Whether you’re trying to capture the perfect Instagram or are a budding food stylist there are a few tricks that once you get them will make your life so much easier! Note that I am no expert and am just sharing what I have learnt through self-teaching 🙂
Firstly, let’s talk about over-reaching photography guidelines that would apply to both traditional and mobile photography:
Working with natural light
Understanding natural light can be tricky, but once you’ve got the hang of it can make the work of difference to your images!
I like to work with one light source, so in front of a large window with soft light coming in and not in direct sunlight. This makes for softer shadows and a more even light. You can also use white bounce boards (just some white card or foam board) to fill light into darker areas of your subject matter if you feel it’s too in some spots. For example, if the most colourful side of your fruit is in the shadows and you want to lift it out a bit.
Right | natural light from right of subject Left | light filled in with white board on left of subject
With the growing popularity ofmobile photography it’s almost become an entirely new art of it’s own. Taking pictures for Instagram, you need to make sure that your subject matter works in the square format, as opposed to a rectangular portrait or landscape frame – you need to consider your framing accordingly.
Make sure that your subject matter has enough breathing room around it and that the crop isn’t too tight. The negative space around your dish can do a lot for your composition! If you do crop your plate, do it with consideration and make sure that the food is still the focus point of the image.
Your angle choice is also important. Some dishes, particularly those with some height, like a burger or a stack of pancakes, photograph best from the side as you can give each ingredient on it to make an appearance, unlike photographing it from the top where you would just see the bun. A salad, breakfast bowl or toastie on the other hand, you might want to photograph from above, as each component making up the dish would be visible.
I often photograph single ingredients as opposed to a whole dish and find that anything with complimenting textures and rich colour to it (like a radish) make for more interesting photographs. Even though it may be really simple! Colour is a very important element in a completed dish too – sometimes a sprinkle of green onto a bland looking dish will take it to the next level.
When it comes to capturing complete dishes I have learnt through much trial and error that over complicating the styling won’t do anything for the image. Keep your portion sizes small and crockery understated, throwing in a statement piece every now and then if the dish allows. It becomes difficult to capture a big bulky bowl and make your food look good at the same time.
I like to draw inspiration from the dish itself and tend to work with ingredients IN the end dish as styling props. For example, if you’re photographing pistachio ice-cream you might want some actual pistachios to make an appearance in the frame, leading the eye towards the star of the show. It just makes for a holistic visual as opposed to a disjointed one.
Adding textures in the form of fabrics and surfaces is a good idea if you feel you need more dimension to your image. It can very easily go wrong though so if you’re adding anything, do so in moderation (the same applies for adding food props!). It might be a good idea to take a photo with and without a prop addition and assess whether or not it’s drawing too much attention from the subject matter. Sometimes you just need to play and try different options to see what works!
I love taking pictures with my DSLR but my iPhone is ALWAYS on hand and it’s so quick to share those images – so here are my top tips for mobile photography:
1. Always make sure your phones camera lens is clean – I often find the pics are clearer if I just give it a quick wipe.
2. Make sure you put your cameras grid feature – it helps you to get a feel for what proportion of your photo your subject matter is taking up. Also, you can see if your image is straight!
3. I wouldn’t recommend using flash for food photography. Rather take a darker photo and brighten it up afterwards.
4. Make sure that (if you have to use a filter) you stick to one. Food photography especially can go horribly wrong with a filter…
5. Don’t over-edit an image. Sometimes the raw picture is good enough!
There are ALOT of photographers out there, even more so now with the rise of awesome photographic social platforms like Instagram. It’s hard to stand out. Photography is something so personal, and obviously there are certain rules to follow to get a good picture but I believe that if you just go with your gut and what you like you will develop a style unique to you. It took me a while to find my ‘voice’ on Instagram and in my food photography, but once you’ve got it you stick to it and remain consistent.
As with anything, if you do what you like and love it’s bound to shine through in your work and captivate SOME of the millions out there. Just play, you’ll get it…