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Food photography

How to take the perfect food photography

You have nailed your cooking technique (thanks to your Instant Pot or Vortex Air Fryer) and your meals are deliciously fool proof… you are an #InstantChefAtHome!

It’s time to take your culinary skills to the next level and enrol in Instant Chef Photo School’ so you can photograph your home cooking creations beautifully, for the chance to become one of our featured chefs, or even win our Instant Pot Technical Challenge!

Take a read of these photography tips to master that finished recipe snap –

  1. Lighting, lighting, lighting!

Artificial light is the enemy here, and natural daylight is your best friend!  Avoid shooting in bright sun as this can cause shadows and exposure issues… so use the softer natural light through a window instead.

  1. Control the shadows

With light comes shadows…so make sure you control this. By avoiding bright sun, you should then ultimately eliminate any dark shadows too, win win! Instead, softer shadows, which will occur when taking photos in softer light, which is much more flattering, and creates subtle depth without taking over the finished dish.

If you cannot avoid bright sunlight, try using a piece of white paper to act as a reflector to help remove any harsh shadows. Simple position the reflector facing the sun, on the side where there are shadows, and the sunlight will hit the reflector and bounce back onto the subject, brightening up the shadows.

  1. Find the best angle

Depending on the dish, will depend on the angle. Generally, there are 3 options – from above, from one side, or at a diagonal.

Shooting from above is often the best choice, particularly when the food is arranged on a plate or bowl. This angle allows you to emphasize the shape of the plate or dish as well as capture all the details of the food and background, as well as incorporate additional objects in the shot such as cutlery and raw ingredients.

If your recipe has interesting layers such as a cake or is being photographed in a glass then you are probably better shooting from one side, see the next point about a background for this photo angle.

To capture the 3D shape of your finished dish, then a diagonal angle is the best option – this will allow you to capture both the side view and the top view.

If you are not sure which is best, then give all 3 a go and you can pick which is best.

  1. Neutral backgrounds

The best backgrounds for food photography are light, dark, and wooden. Generally, darker dishes look better with a dark background and lighter dishes with a light background, and positioning food on a wooden surface such as a table or chopping board can work for pretty much any food. Wooden backgrounds are also a great backdrop if shooting near a window too.

If you want to use a neutral-coloured tablecloth or tea towel to act as background, then stick to the dark with dark/light with light as mentioned above and try to avoid any busy patterns. If your feeling experimental then have a go with a brighter colour background too – depending on the colour of the food this could be a great contrast!

If you are taking your food picture from one side, then look for a neutral wall to act as a backdrop.

  1. Arrange your food neatly

This will potentially have the biggest impact on your final image, so be sure your arrangement is thought out and each element is positioned neatly… the most appetizing of dishes are never a messy plate of food!

Arrange your food in an interesting and unique way on the plate, ensuring clean lines and no spillage/drips of any sauce. If presenting more than one of the same items, such as vegetables in a baking tray, or bitesize snacks, consider creating patterns, and ensuring everything is the same size.

  1. Ingredient colours

Photographing your own food is a great opportunity to play around with colours, both in ingredients and backgrounds, so you can evoke feelings and taste. Warmer tones such as dark greens and oranges create the feeling of comfort food, whereas Bright, vivid colours create a sense of cheerfulness, fresher and sweeter looking dishes.

  1. Don’t overcrowd the shot

Always leave space around the edge of your plate/dish so it doesn’t fill the whole frame. Close up shots are great for detail, but generally empty space puts more emphasis on the finished dish.

Don’t automatically assume the picture would look better with the finished dish in the centre of the frame, play around with the positioning and maybe try it to one side. Take multiple pictures and pick the best one.

  1. Style the scene

Sometimes, the finish dish is a statement enough to not need any additional ‘styling,’ however it can be nice to add a scene to your background. As mentioned in point 3, you can always include additional objects/ingredients in the shot, but make sure these are relevant to the recipe and not out of place. A few ideas for scene styling you could try:

– Decorate with colourful spices by filling a spoon and place it somewhere in the frame.

– Add some of the raw ingredients such as nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables to help visualise the recipe.

– Use some kitchenware to compliment the shot such as cutlery, another utensil or a nicely folded napkin.

– Create more of a story to the recipe by adding a recipe book, or the kitchen appliance used, or even a complimentary drink to your finished dish.

  1. Give it some personality

Including a hand using cutlery within your frame, whether that’s holding a drink, or using chopsticks with noodles can help give your finished photo more personality – try a few shots with this and a few without and see what works best.

  1. Enhance and edit

Once you’ve created a delicious dish, and styled your frame perfectly, it’s now time to enhance and edit to make it perfect. Use a photo editing apps or software to play around with the contrast, highlights, shadows, saturation of your photo, or add some filters of your imagery. Think about the mood you want to convey in the image…  Filters that make the colours more vivid will add vibrancy and excitement, whereas more muted filters create a softer, more subdued picture. Filters that add fade and make the colours more muted tend to create a more subdued mood, making the overall picture “softer.”

As with anything practise makes perfect, so try out these tips with your next home cooking creation and you will soon be on your way to creating those “insta-worthy” food pics!

Want to put these new skills to the test…. Take part on our Instant Pot Technical Challenge for the chance to win £150 Amazon Voucher and a new Vortex Mini for every runner up. Click here for more details on how to enter.

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