15 Tips for a Great Staging Food Photography

Food photography has had its place at the table for a very long time. It has become more technical and creative over time as well, which makes it one of the more appealing styles to shoot in. If you are looking into what it takes to make it in the world of food photography, then keep on reading. We pulled together the most important tips and details from the pros so you will know exactly what it is you are getting into and how to be successful doing it.

What Is Food Photography?

This may sound like a simple question, but there is more to food photography than what you see in the Instagram shots you see while you scroll. In the professional world, there are some key elements that well-done food photography needs. One element is an emotional response.

You are going for more than likes if you are diving into the world of food photography. You need to be able to understand what type of emotional response each shot brings out in a viewer. There is a distinction between shooting to show off your food and shooting to show through food. With the latter, you aim to show an emotion or a theme through the food you shoot. Think about what you want the viewer to feel when they see your shots.

Getting Started in Food Photography

photo of a clubhouse sandwhich served on a chopping board

image via Pexels

If you are just getting into food photography, here are some tips the pros have for getting off on the right foot, along with some advice. If you want to shoot food, start by shooting the food in front of you, meaning that one of the most helpful ways to understand what this style of photography needs is to start shooting it where you see it (at dinner, at the diner you eat lunch at, at the store, etc.).

Know What Response You Want

Equipment

Have an Understanding of Food

Food Photography Can Include People

15 Awesome Staging Tips for Food Photography

Now that you know what you are getting into, we are going to get right down to how to make the most of a setup and of each shot.

Play With Different Heights

This does not just mean the distance from the camera to the subject but also means adding different heights to the actual shot. Play with different sizes of cake stands or a tall vase, or even mere textured napkins or tablecloths can add a little bit of height and depth.

Use Negative Space

image of a slice of cake on a plate

image via Pexels

You do not need to fill the entire frame with your subject. Doing this can actually make the viewer feel enclosed and claustrophobic. Instead, leave a corner, a side, or a section of the shot empty. That does not mean you cannot add color or texture there - you just need a space for the viewer to breathe.

Use Your Subject's Strength

Think about what it is that this food makes you feel - fresh, cozy, or awake - and highlight that. Use textures or props that bring that aspect out in the subject. For example, if you are shooting fresh strawberries, try adding water droplets and a natural prop like a wooden bowl.

Decide the Angle Beforehand

photographer taking a photo of food on a table

Image by Picography from Pixabay

If you already know from where you are going to shoot, staging your subject becomes incredibly easier. Not only do you not have to fidget with props and constantly try new angles, but it also means you can stage it perfectly for what you have in mind; there is no guesswork.

Texture, Texture, Texture

Aim for 3 layers of texture to give the shot the depth it needs to be taken to the next level. Think about adding tablecloths, napkins, herbs, or flowers to a shot to elevate it without complicating the layout.

Stage the Shot Beforehand

A person is holding a phone while taking a photo of a food from the table

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Similar to deciding the angle, if you know exactly how you want the food set up then you can do it much faster and avoid losing the freshness of it. Otherwise, food will sit out while you fiddle with setup and lose the fresh glisten or the hot steam that really makes the shot.

White Sheet in the Window

Just like it sounds, adding a white sheet over the closest window can filter out uneven tones and give a fresh, polished lighting for the final shot. This is a great option if you have not bought the lighting equipment you want yet.

Where Is Your Lighting Coming From?

You never want your lighting to be coming from the same angle from which you are shooting. This will distort and disrupt the detail your camera will capture and may even make the subject hard to discern.

Added Light 

photography studio with lighting

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Use side- or back-light to add even more depth and dimension to each shot. Doing this can also add more texture and draw out subtle pieces of each shot that give the image a bit of a unique punch.

Utilize Golden Hour

If you are looking for natural light to shoot with, the early morning hours have a great tone and provide enough light and even some mood without needing to set up light stands.

Avoid Using the Front Flash

You should avoid using the front flash, especially if it is attached to your camera. A good rule of thumb is to avoid the built-in flash entirely. It will wash out your subject's details and depth and leave it looking flat and washed out.

Use a Box

shot of pancake with dripping syrup and chocolate top

Photo by Sheena Wood from Pexels

Shooting inside a box can create moody shots that highlight color and texture more richly. Plus, if you have limited lighting, this is a good alternative to bright white photos.

Mind Your Reflections

You can mind your reflections in three ways. The first is to minimize your camera's reflection or shadow on liquid subjects by sticking it in a box and cutting a hole for your lens. Investing in some anti-glare spray for silverware is also a good idea and will help manage glare and reflections. Finally, a polarizing filter will also help manage glare.

Make Sure Props Do Not Compete with Your Food

close up photo of a burger

The food is the subject, so make sure you are managing your props well and that they add to the food instead of shift the focus away from the food. Even if you have invested in a signature prop, be sure it only adds something to the image like texture or color.

Stimulate as Many Senses as Possible

This may sound weird to say because this needs to come from a photo, but engaging the viewer in the entirety of the image requires that stimulation. You want them to want to make it, to be amazed by it, to eat it, and to get an idea of what it tastes like. While props can help with this, it is really aspects like steam, water, texture, and moisture that can aid in stimulation.

Conclusion

One of the greatest things about photography (food photography included) is that you can alter or edit whatever "rules" there are in place. So while you play around with these tips, throw some of your own creativity at them and see what kind of artistic elements you can bring to life while shooting - and as a last piece of advice, do not shoot on an empty stomach. It does not end well.

Featured Image: Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

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