my phone to process a photo and post it to my website or social media almost instantaneously with the quality I must have for my work.
What is your food photography pet peeve?
Creative laziness. I think that we have a tendency to see what is being posted online and we chase the trends. That is no way to learn the craft of food photography. Imitation is certainly a form of learning, but I would like to see more photographers be themselves, find a style that speaks to them, experiment and not be afraid to try something different. I think food photography is getting very homogenous and that is not good for any creative field.