Food photography basics explained

Food photography is a whole separate area that one can specialize and get amazing results as it refers to one extra human sense apart from the visual one – to the sense of taste. If you look at a professionally taken image of a dish, sometimes you can literally feel how tasty it could be. Also, food photography is the area that can provide you bread in all meanings – literally and hypothetically.

As always, there are a few things to consider if you wish to try this type of photography. Let’s have a closer look at those.

Food presentation

This is the crucial one. The food you are photographing has to look outstanding. Unless you have some special assignment to shoot, for example, half eaten fruit for some specific ad. For all other occasions, it’s worth trying to negotiate with a local café or restaurant. Offer them to have your images for free to use in their own advertising if they prepare some dishes and provide a table at their premises for you to shoot.

Talk to their chef asking to place the prepared dishes on plates very carefully, so they look well composed. Don’t shoot more than one dish at a time – you want them all look fresh.

Lighting setup

Before starting the shoot, carefully choose the location of the table inside the venue and consider what additional lightning you might need based on that. Most likely you’ll be provided with a table somewhere in the corner as the owners would like the venue keep functioning while you shoot, and other customers shouldn’t be disturbed. So, you may want to bring some reflectors with you and if possible, place them in a way that they prevent your flash from hitting venue visitors directly.

Additional equipment

You will need a tripod for this type of photography. Just no other way around it. Once you set your camera, lights and chosen the subject position it will be just so much faster and easier to just place all dishes on the exact same place without changing any camera or light settings. And the faster you’ll shoot; the more venue owners would appreciate your understanding of the main venue function – it’s not a photo studio but a food place after all. Customers come first.

Subject-specific tips

Once you get a dish positioned and start shooting, rotate the plate instead of moving it or the camera. This would allow you to take quite a few dramatically different images of the same dish if it’s not symmetrical one. It doesn’t make too much sense to rotate a soup bowl as it looks the same under any angle. A roast chicken with some sides, however, would provide you a few images that are quite different from each other.


Food photography is well demanded on stock photo sites, which may generate you some extra income. Also, if you can cook a dish or two yourself – even better, you have a point where to start. Practice your lightning positioning at home using your own plates, so when it comes to a restaurant sessions you will precisely know what you’re doing.

And in some cases, you will be actually offered to eat those dishes as they will be already prepared without anyone ordering them. Bon appetite!

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