This practical guide will show awesome tips for taking beautiful photos of food. You can try them at home right now, even with your smartphone camera!
Just to make it clear: “composition” is the way you organize elements to create photo scenes. In this case, you compose the photo scene by organizing food in the most artistic/good-looking way possible.
Want to take photos of drinks? Awesome! This practical guide will show you how to do that too.
So, when you see “food” along the guide, visualize edible and drinkable things, ok?
Lack of material is not a problem for making great looking shots. If you have one single orange or apple or water bottle at hand and a smartphone camera (professional cameras are also welcome), you already have what you need to start putting together outstanding food/drinks compositions for taking great food photos.
Let’s see 9 amazing food photography composition tips and how to start them right now.
1. Choose a good scene first
One of the key elements of taking great photos is choosing the scene correctly. The photo scene is the place where you put photo elements together.
For food photography, the scene is wherever you put the food. It can be a kitchen table, a living room table, the top of a refrigerator, the top of a shelf if you’re taking photos inside a supermarket, wherever you can place the food it’s fine.
So the very first thing you need is a good scene for your photos.
If you’re at home, try to pick up the most artistic room and then pick a good place in this room, like a table, which is the most recommended.
It’s up to you to decide!
2. Organize the photo elements. Take photos. Reorganize them. Take more photos!
Now it’s time to organize the photo elements. The secret of this tip is to try many different styles of organization for your food elements (be it edible or drinks), and of course take many photos along the way.
You need to be creative in this step, and don’t be afraid of taking lots of photos. You can choose the best ones later.
Also, don’t think your ideas aren’t worth it. You need to try first before you decide if it’s good or not. When it comes to photography, an idea that seems pointless can end up being amazing!
Here are a couple of examples of different element organization for the same food photography scene:
Elements: two glasses and a wine bottle.
Scene: a table, flowers and mountains behind it, the sunset as background.
Element organization possibilities:
- The glasses are being filled by the wine bottle with no person’s face or hands appearing. (take photos)
- All the glasses close to the camera, the bottle next to them. (take photos)
- One glass very close to the camera, the other glass and the bottle farther. (take photos)
Elements: a bowl with strawberries.
Scene: a kitchen table.
Element organization possibilities:
- One strawberry outside the bowl, all the other strawberries inside. (take photos)
- The bowl empty, all strawberries outside it, upon the table. (take photos)
- A few strawberries outside the bowl, a few strawberries inside it. (take photos)
Just be creative and try different things!
3. Put decoration objects in the scene
One great tip you can use to improve your food photos is to put decoration objects in the scene. This means you need to find anything that goes well with food photography and place in your scene.
That can be kitchen objects like empty bowls, bottles, forks and knives, trays, cups, anything at all. It can also be small table candles, single fruits (one apple, one grape) that aren’t the main food you’re taking photos of.
You can cut one fruit or vegetable and use its half to decorate the photo, like a half lettuce leaf, a half carrot, a half tomato or tomato pieces, a half apple or a half pineapple. It can also be flowers like roses, flower vases, ice cubes, ice trays, small decorative plant leaves, anything you can think of!
If you’re taking drink photos: decorate it with food elements (such as fruits, vegetables plates, napkins, forks and knives).
If you’re taking edible food photos: decorate it with drink elements (such as empty bottles, ice cubes, glasses and cups).
Again, be creative and try whatever idea you have!
4. Play with focus, zoom and perspective
This tip is absolutely important and you should really give it attention. Playing with focus, zoom and perspective is very simple and can bring awesome results to your photos.
To play with focus: use your camera focus tool and try different elements of the scene to focus. For example, if you have a bowl full of strawberries, focus on one of them and defocus the others. Or focus on a leaf if there’s any and defocus the rest, and so on.
To play with zoom: simply use the zooming tool of your camera and take different photos with different zoom percentages. Sometimes walking a few steps away from the photo scenes and zooming in with your camera can create a cool effect! Just don’t overwhelm it because you can lose photo quality if the zoom tool is too close to 100% of zooming.
To play with perspective: that’s the easiest one, simply move your camera (smartphone or not) around the food elements in the scene, while taking photos. Take one photo very close to an element, then farther away, then from the top point of view, then lean down and take photos (yep, photography can be a gym exercise sometimes!), it’s a simple yet powerful technique.
5. Hold the food on your hands and take photos
A great way to take super cool food photos is to hold food elements with one or both hands, be it yours or someone else’s hands, then focus only on the food, without including the person’s face, and take a few shots.
Just like that:
You can take photos of the food holding it with one hand while you hold the camera with the other hand, and use the photo scene as background. You can also ask friends to hold the food for you while you take photos because their faces won’t appear, just their hands.
That’s an optional way of organizing your photo elements. Try it and see what you get!
6. See if flash goes well with your photo scene
You can use your camera’s flash and test if it goes well while you’re shooting your photos. Sometimes a closer shoot to a photo with flash can get you a nice unexpected result.
It’s hard to tell beforehand if a photo will be good or not without flash, even with daylight. So, you don’t need to wait for the evening to try using flash with your food photos. Take a few shots with the flash on and see what you get, if you like you keep shooting with the flash on.
7. Take many, many, many photos of the same scene
Taking dozens of photos of the same scene is a great thing! Even taking multiple photos of the same zoom set up or perspective or focus. It means you’re trying to get the best shot and will choose your favorites later. That’s a great sign you’re a pro photographer already.
Take many photos of the same scene. Who knows if you will like them all or just a few? It’s normal for photographers to take even hundreds of photos to later choose only 20, for example.
Be a pro and take many photos!
8. Try it again with a different scene
When it comes to food photography, you have a great advantage: food elements are super easy to move around.
So, you can take as many photos as you like of your chosen scene, then move all your photo elements to another place and start again! That’s what professional photographers do, and by following this tip you’re already taking photos like a pro.
This tip is important because you may end up taking some great photos in, let’s say, three different places.
In the end you will have: a photo album!
That’s right! The secret of creating photo albums is very simple. You take different photos of the same elements (in this case, food or drinks) in many different scenes.
So, don’t be shy and take some awesome photos in different places and you will be making your own food photography album!
9. Finish it up adding filters to your photos
The cherry on top of every photography work is: photo filters. They’re simple photo effects already made by software that you simply add to your photos using a phone app or a computer program/website. Photo filters are very popular on Instagram, where you can add them to your photos by default.
With food photos, filters become special because this type of photography goes well with some stronger photo effects, like adding more filters than you would normally add to another type of photo.
To put this last tip into practice you can use phone apps that add filters to photos, it doesn’t need to be on computer software. Just search on the Internet for “free mobile apps photo filters”, choose the one you like and add some amazing effects to your food photos!
In case you used a professional camera in your shots, it would be better to use a website to edit them. Pro camera photos have bigger resolutions, and it can be too slow to edit them on a smartphone. So, just search on the Internet for “free online photo filters”, choose a website you like and add some amazing effects to your food photos!
Conclusion: you’re the boss of your photo scene!
Now that you know how to put together awesome food photos, don’t forget that practice makes perfect!
You’re the boss of your photo scene.
You decide what’s the best setup to create amazing food photography albums. Each new idea you have for a scene display or photo organization should really become a new photo album you create.
Your creativity can improve along the way as you give yourself chances to create more photography ideas and put them into practice.
Keep up the great work, boss!
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