Learn basic good food photography techniques

Food photography is arguably one of the most challenging types of photography out there. Like painting, you start with a blank canvas and build. Layer upon layer, you build up the photo until you achieve the ideal balance of reality and form. This article focuses on basic food photography with natural light and basic ‘everyday’ setting.

Tips to take note of :

Less is more

Avoid going for the “helicopter” effect by cramping all the dishes on the table into one frame. That’s close to committing culinary suicide. The key is emphasize. When the picture gets cluttered, the viewer’s vision get flustered. So remember, isolate and emphasize. Go close and cut out unnecessary details .

Camera lens range

While a DSLR is excellent for pic quality, a compact camera with a close focusing mode – macro or the “flower” symbol on the mode dial can do wonders too. Go close and crop as there’s no need to show the entire plate or bowl. The human brain are more stimulated when it sees part of a dish. Once you show all, there’s less of a ‘mystery’. For DSLR, a great lens range are between 50mm – 80mm, with fast aperture (F1.2-2.8) to impart bokeh would be ideal.


Natural light by the window is always good. Watch out for shadow that helps in imparting depth to the food or highlight that accentuates the steam from piping hot food. This adds a feel of drama and realism. In artificial light like warm lights in a dimly lit diner, remember to switch the Auto White Balance to “tungsten”. Otherwise your dish will appear very much less appealing as it’s loses colour contrast, gets all flat and warm yellow. However, in really total romantic setting, with just a candle light and nothing else, you might as well forget about taking pictures, just enjoy the food, company and moment. There’s always the next meal.


Remember the Rule of Thirds. Place the main focus 1/3 left or right of frame (or top/bottom) depending on the layout, avoid dead center as it frequently makes pics somewhat less appealing. And of course, watch out for the background. If possible, remove distracting backdrops or matching colours that reduce eats up contrast (as in white bowl with white background, etc) .

Shutter speed and aperture

As the tight shots involve close up, a shaky hand and low shutter speed will accentuate camera shake making pictures soft and blurred when viewed up close. Ramp up that ISO. Use as large as possible aperture to impart background blur so that the main subject “pops” out. On a side note, some photo editing software have a “tilt/shift”, “center focus” or vignetting filters. Use it sparingly so that the effect does not overpower your main subject. Flash light, while I don’t personally recommend, should be used only sparingly as direct flash angle will flatten the picture texture.

And most important of all, is to enjoy your food and love what you are doing. That’s the basic of good photography. Bon Appetit and have a delicious food photography adventure.

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  1. Jensen says:

    Thanks Lynwood, please feel free to comment. Stay safe 🙂

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