The below article covers some of the common food photography mistakes photographers make when taking food photos.
Food Photograph Mistakes
Camera angle: The angle of the camera is a very important part of food photography. Getting this wrong is a very common mistake new photographers tend to make.
Here are some good angles to use for food photography.
- Head on
- 45 degree angle (works best with a 75 – 100mm macro lens)
- From above
- Tilt towards you
- Below with an upward lens tilt (great for burgers)
- Close up
- Following the lines of your subject
Tip: Use whatever angle you need to for your shot to work. There is no real rule for this as different types of food require different angles.
Head-on: For this angle the camera needs to be looking from the side towards the center of the subject.
45 degree angle from above: This is the most used camera angle for food photography. You want your camera at a 45 degree angle above your subject. This works best with a lens between 75mm to 100mm. This will allow you to take a picture cutting out the background, using the surface under your subject as the background. This allows you to get a really good view of your food dish.
Above: This tends to be the most overused angle. This angle can be fun to use but can get boring if it is the only angle you shoot. With this angle you cut out things like depth of field making it the an easy angle to use. This angle requires you to be directly over your composition and centered looking down on your subject(s).
This is a great example of the above angle of a vanilla slice.
Tilt towards you: This is when you tilt your camera to the right making your food subject appear to be tilted counter-clockwise. This angle draws your viewer into the image making them feel like they just want to reach in and grab the food subject.
Below with an upward lens tilt: This is similar to the head-on angle with a slight upward tilt of your lens. This works well for food subjects like burgers giving them a long and tall perspective making the food subject stand out and the hero of the shot.
Close up: Getting up close allows your to make the food subject the hero of your shot. This usually eliminates anything in the background that might draw the viewers attention away from the subject.
Close up of the swirl in the frosting and the award marker in a vanilla slice.
Diagonal: To achieve the diagonal angle you need to turn your camera so your food subject starts from one corner of your frame and runs diagonally to the opposite corner of the frame. This works well when you have multiple food subjects lined up diagonally behind each other.
Following the lines: Using your camera’s viewfinder align the edge of your frame with any line you see in your food subject composition. This is a creative angle that can produce some amazing images. Try following different lines and lining up multiple lines.
Following the lines of the cake and the chocolate sauce on the board.
Props with strong patterns or bold colors: Using some color is not a bad thing. However if you use too much or strong patterns you will distract the viewer away from the main subject. This can also create too much chaos in your image creating a negative viewing experience or unwanted emotional reaction to your image.
Tip: Use neutral colored plates e.g. white, tan, black, or grey colored plates. If you want to use colored plates you can do this in moderation and avoid strong patterns especially on a large scale.
Tip: Compose your shot and see if you need to move, rearrange or remove anything that might be drawing you away from your subject.
Lighting: Not using the correct lighting is a mistake many new food photographers makes. Using indoor fluorescent lighting or yellow lighting is never good for food photography. Bad lighting can make your food look unappealing and lead to harsh glares and shadows.
Tip: Natural diffused lighting is a must use light source for food photography. If you can not source natural lighting then you can use a diffused light source just make sure it is white light.
If you would like to learn more about food photography lighting you can read this article.
Using Flash: Flash creates direct hard lighting. This type of lighting creates harsh shadows and glare. Flash can also change the tone of the colors in the image creating an unappealing look.
Not understanding depth of field (DoF): Depth of field is the another important part of food photography. In food photography a shallow DoF works best to highlight your food subject. New food photographers make the mistake of not understanding depth of field (DoF) and how it works and applies to food photography. You want to create a nice bokeh behind your food subject blurring and softening the background.
The most commonly used f/stops in food photography are between f/2.0 to f/5.6. Anything over f/5.6 you start to get too much of the background in focus causing you to lose the bokeh.
The following article on food photography camera settings is a good place to start.
Getting too close to your subject: In many cases delicious food is not as attractive as we would like it to be for photographing. When photographing messy greasy, sloppy, runny, gravy-filled dishes you do not want to highlighting these parts of the dish.
Also if you try to fill your frame with the food subject you will lose your DoF and the bokeh.
Tips: Take a few steps back. Take photos from different distances and angles, this will change your DoF perspective and composition. Remember what works for one type of food may not work for another, get creative with your photos.
Creating food photos that look like everyone else’s: Shooting photos like everyone else will make it hard for you to stand out, choose to be different.
We are all guilty of shooting a cup of coffee with yet another pastry or tasty looking cake. Getting out of this rut and being creative is one of the keys to tasty, delicious looking food photos. .
Tip: Get creative and get out of your comfort zone move around, try different styles, compositions, props and so on. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Take a bite out of the pastry
- Add elements that give your photo character or emotion.
- Hands reaching for something in the image this will give it life and make it feel more real
- Someone doing an action in the scene example: cutting a cake or spreading butter on toast
- Play with the angles
- Change your lighting source
- Try different backgrounds
- Move your position
- Change your style
And the last thing to remember is to have fun, this is the best part of food photography.