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12 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Food Photography


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We've compiled the essential tips to improve your food photography, and the common mistakes to avoid. From the lighting to food styling, we've got it all covered.

Published in: Art & Photos

12 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Food Photography

  1. 1. Food Photography 12 Common Mistakes to Avoid in
  2. 2. Do not use a direct flash or overhead tungsten light Invest in a good quality flash, and a reflector or bounce card Never direct the flash towards the food, as the light will fall harshly and the food will lose all the details  Use a reflector to bounce the light towards the food Experiment with the angles, camera settings, and intensity of the light to see which works best for each food 1. Using harsh artificial light How to avoid this mistake
  3. 3. Natural light: + Gives the best effect + No extra cost for lighting equipment - Can be unreliable depending on the weather - The light intensity changes with the time of day Artificial light: + Consistent lighting and white balance throughout the photoshoot (saves you from a lot of work in the post-processing) + Gives flexibility in terms of time - Extra cost for lighting equipment - More tricky to get good results, needs a lot of practice to master FYI: Natural Light vs Artificial Light for Food Photography
  4. 4. 2. Not setting the light on different sides Experiment, and see the difference they make on the food. A safe choice as there will be less shadows on the food The results look nice enough with nothing special Usually used to highlight the textures and contrast of the food Makes the details pop out Gives editorial-look with clean, light background that helps turn the focus to the food Highlights the details of the food Needs a lot of practice to master Front Lighting Side Lighting Back Lighting
  5. 5. 1. Front lighting 2. Side lighting 3. Back lighting 1 2 3
  6. 6. 3. Not using fresh ingredients Food photography is all about the appearance of the food, so make sure that every food is in a perfect condition. A wilted lettuce in the salad or a bruised tomato can ruin your photo, and don’t think of working out an angle that could hide the flaws (more often than not, they don’t work very well). Only use the freshest ingredients to save yourself from the extra work in post-procesing.
  7. 7. 4. Shooting only when the cooking is done Start when the ingredients are being prepped. For things that don’t look great when they’re cooked (soup, pasta with white sauce, or brown dishes like chili and beans), the raw or half-cooked ingredients look more appetising than the cooked dish.
  8. 8. 5. Taking photos only from 1 angle When it comes to angle, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Different foods have different angles that show their best look. For example, food platter looks best from above, while a burger looks best from the side. Sometimes you need to show the food at various angles to make it easier for people to visualise. Explore every possibility!
  9. 9. 6. Not taking photos with negative space Leaving a blank space in a photo will be useful for your clients when they need to put a logo or writing in it, so be prepared to accommodate this.
  10. 10. 7. Bumping up the saturation too much Try to get as close to the real colours as possible, as oversaturating your photo would only make the food look unnatural and weird.
  11. 11. 8. Using too much food for plating Too much food doesn’t look good on the camera, and would only make it harder for the audience to keep the focus on the important elements. Put enough space on the plate for the audience to appreciate the food. Less is more!
  12. 12. 9. Taking photos only from 1 angle Work fast, as some dishes don't look great after a while (e.g. leafy greens in salads will look wilted, meat will look a bit dry, etc.)  Do your setup before the food comes so you can spring into action when they’re ready Use empty plates or bowls for setting up, and replace it later once the food is ready. Tricks:
  13. 13. 10. Not paying attention to the props and styling Keep the props simple and clean Use neutral colors for your crockery, tableware, and background Make sure everything is pristine (unless you go for the messy/natural look) Know the tricks to make the food look more appetising (adding a bit of oil to vegetables to make them glisten, sprinkling water on salad to make it look fresher, etc.)
  14. 14. 11. Keeping the food as it is Don't just let the food sit there, untouched. Capture the serving and eating process to make it more alive. This cake looks more appetising when it’s sliced, as the slices allow the audience to see the colours and texture inside the cake, which helps give them a better idea of the taste. Add human elements and movements to keep it interesting. In this photo, the movement of pouring the sauce to the dessert is more interesting than just the plain photo of the dessert and sauce.
  15. 15. 12. Not adding a story or depth to the photo Tell more about the dish in your photo (e.g. the origin, or the season in which the ingredients are harvested in, etc.).  Crockery/tableware: using tagine pot for Moroccan tagine, or a banana leaf for nasi campur Decorations: using brown and dry leaves in the autumn to decorate the pumpkin soup photos Some ideas:
  16. 16. Hungry for more? Click here to learn more, or visit