Capturing the Yum Factor: Food Photography Tips

13 March 2019 By Aileen Mack

With cameras becoming more compact and attached to practically every smartphone, building your chef portfolio has never been easier. Snapping a photo of your latest dish can take seconds, but you want it to look as delicious as it tastes. Granted, a picture may never do it justice, but you can improve your Instagram game with some of these tips.

Avoid using flash. “Natural light is always best, especially when using your phone to take photos of food,” says Kate Oakley, former yacht chef and owner of Adorned Photography. Balanced, diffused light from a window is best, and avoid harsh light or weird overhead lights in the galley.

Depending on the style of the photo, you can add in props or other things in the background. You can keep the picture simple by just having your dish be the sole subject in it, or add napkins, silverware, or a glass of wine in the background to create more depth, Oakley says. National Geographic photographer Becky Hale noted in her article that less is more, and sometimes a hint of silverware or the edge of a glass can be enough. You don’t want to distract from what you’re trying to show.

Experiment when taking your photo. Try different angles. Hale noted that taking close-up photos on a smartphone can be difficult without getting distortion, especially photographing bowls and glasses. She suggests shooting straight overhead as a solution to help the photo look more true to life.

Take lots of photos and get some work-in-progress shots. You never know what looks best until you try, Oakley says, and always shoot wide so you have enough room for the square format on Instagram. Give the rule of thirds a try because it makes a difference when it comes to composition. For rule of thirds, imagine the scene in thirds horizontally and vertically (or a giant tic-tac-toe) and put your subject where the lines cross. Also, choose wisely when deciding on your focus point; it’s where your viewers’ eye will go first. When taking your photos, “try and capture the ‘yum’ factor,” Oakley says. “Think about what makes your subject really delicious and then aim to highlight this characteristic in your shot.”

Download an editing app to finetune your image. Oakley’s favorite is Snapseed, and other options include Afterlight and VSCO. You can brighten, increase contrast, adjust highlights, and boost vibrancy, but be sure not to go overboard with it, she says. Same goes for shooting in portrait mode and blurring the background behind your subject.

As with everything, practicing will only improve your skills — just be thankful you don’t have to waste a whole roll of film to get that one great photo. So go on, fill your camera roll with photos of your delicious food, and give it your best shot.