With so many people writing about the highlights of their culinary adventures or documenting their daily consumption of food and drink, Budget Travel recently ran an article with 9 tips to help improve your food photography skills.
The original article has some excellent examples of these tips, but we’ve tried to show you a couple of examples from the New York Street Food archives.
Zoom in—way in
There’s no such thing as too close. Focus in on even the tiniest details, from herbs sprinkled over pasta to the chunks of rock salt on a pretzel. In cooking, subtle flavor details make the dish; in food photography, subtle visual details make the shot. (NYSF Note: Like the grill marks on the steak.)
Don’t center your subject
You’re shooting food—not darts—so instead of adhering to a dull, bull’s-eye setup, feel free to knock your subject off-center for variety’s sake.
Work with the light
Natural light is the key to an appetizing photo, so always ask to sit next to the window or, better yet, to sit outside. Oh, and clouds are a good thing. Overcast days create even lighting that diminishes shadows and makes for a softer, prettier image.
Look beyond the plate
Many people get stuck on documenting finished dishes, after the server has brought over the plate. But great food photography can also include the field before the harvest, a charismatic fishmonger, or the aisles of a foreign grocery store.
Be picky with details
Cropping an image helps show people where to look, which creates a more compelling narrative. A close-up of a grandmother’s hands kneading dough or a chef chopping vegetables at the speed of light tells a different story than a full-length portrait. (NYSF Note: The woman leaning over to read the menu adds some story to this picture of the 2 guys waiting for their order.)
Tall foods and drinks, like cocktails, layer cakes, and ice cream cones, allow you to play with different angles to make the food appear more heroic. (NYSF Note: Or the person appear more heroic, as when Thomas DeGeest won Best Dessert at the 2009 Vendy Awards.)
Resist the urge to make everything in the frame sharp and crisp; a blurry foreground can actually look more artistic. On point-and-shoots, hold down the shutter button halfway to selectively focus on certain parts of the picture. On more advanced cameras, such as digital SLRs, you can adjust your aperture—the pupil-like opening that affects how much light enters the camera.
Clear away the clutter
Move stuff around! Being a great stylist can be almost as important as having the right camera or finding the perfect light. Start with what’s on the table and tweak as needed: Move silverware and glasses, turn bottles toward the camera so the viewer can read exactly what you were drinking, and spin the plate so the most important details catch the eye.
Capture a lost-in-translation moment
Sometimes, beauty lies not in the photograph’s subject itself, but in the anecdote that it encapsulates. Mistranslations on international menus, foreign takes on American classics, like a Russian Coke bottle, and other cultural mix-ups can tell a story that will make you smile long after you return home. (NYSF Note: I was standing in line at Frites ‘N’ Meats when a wholesale meat truck passed by – burgers “before and after”)