The Secrets to Great Food Photography

The Secrets to Great Food Photography - GSP

Food photography is both an art and a science that involves a team of experts behind the camera. A good stylist will come prepared with a veritable bag of tricks to help hot foods stay hot and still look fresh after hours under bright lights. The art director will be thinking about your brand and making sure your product is shot to match. And the photographer will know just the right lighting and angle to bring out the texture and appeal. We went behind the scenes with these pros for their secrets to help you get the most out of your professional food photography.

Keep the goal in mind: Understand the end use

Will the images be used in billboards, in-store signs, menus, print or online ads? If they are part of an ad, for example, let the photographer know so he/she can leave “room” in the shot for sales copy. It’s much easier for your design team to have extra background or foreground in the shot then to try to Photoshop it in later. The photographer and team also need to match the style and mood of your retail brand so provide examples to convey your direction.

Don’t be afraid to make your food look aspirational

If you look at images on TV or in print, they are aspirational versions of the product – carefully styled in the most flattering way possible. These images help set consumer expectations about quality. Why not shoot your coffee in a mug, rather than a paper cup, to give the impression that it tastes as good as if a barista poured it at the best coffee house in town? As noted by fast food giant McDonald’s, “The burger at the restaurant is optimized for eating, and the photo of the burger is optimized for looking delicious.”

Make sure your product stays the hero

Hero images help build your brand and tell your story. But, sometimes, your product can get lost in the quest for the perfect scene. If you’re on the shoot with the photography team, try the five-second test. Take a quick look at the images to see where your attention lands. If your eye doesn’t go to your product, the composition is too complicated.

Try selective focus

Selective focus is a great way to separate your product from the environment so it stands out. A tight close-up shot with selective focus helps to draw the viewer’s eye to the element that is most appealing. An added bonus is that the out-of-focus background provides room to add copy and have it remain legible.

Use back lighting to pick up highlights

Back lighting is a beautiful technique that casts spectral highlights over your food. In other words, it gives your food shape and depth so it doesn’t look flat. It uses natural light in the background and an adjusted camera exposure so the food doesn’t look dark or grainy.

Take your cue from social media

With smartphones and Instagram, it seems as if everyone is snapping shots of their dinner plate these days! “The Instagram effect” is also influencing advertising in a big way. As a result, the trend is to move away from overly staged shots. Instagram-look photos use a certain saturated light filter that’s become hugely popular. Brands who want to appeal to millennials may want to consider this photography style. One word of caution: not all of the Instagram-look filters are flattering. Some can make products look yellowed or old, which is not appealing for food.