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  • Edwin Yap

What makes a good food photograph? (Part 1)

Updated: May 31, 2021

Food photography means more than taking food photo on your plate; you need to follow specific rules to make the most of the stunning colours, textures, and shapes. Just like painting, the artist starts with a blank white canvas and paint. Pieces upon pieces, you construct the photo just like storytelling until you reach the perfect balance of art and realism. Here are a few simple rules to follow to make a good photo.

bread and easter egg on white cloth

Prepare your food

Presentation is arguably more important when it comes to photographing food. The plating is the first step to creating the idea that the food is just as juicy and mouth watering as it appears to be. Make sure to arrange your food aesthetically if you intend on photographing it.

sunny side up inside burger
Juicy burger with dripping egg yolk.

Place your food

When taking a food photo, the background is fundamental preparation. To let the viewer focus on the food, the background shouldn’t be too messy or colourful. Three main

types of background work well for food photography: light backgrounds, dark backgrounds, and wooden (brown) backgrounds. Neutral or plain background always work. Other backgrounds you could try include a carpet or rug, black chalkboard, tiles, baking paper, or a newspaper. Other than that, decorating the scene with some other smaller items can make the photograph more interesting. Decorate the background with non-food items like cutlery and cooking utensils work well because they have solid shapes and lines, which you can use to build your composition. It’s great to have colourful props, but if you’re not careful, that colourful prop can easily overshadow your food and take all the limelight.

biscuits in bowl
Flower colour too bright will take the focus from food.

Light up your food

Photography is all about light, and it is the key to creating beautiful photos. Using different light modifiers can help you control it and bring your food photography up to the next level. Light is a double-edged knife; poor use of light will ruin your story and immediately turn off your audience. In contrast, good lighting emphasizing the textures and colour balance of your food photograph. Choosing the proper lighting for your food involves thinking about what parts of the food you’d want to emphasize. The audience will always look at the brightest spot in your photo first, and if it’s not your subject, it can harm your story. Always try to avoid harsh shadows in food photography and use soft shadows instead. Soft lighting is much more flattering to the subject, creating subtle depth and dimension without dominating the subject.


seafood platter  with soup
Proper lighting on food create depth and texture which makes the food pop-out.

Food photography is an art, not science. There are no specific formulas to follow and these rough guidelines just to help you get a better image of your food. So don’t let the frame stop you from experimenting with lighting techniques and composition that can bring a creative edge to your photography.





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