If you see a girl in a restaurant standing on a chair taking a picture of her meal, that is probably me. In no time this will be you too. Getting the perfect food photo is everything and the first rule in this process is having no shame in doing whatever it takes to get the best shot you can.
Step 1: Lighting
Natural lighting is key if you can make it happen. If you are shooting during the day, be sure to get a seat by the window to enhance the shot with natural light. Shooting by natural light also allows the photographer to play with shadows.
If you are dining at night, you will need to create your own light source. Whether using my iPhone or Canon rebel XS camera, I always light my image with an external light. For an external light, I usually just use an iPhone flashlight.
Expert tip: Never take a photo with the flash, as it distorts the color of the image.
Step 2: The Content
In a restaurant, one of the aspects you cannot control is the content of the photo, as that is up to the chef. But if you are like me, you research which dishes are photogenic before ordering. In the end, the dish must be naturally pleasing to look at or else it will not photograph well no matter what you do.
Expert tip: If you order a dish that is colorful or stereotypically #foodporn, it will make your job as a photographer even easier.
Step 3: The Set Up
Don’t be afraid to move around the contents on the table. Removing the silverware and the napkins or placing the plate in a particular way can change the entire finished product. It is the small details that can take the photo to the next level.
Step 4: The Right Angle
After setting up the shot and getting your camera ready, you might need to cause a scene. It may mean standing on your chair or shining a bright flashlight in a dark restaurant to get the shot. Definitely take your time and try out a few angles before you dig in. Each dish will have a flattering angle, you just have to find it – for example, a pizza will most likely look better from above because it is flat, while a taco will look better from the side because it has dimension. Also consider using your hands as props – it may embarrass your friends, but it will be worth it.
Step 5: The Quality
Of course there will be out takes but lets face it, no one wants to view a blurry image on Instagram. Before you take the photo ensure your camera is focused. You can always boost the sharpness when editing, but it is not to be relied on.
Step 6: The Finish
The goal is to minimize the editing you have to do after the photo is taken. If you must enhance your shot, keeping it natural is important. My editing app of preference is Snap Seed. Along with all the standard editing features, Snap Seed allows one to boost the color, brightness, or contrast in one specific area of the photo. I find that darkening the background really makes the foreground pop.
So get on your chair and make me proud! Let’s see what you got.