Dos and Don’ts of Food Photography

People eat with their eyes first, and therefore a negative visual experience can impact someone’s experience of food before they even taste it.

Professional food photography has the power to give diners an incredible dining experience, one they will want to come back to enjoy again and again.

If you’re someone who constantly captures photos of food and want to improve your food photography skills, there are a few do’s and don’ts that you should never forget. We’ll take a look.

The backs of food photography

1. Use natural lighting

Lighting is the game-changing factor behind amazing food photography. Poor lighting for your photo shoot will only make your photos look bad and unprofessional.

Use natural lighting as much as possible, whether it’s sunlight or cafe lighting. Natural lighting will add extra color to the food you’re photographing without all of the harsh shadows that come with using artificial lights.

Related: How to clean and prevent fungus on your camera lens

If you are shooting outdoors, always choose a location with sufficient shade. Direct sunlight will also create unwanted shadows and spots in your photos.

2. Use multi-level shots

close up photograph of smoked salmon and sprouts on toast

As you capture your subject at different levels, you’ll have more options to choose from. This is essential if you are doing a photoshoot for a restaurant menu, they will want to have a variety of photos to look at before deciding which one they like best.


There are three main levels in the world of photography: master, medium and close-up. The main photo will capture the food served as well as the brand and history of the restaurant. This plan will also include different objects such as dishes or a menu, etc.

The medium shot is a bit closer than the main shot. It will be mostly food-centric with small details that include branding, like a plate or the menu.

Finally, the close-up focuses entirely on the food. This shot must be as authentic as possible. Don’t waste time putting the food down, instead let it speak for itself, like cheese bubbling on a hot pizza or butter melting on a stack of pancakes.

3. Use software to edit

Editing is an integral part of photography, but be careful not to overdo it. Simply edit your photos to improve them and make them look more professional.

Use decent photo editing software to bring out the natural color of food smoothly, and your photos will look mouth-watering. Enhance your photos using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to take your food photography to the next level.

4. Use different angles

photograph of chicken burger and fries on wooden tray

Don’t be afraid to be creative and explore a range of different angles. The particular food or dish you are photographing will determine which angle is best. You need to experiment with different perspectives to get the best shot possible.

For example, if you want to capture a large cheese platter, it’s best to shoot from above. When it comes to something like a burger or a sandwich, it’s best to take the shot from the side.

The prohibitions of food photography

1. Don’t overcrowd the shots

There is usually a selection of different extras and accessories in food photography, such as cutlery or a cutting board. However, the trick is not to get distracted by these accessories.

Consider if the extra element fits into the scene you want to create, and if so, add it. But if it doesn’t make sense, it might destroy the whole picture. Don’t distract the viewer from what you are trying to show them.

For example, if you want to showcase fresh fried fish alongside hand-cut fries, forget about silly extras like wine glasses or napkin rings. This will only add unnecessary clutter.

2. Don’t use your camera’s flash

person holding and aiming canon camera

Nothing can beat natural lighting when it comes to great food photography. However, one of the most common mistakes photographers make is using flash to take pictures of food.

If you choose to use your camera’s flash, especially in a dimly lit area, your photos will be both overexposed and underexposed.

This is an important note to always keep in mind; do not use flash! Never use it unless you are taking your photos inside a studio. If not, stay away from the flash, as it will only produce lousy photos with strong lighting.

3. Do not work with expired food

Only photograph freshly prepared food. Do you know anyone who looks at a picture of a salad with mushy tomatoes and wilted salad leaves and still wants to eat it? Probably not.

When taking pictures of food, every ingredient should be in perfect condition. Otherwise, you’ll end up giving yourself extra work when you have to come back and do the shoot again.

Schedule a time when you can meet the chef or cook, then decide which menu items you will photograph. Once the preparation is complete, the photo shoot can take place immediately.

Don’t let food sit too long. If you make this mistake, a piece of steak will end up looking dry, or a cheese pizza will look stale and unappetizing.

4. Don’t forget the narrative

Shot from above of Thai food alongside chopsticks and rice

Your photos need to tell a story if you want them to have a lasting impact on someone. You want the images you take to add depth, so go above and beyond and let your creativity run wild.

Related: Emotional Photography: Tips to Better Capture Your Subjects’ Emotions

Whether you’re trying to tell a simple or complex story, the photographs you take should evoke emotions in the audience.

For example, if you’re filming a family recipe for traditional Thai Tom Yum soup, keep it authentic. Present it in a real Thai dish or bowl and add a soup ladle, a wedge of lime and some chopsticks.

Your food photography can be delicious and engaging every time

You have visualized how you want your photos to look like, but it is difficult to take photos of always beautiful and delicious food.

It’s hard to find the right angles or lighting, and sometimes your photos can end up looking terrible and off-putting. You are supposed to encourage viewers to eat the food you capture, without losing their appetite.

Food photography is complex and not as simple as one might think. Take care to remember these do’s and don’ts, and you will get the results you were aiming for.

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