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taking photos of food with smartphone
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10 tips for better food photography

Taking pictures of food is a fun way to tell beautiful stories. Whether you’re sharing a recipe for a culinary blog or want to show off your business or hobby, capturing enticing photos is essential.

Food photography is a popular social media trend and a great way to get into digital photography.

Shooting food is fun but can be challenging for those who want to turn their hobby into a profession. Check out these 10 tips to help you enter the fascinating world of food photography, whether you’re using a smartphone camera or DSLR.

1. Understand your camera

It may seem intimidating, but reading the manual is the best way to learn about your camera. Read, reread and practice. Try snapping photos in manual mode so you can fully control the camera settings.

You can also try shooting in RAW as often as possible. Buy a larger memory card if needed since compressing JPG files can remove the smaller details from your photos.

Tap or click here for our detailed guide on the differences between JPEG, TIFF and RAW.

2. Stabilize your camera

camera with tripod shooting food
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Use a tripod or rest your arms against a flat surface table to stabilize your camera. If you hold your arms away from your body, you’ll likely have a blurry image.

This tip is vital when you have poor lighting. Weak lighting plus an unstable camera equals an even more pronounced blur.

3. Follow the Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is visualizing a 3×3 grid (like a tic-tac-toe board) over an image. You can use these imaginary grid lines to focus on specific aspects of your subject.

Try aligning the edge of your dish with one of the lines that form the grid. Or try focusing the center grid on the middle of a table full of food or a garnish. Stick to the golden rule of thirds and you’ll get better.

4. Use natural light

The best pictures are shot in natural light, but that doesn’t mean you should snap photos in direct sunlight. Try setting up your food dish by a large window with curtains. The curtains diffuse light, spreading it evenly across your subject.

If you’re shooting away from a window with curtains, buy a cheap semi-transparent shower curtain to obtain this look. When using artificial lights, try placing them opposite your subject. Home lighting can alter the white balance, providing an unnatural yellow or red shade.

The best time to take pictures of your food is on cloudy days when the clouds provide great diffusion. But since you can’t control the weather, practice with the lighting and different diffusion methods that work best for your subjects.

5. Backgrounds matter

When you place a delicious meal over a neutral background, anyone looking at your image will focus on the food. Cute or attractive backgrounds might sound appealing, but the subject isn’t your new kitchen backsplash or seasonal tablecloth. It’s the fantastic meal you cooked.

Looking for pro photography shots or inspiration, tips and advice to drive your own photography goals? Check out Dreamstime for all the pro images and inspiration you need.

6. Set the scene

A neutral background is not the same as a bland background. Place ingredients used in your dish or eating utensils in the background to add visual appeal without taking away from the food.

Create a story with the ingredients you used. Sprinkle chocolate chips or fan out thinly sliced fruits. Play with these props or try choosing a color palette.

Another way to create a story is to reveal where you like eating that particular food. Use a laptop or desktop computer in the background to indicate you enjoy the food or drink while working.

Include a vintage cookbook to reveal your recipe inspiration or set the dish in the foreground with a full banquet table in the background to tell your audience this food is perfect for parties.

7. Add layers and textures

Bring your pictures to life by revealing all the different textures your meals, snacks, appetizers, or desserts have to offer.

You can show different textures by sprinkling spices on your food, especially fresh herbs, bread crumbs, or coarse salt. You can also provide volume by layering or overlapping different dish elements.

Take a bite of the food and leave the utensil on the plate, complete with crumbs or sauce. Add drops of water or brush melted butter onto the food to create a juicy, glistening surface.

8. Be quick about it

Certain foods should be photographed as soon as they’re out of the oven. This ensures cheese is melted enough to capture that impressive stretch seen in pizza commercials and reveals textures that vanish once the food has cooled.

Some ingredients lose their color once they’ve gone cold, so be sure to have your lighting and background ready before the food comes out. As a bonus, freshly made food can reveal rising steam and other elements you won’t see with cold meals.

9. Find the perfect angle

Flat foods like pizzas are best photographed from above, while layered foods like cheeseburgers reveal those tasty ingredients when captured from the side.

Start photographing drinks at a 45-degree angle to highlight the cup’s height, but play with different angles to ensure you get the most attractive image.

10. Portrait or landscape?

taking photos of food with smartphone
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Where are you going to showcase your food pictures? Social media images are best taken vertically since this orientation is easier to crop and garners more attention.

Horizontal images are perfect for banners, posters and other print media, so your viewers can see everything.

Now that you’re equipped with 10 amazing food photography tips and tricks, go out and start practicing. Take your time, try one technique at a time and don’t forget to have fun.

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