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Unless you’ve been living low-tech for the past decade, you’ve probably taken a photo of your favourite dish and shared it with your loved ones. For foodies like us, scrolling through our social feeds with vibrant, yummy dishes can often be a pleasant and inspiring treat. Delicious food photos entice by activating one of our most elemental senses: taste. Like a scenery photo can make you ‘feel’ the captured weather, a yummy dish photo can make you salivate as if the flavours had ‘conjured’ in your mouth.
While food photography is a professional art for restaurants and diners, it’s actually quite simple to snap an alluring photo of your dish, even at home. In fact, you don’t need an expensive camera, most smartphones these days can give you pretty good results.
Want the perfect photo that fully captures the tastiness of your home-cooked dish? Here are simple tips:
Plating & Styling
You’ll fix your hair and dress up for a nice photo-shoot, the same applies to your dish. Choose a plate or bowl that aesthetically fits your dish, and arrange the delicious ingredients to truly show their colours, textures and flavours. Check out our guide for more detailed food styling tips: great to impress and delight your guests, as well as photography.
Time, Light & Setting
No need for fancy lamps, natural daylight is best! However, harsh sunlight, such as during noon-hours, can mute your colours and cast too-strong shadows; while a weak light source makes your dish look dull.
The most beautiful sunlight every day is early in the morning and a couple of hours before sunset in the evening – generally known as the ‘Magic Hours’ in photography. On a sun-filled day, the natural light during these times are bright to accentuate the colours of your dish, but also gentle to give a wholesome, inviting ambience. So, find a window-spot in your home that gives you an ample stream of sunlight, and set up a table for your dish’s photo op. How to know if it’s bright enough? Your eyes are the best camera. Snap a few test pics to check if the dish’s colours match up to what you see on the table, and adjust accordingly. Extra pro-tip: never use the flash, it gives the same effect as harsh sunlight in a rude blast.
Also, consider the surface for your dish to sit on. Salads, stir-fries and one-bowls packed with colours look best on a plain table-top. If your dish is tasty but monotone, a simple table-cloth in contrasting colour can accentuate it. Minimal patterns are great for simple-coloured dishes, too. Light-coloured dishes can pop with a dark-tone table, and vice-versa. A wooden table gives a rustic, traditional ambience. Think about how you want your dish to ‘feel’, and arrange to match your vision.
Props & Composition
Chopsticks, spoons or forks with your dish signals that it’s ready to eat! Fresh ingredients that make up your dish present a natural touch. Condiments and accompanying drinks show how a full meal with your dish may look, and the authentic way to savour it. All these props can add colour and make your dish more enticing. But remember to always keep the composition clean and minimal, and let your dish be the first thing that catches your eye in the photo.
Similarly, always place your dish at the centre of attention in your photo. But that doesn’t always mean smack-in-the-middle. For side-shots, your dish centred at the bottom quarter area of your pic makes for a pleasing look that instantly ‘settles’ the viewer’s sight.
Angle & Focus
It’s all about the height, distance and vantage point from where you snap.
Top-shots, as in snapping from the top of your dish, can showcase the fullness and variety of your ingredients – great for plated dishes.
Side-shots, or snapping from the side of your table, shows the ‘depth’ of your dish – better for soups and bowled dishes.
Also, consider the focus of your dish. For example, a close-up side shot of cut grilled pork shows the succulent texture. An overview side-shot of a curry presents its zesty colours and tasty ingredients. A top-shot of the exact same dishes will give you entirely different feels but may showcase all their vibrant colours in full.
Get creative with depth of field as well. This refers to the sense of visible distance between objects in a photo. The closer the object, the more details you can see of it. For food photos: enhance the main focus of your dish in clear visible detail, with a blurred backdrop. This gives your dish a sense of intimacy like you’re just about to reach into the photo for a taste.
The ‘perfect’ photo
In short, your food photo should present your dish’s colours, textures and flavours in full; placed in a bright-lit setting that invites the viewer to savour. Some dishes are made to excite in a vibrant, lively setting. Sumptuous delights become even more alluring with an elegant, minimalist setting. Other dishes might be comforting, and fit better in a simple homely table scene.
So, visualize the feel you wish to give your dish, then prep the setting, and get creative!
Got your perfect photo for your Asian-inspired dish? Come join Cook Snap Win 2021!