6 tips to make food photos stand out

by | Apr 9, 2021

when photographing your product: you want your customers to see it and want it. we’re stating the obvious here! but for food photography: you’ve got a whole new challenge. your customer needs to want to taste it. this means that some of the tried-and-true tips for product photography don’t apply to food. you want your food photography to reflect your brand; but you also want it to feel accessible — like your customer could snap a similar photo at their picnic. then reach out and take a bite.

if you’d like more tips on ecomm product photography — including different types of product photos and various pointers for social media photos — check out this article.

how to prep your food product shoot

layout

laying out your food to photograph it on a plate or platter is also known as “plating”. this term is often used for the presentation of food in high-end restaurants. but maybe you’ve got a casual snack food. a quirky food truck. or a vegan matcha shop. the way you layout your products is still just as important as a 5-star restaurant. you want your product to be front and center. but you can also use surrounding objects to suggest complimentary flavors or make a statement about your brand’s values. imagine you’re selling a granola bar for your outdoorsy brand: go with a pair of hiking boots or a climbing rope for your background. if your product is in a recyclable package: utilize bamboo straws and a minimalist background to convey to your audience that the environment is an important brand value. we can’t overstate how much you can communicate with your background!

lighting

natural light is free and often flattering. it’s also fleeting! if you don’t have the budget or setup for studio lighting: make sure you know where your best natural lighting is and what time it occurs. getting your shoot staged in the right spot beforehand will help you optimize the amount of time you have to snap photos with the best natural light.

if your budget allows for renting or owning artificial studio lighting — you can really expand your product photos. always lean towards warmer tones when photographing food as this tends to look more appetizing. play around with angles and quantity of studio lights to minimize unsightly reflections and maximize visual interest.

get crafty

the food you photograph doesn’t always have to be tasty. or even edible. it just has to look delicious. many professional food photographers have tricks up their sleeves that would surprise you! if you are photographing cold foods or beverages consider having these things on hand to prep your shoot:

  • spray bottle of water
  • ice
  • microfiber cloth

you’ll want to consistently refresh your product with a spritz of water and fresh so it looks refreshing. no one craves a lukewarm drink with melted ice. or dried out fruit. on the other hand: if you’re photographing hot food you’ll want to have these handy items:

  • paint brush
  • glycerin
  • accessible oven

the glycerin trick is cheap and easy: just apply a little on a paintbrush and lightly brush your food in places where the customer would expect it to glisten. although the customer can’t feel the temperature of the food — the food tends to look better fresh out of the oven. some foods will deflate or become dull and spongy as they cool down. so even if it means having a miniature toaster oven on set; keep that food hot. plump. and appetizing.

keep it clean

even the most beautiful food photo can become unappetizing if there’s a fuzz on the plate. or a paint brush bristle. or visible soap scum on the fork. meticulously cleaning every item before you snap your photo is tedious but worth it. use a microfiber cloth to clean any utensils in the frame — and touch them only with the cloth or gloves from then on. for food: just make sure to keep a sharp eye on any debris in your food. you can edit these imperfections out post-shoot but it’s better to get it right the first time. remember: your camera lens might have better sight than you do. you want your customers to see a mouth-watering and blemish free treat when they look at your photos.

psst: take a few minutes to dig deeper into how to prep for an ecomm product shoot.

challenges to look out for when photographing food

here are a few time-saving tips to help streamline your shoot and avoid re-shoots or retouching after the fact. remember: you always have editing software to help you beautify and perfect your photos. but your time and money is valuable! so the less editing required: the better. 

declutter your shot

there’s no doubt that you can get great images with props and complimentary food items in the shot. but clutter can really kill the vibe. food is already a very visually complex thing to look at. to avoid clutter: look through your lens — not through your naked eye — to see what the customer will see. if it looks overwhelming. confusing. or too busy. try spacing out your plates or removing a few objects from your scene.

color correct your images

food has its own color theory. as mentioned above: warm tones tend to do better for food. beyond just shooting in a warmer or natural light: you should also consider some color correcting in a photo editing software. two major things to note: blue or green tones aren’t appetizing in most food. make sure if there are blue hues in your photos they are intentionally and enticing (for example: a fresh glass of water or a blueberry can have blue tones but not a cheeseburger). you can also color correct to make your photos pop. don’t go overkill with exposure or saturation. just a little contrast and warmth will help your food photo pop!

avoid bland photos

even if you want some shots of solo food: you can still make them visually interesting. take some photos of your food plated with props surrounding it. then for the solo feature maybe you want to show your featured food on a fork with a solid background. that doesn’t mean you just stab the food with a fork and snap a photo. be sure to capture layers and volume any time you’re photographing food.

utilize versatile angles

avoid having a boring catalogue of food photos. a good rule of thumb is that overhead shots are for groups of food or multiple plates while solo shots are best done from the side. it never hurts to take photos of your food items from multiple angles and in multiple settings. it’s better to take too many photos than too few.

