In collaboration with our friends from Farmdrop.
Hate it when bad lighting lets down a beautifully poached egg? Throw a tantrum when you can’t find that bowl to set-off your homemade soup? Sounds like you’re ready to take your food photography and styling to the next level. Designer and food stylist Georgie Nash shares her tips and tricks to help you get the most from the camera on your phone and snap some awe-inspiring food images for Instagram.
Shoot in natural daylight
Natural light is something that is freely available to all of us. You don’t need expensive photography lighting for people to comment ‘Can I like this twice?’.
Take advantage of the great British weather and its unpredictability. A bright, sunny day will lend a clean, crisp atmosphere to your food photography. Or shoot on a dreary, rainy day for more of a moody shot that casts dramatic shadows. There may be lights on when shooting indoors but there’s no need to shine a spotlight on your food or use your built-in flash.
You wouldn’t take your avocado or sourdough to bed with you…or would you? The best natural lighting may be in your bedroom, so utilise the space you have.
Keep your food photography real
If you’re cooking with great quality seasonal ingredients, the food should speak for itself. Many commercial brands use techniques and materials that are unnatural, to the point where the dish is inedible after photography.
At a time when waste from households makes up 71% of the UK’s total food waste, no matter how many likes you have on ‘that’ shot, make sure you can eat it afterwards.
By all means, there’s nothing wrong with a little edible enhancement. If your meat is looking a bit dry, glaze it with extra dressing, a brush of oil, or cooking juices or add a mist of water to a limp looking salad. Food can start to wilt or congeal quickly when left out during a shoot, so make sure to take your photo as soon as possible once cooked or assembled.
Play with angles and perspectives
Overhead shots may work for some dishes and side profile shots may work for others. Try taking shots from multiple angles to see which one works best. Just think how many selfies you would have to take to get the perfect shot (if that’s your thing), it might just be the same for your food.
Think about the height of the food to work out which shot works best. For example, a slice of pizza is relatively flat, so an overhead shot would work well. However, when shooting a burger, a side profile would help you capture those gorgeous, juicy layers of bun and patty.
Don’t feel obliged to centre your dish right in the middle of your frame. Cutting off the edge of a plate in the frame could make for a much more interesting shot (also great if you’ve burnt that section of pie). Try placing cutlery in various places in and around the dish – you could wrap your spaghetti around a fork or use your cake slice in situ for a more natural composition.
If you find your shot needs some extra bite, add fresh ingredients from the dish, i.e. scattered herbs, or half a squeezed lemon- this will help add some colour to the story of your dish.
Collect props and backdrops
Props should always complement a dish, not distract from it. In this case, less is more. We know how much you love your new earthenware plates, copper cutlery, linen tablecloth, recycled wine glasses and olive wood board… But you don’t have to put them all into one shot; the food is the showstopper.
If you have a limited number of props, start with natural colours. Over time you can build up some more interesting pieces. Charity shops, eBay, Etsy, vintage and flea markets are a great place to start. Try mixing vintage cutlery with modern tableware or use old fabrics as backdrops. You’ll be amazed at how much you can find – we always find ourselves scouting out pieces of old wood to use as backdrops. Another great tip is to use tile samples for backdrops. A whole sheet of marble would cost a fortune but a couple of large tiles could come to less than £30. Mix it up a bit and try using different settings for different dishes to keep your viewers interested and engaged.
Great food photography needs an edit
There are hundreds of photo editing tools out there making it hard to know where to start. Editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are excellent tools but can be pricey. You could download a 30 day trial which is completely free and gives you time to get a feel for the software.
There are some great free apps with all the basic tools you need for photo editing. Our favourites are VSCO and Foodie. These apps allow you to make some simple edits that can completely transform your photo. Try cropping your shot to improve the composition. Exposure gives light and contrast gives depth – increasing these on shots that are looking a bit dull or flat can bring them to life. Just as per your props, don’t overdo it. Curly kale without curls would just look weird as would an airbrushed steak. Remember, a relatable shot always works best. If you can get the viewer to think “hmm, I could do that” or “I want to eat that” then you’re onto a winner.
Sell the story
When you (ah, finally) come to posting your shot, think about how you talk about it. Let the viewer know your inspiration for the recipe, or where the food has come from and how delicious it tasted. Importantly, keep hashtags relevant to your posts. We think it’s best to be as specific as possible so people in the foodie community can find your images. Find like-minded accounts and build a relationship by liking and commenting on their photos.
And don’t forget to take some step-by-step shots as you cook. Instagram lets users publish multiple pictures per post, so including a few methods from the recipe adds to the story of the dish (because a picture paints a thousand words and Instagram has a character limit!)
This article originally appeared on Farmdrop on the 2nd of May 2017.