10 things to avoid with your food photography
Iurii Zakirov
min read
Iurii Zakirov

10 things to avoid with your food photography

This article will help you achieve outstanding results, whether you're shooting for your blog, a cooking tutorial video, editorial work for a magazine, or just because you want to create high quality food imagery.

It might be challenging to produce the kind of high quality, stunning food images you've imagined if you're a photographer or blogger who is just learning about food photography.

Images should be approachable and straightforward enough so viewers can concentrate on the food, but it should also seem luxurious and alluring enough to create emotion and entice your audience.

This is a picture of burgers‍

1. Glaring artificial light

In food photography, as in any other type of photography, light and lighting is the most crucial element. In photography, light has the power to make or break your images. Natural light is preferred by some photographers because it produces the greatest results. Other photographers use artificial lighting because it provides control, with consistant illumination and white balance throughout the photo shoot, saving them time and effort in post-processing.

Additionally, utilizing artificial light and external flashes in food photography allows you greater freedom in terms of time, as you are not confined to set periods in the day where you can use natural light sources. 

If you decide to use artificial lighting, make sure to avoid using a direct flash or overhead tungsten lights. Invest in a reflector or bounce card and a high-quality flash. Never point the flash at the background of food since it will cause the food to lose all of its details and appear flat and uninteresting - you can lose depth!

The ideal method is to bounce light onto the food using a reflector. To determine which works best for each food image, experiment with the angles, camera settings, and light intensity.

2. Only capturing your final product

You'll miss a lot of chances to get great cooking and preparation photos if you only capture the end-product - the food.

Start capturing the process far earlier, when the ingredients are being prepared, rather than after the food has been cooked! Sometimes you can be left with an end product that doesn’t look very appealing. By having content from the preparation process, you have more options, and more time to experient with the presentation of the images. 

If the images appear flat and uninteresting after adding garnishes, you might try photographing the cooking process. Sometimes the process is more attractive than the end result.

3. Using expired ingredients

Food photography techniques are all about capturing the food's aesthetic. As a photographer, you have to ensure that each item is presented in pristine shape. Don't try to work out an angle that could disguise the imperfections (they usually don't work very well). Wilted lettuce in the salad or a smashed tomato can destroy the photo.

To avoid unnecessary labour, only utilise foods and ingredients that are as fresh as possible.

this is a picture of two cocktails

4. Only using one angle when capturing food photography

There is never only one angle that works for every item. Different dishes are best viewed from different perspectives.

A taco or burger, for instance, might look better from the side whereas cheese and fruit trays might look best from above. However, there is never only one angle that is effective for each dish. Always experiment with your angles, and explore the best way to present the items, from all sides. 

For each dish, consider all possible angles, and don't be afraid to experiment and get creative!

this is a picture of a cocktail

5. Not experimenting with the lighting

Never only use one light setup! Investigate the effects of front lighting, back lighting, and side lighting on your professional food photography.

Lighting the product from the front is the simplest and safest option as you limit shadows on the product. The outcomes are adequate and lack any distinctive qualities, and might appear “flat”.

When you want to think more creatively, and display textures and contrast of the cuisine, making the details stand out, side lighting is typically used. This is often used in combination with reflectors, in order to fill out the shadows created by the light source. 

Even though it can be challenging, backlighting is well worth the effort. It provides a clear, light background that aids in shifting attention to the meal and shows its exquisite nuances. The art of backlighting requires a lot of experience (wrong exposure and automatic settings can cause dark shadows on your food, so always use manual settings).

this is a picture of a cake

6. Leaving food out too long before shooting it

When certain items are prepared, you have to act rapidly and capture the items quickly.

Salads with leafy greens, for instance, will look wilted only minutes after their preparation, and meat may start to look a little dry. Make careful to complete your setup before the meal arrives so you can act quickly when it arrives. 

When setting up, you can use empty plates or bowls and stand in items to experiment with lighting setups; once the food is ready, replace them.

7. Not utilizing empty space

When photographing food, many professional photographers follow these 2 guidelines:

  • Adjusting the frame to display the entire serving;
  • Capturing the dish in close-ups to reveal all its delicious details;

However, photographers can often overlook the one additional technique they should employ to create a balanced image, which is utilizing empty space.

Be ready to accommodate this; leaving blank space in a photo provides a more balanced image, and often will be helpful to your clients if they need to add a logo or wording for promotions.

8. Excessively increasing the saturation

Food photographers may fall into the trap of increasing the saturation too much in an attempt to make the food look more appetising with bright, vivid colours. The result - hit and miss editing that looks unrealistic.

Yes, food generally appears more delicious when the colours stand out, but you should be careful not to oversaturate your images as this will simply make them appear artificial. Try to mimic natural, real life colours as closely as you can.

this is a picture of a burger with fries

9. Placing too much food on the plate

Although it may be tempting, overfilling the plate won't always appear appetising on camera. Too much food on the plate will simply make it more difficult for the audience to maintain attention to the crucial details.

Put enough space on the plate so that the viewer can appreciate the dish and its ingredients. High quality food photography is all about simplicity. Less is more!

10. Missing out on the styling and props

Props and styling often works wonders on a photo shoot, just like a little makeup does. Although food photography might appear simple, achieving high quality food imagery is hard. Styling can often help you bridge that gap as a professional photographer.

The ideal approach is to make everything straightforward and orderly, especially the props. However, the food should be the main subject of the image, and any props used should always be in moderation. Use muted hues or strategic focus for your backgrounds and props, and let the food take centre stage.

These tips for bloggers and new food photographers are intended to help you avoid common blunders and advance your culinary food photography skills!

If you are a photographer yourself, visit Flashy's website and apply to become a part of our project and start receiving shoot bookings!

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