6 tips for mouth-watering food photography

you’ve got your shoot setup. and you know what mistakes to avoid. now let’s talk about a few more great tips to make your food photography shoot run smoothly and seamlessly. 

create a shot list

first thing’s first! once you know what props you’d like to use: it’s time to create a shotlist. whether you DIY your photo shoot or end up hiring a studio (like soona!) you’ll need a shot list. this is — simply put — a list of every photo you want to end up with. for each food item you want a photograph of; you may want multiple angles or settings. this list should be comprehensive: how many shots do you want with a hand model? how many from a bird-eye view? how many close-ups? organize your shot list as thoroughly as you can so that — come shoot day — the process is smooth and easy.

choose the right camera lens

product photography can be achieved with something as simple as an iPhone. if you’re on a budget and this is your route: be sure to get some shots in portrait mode for sharper detail. if your budget is a little higher: opt for a DSLR camera and ensure your settings allow for detailed close-ups as well as wide shots of an entire table.

keep an eye on style

styling can easily get messy with food photography. maybe the messy look is what you’re going for! but remember: you want it to look appetizing to every potential customer. so while you’re having fun setting up your food for the shoot — make sure you’re also using ample spaces between plates. neatly placed and clean silverware. and watching out for unwanted splatters or wrinkles on your background.

know your utensil etiquette

the utensils you use in your shoot should obviously pertain to the food you’re photographing. whether it’s silverware or chopsticks: be sure you know the etiquette. for example: never cross your chopsticks. it’s considered bad manners and — sometimes — even a bad omen. for silverware: it depends on how many utensils you’re using according to the dish you’re serving. regardless of amount: forks are on the left. knives and spoons on the right. and the sharp side of the knife should always face the plate. maybe these rules seem arbitrary. but to people familiar with utensil etiquette: an error here can be a major distraction.

 add relevant props

props can really add to your photos. you want your customers to feel like your food belongs on their own table or that they belong at your table. either way: the color and style you incorporate in your props can speak volumes about your brand or product. here are a few visually interesting props to consider.

  • a coffee mug
  • a newspaper
  • a butcher block
  • a sprig of herbs
  • salt and pepper shakers
  • fresh fruit
  • a hand model

✨ a note on hand models: especially when it comes to food – make sure your hand model’s nails look neat and clean!

follow your brand

at this point you’ve got a strong sense of brand identity. what values your brand represents. what colors best fit your style. if you’re trying to invoke a casual vibe or a luxurious feeling with your products. it’s critical that you remain true to those values with each and every product photo. one really great way to make sure you and your photography team stay on track is to utilize a brand kit or a mood board. these are tools — either virtual or IRL — that you can refer back to for color inspo. texture and prop ideas. or styling direction. picture this: your menu is fun with pops or color and maybe a few puns. but your food photography on your IG page reads a little stuffy and spendy. this inconsistency could be avoided with some brand guidance. it’s your job to ensure that your customer can take a scroll through your website or social media feed and feel submersed in the culture you’ve created around your brand.

get creative with color

as mentioned above: the colors you use in your shoot should always make a statement about your brand. but now let’s talk about what else those colors can say. picture this — in the winter: your customers may see a photo of a warm latte with nutmeg on top next to a luxurious jewel-toned scarf and they’re immediately enveloped in feelings of warmth. they’ve got to get their hands on that latte. but in the summertime: your customers want to see a refreshing matcha with fresh strawberries on a background of bright citrus-y tones. you see why color is important in these scenarios. so you can remain true to your brand colors while adjusting them to cater to the season. audience. setting. or holiday.

get started with food photography

now you’re ready for your shoot! you’ve got the tools and know-how. it’s time to execute a photo shoot that will have your customers lining up to try your product. the good news: when you’re ready for professional food photos. soona has your back! with photos starting at $39 — we’re eager to make your content dreams a reality. check out this link to see the fast casual content we’ve created for our clients and start turning those clicks into customers today!

if you’re looking to ramp up your content game but still feel unsure where to start – check out these resources:

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