It’s that time of year to fire up the oven and start whipping, baking, simmering and roasting. With all those great things coming out of the kitchen, you’re going to want to share every delicious morsel with friends, fans and family who can’t personally make it to dinner.
But what if your food photos don’t look quite as tasty as the real thing?
The good news: There’s no need to ask Santa for a brand-new DSLR. Here’s how you can take delicious, reach-through-the-screen-good photos of your cooking using any old camera. Even with your smartphone.
1) Crop out the fluff.
First and foremost, your food is your subject! Crop out any non-essentials to your scene, like salt and pepper shakers, extra chairs and hungry guests waiting for you to put the camera away.
To help with this, shoot your dish from every angle: low, head-on, even from directly above. You’ll find the perfect perspective for any palate.
2) Use soft, diffused, angled light.
Put your food by a window and shoot from there. Remember those scary recipe books of the 1960s? You’re trying to avoid that. Natural light is your ticket to tantalizingly waving your latest culinary creation at your friends without making it look like a crime scene investigation.
Morning light tends to be cooler in temperature than evening light, but as long as your source is soft, bright and to the side, you’re ahead of the game. Don’t be afraid to overexpose and make your scene glow if it means you pick up all those tasty details in the shadows.
Is it winter-dark by dinner? Bounce your flash off the ceiling or a wall to spread the light evenly across the scene. Done right, this can mimic the cool, tranquil light of a perfect spring morning.
Mobile tip: Use photo apps like Camera Awesome to pick your exposure spot, and use the Image Stabilization mode (the shaky hand icon) to get the cleanest shot. Many filters, like ShadowOpener, also brighten the image for when you’re stuck in low-light situations.
3) Hands off!
Take your photos before you start eating and leave your fingers out of the shot. You’re creating that moment of delicious tension when your guests are seated, the wine’s uncorked and they’re ready to go. It’s a perfect culinary fantasy, so why show teeth marks and someone else’s hands?
Of course, there’s exceptions to the rule like when you’re documenting the step-by-step cooking process, or showing your guests having a great time.
4) Get close. REALLY close.
Fill the frame and focus on texture. There’s nothing sad than a tiny, blurry burger in the center of a huge table. You want your food larger than life, the size it looks when you’re just about to take that first bite! Get close as your lens allows. (You can always clean it later.)
To emphasize this, use shallow depth-of-field and nail the focus… or boost the bokeh by applying a blur after the fact.
5) Make it pop!
Forget black and white — is there anything more bland than single-toned food? Be free to find the most festive berries, herbs and other ingredients to add pops of celebratory color all around your shot. With bold, beautiful ingredients in season like pomegranates, persimmons, currants and squash, you’ve got lots of options to make your plates sing.
And dig up the good china: Your favorite dinnerware is dying to complement your cooking by creating a neutral backdrop, or by adding more visual interest to the scene (like above).
BONUS TIP: Use your photos on recipe cards.
Pic and recipe by Downriver Photography
Why keep it to yourself? Once you’ve taken photos of your favorite creations, turn them into recipe cards using one of our 4×8 or 5×7 card templates. Drop them into your annual holiday mailings or wrap one up in every present you give. Recipes are a treasured, personal gift that anyone can enjoy.
Happy shooting! Here’s to good eating and fabulous photo sharing this holiday season.