When shooting food, I recommend using prime lenses. They offer a very good image quality and the aperture can be opened wide for a nice bokeh, if required. A tripod for your camera is useful as well, you can select the focus point more accurate (manual mode) and test different lighting setups and food constellations without changing the perspective every time.
2. Lighting Setup
There are several approaches on how you can use light in your picture. Of course you can work with available daylight. Direct sun produces harsh shadows you do not want to have in your picture. However, sunlight shining through a white curtain can be quite soft, as well as daylight on a cloudy day. When shooting food I usually prefer external flashes, together with a softbox or umbrella. But good results can be achieved both ways.
The more interesting question is the direction of the light. Here you should always try out different angles to find the most pleasant look. In most cases this will be somewhere between the side and behind your object. Avoid direct frontal light (like your camera flash), this will ruin most pictures. Usually one main light is already sufficient to obtain a pretty good picture look. I recommend to also use a reflector (white paperboard, styrofoam, …) opposite to your main light source to lift up the shadows a little bit.
3. Choice of Food, Background and Decorations
For food photography, I only use natural food without any artificial tools (some photographers use e.g. hairspray to make the food look better). I prefer that I can still eat the food once the shooting is done.
A suitable background is also important. It should fit to the kind of food you want to shoot. Natural materials are always a good choice, e.g. wood, jute or slate. Classic white or black backgrounds can also look good.
Beside your main object you should also bring in some matching decorating elements in the picture to avoid too much empty space and to somewhat loosen up the whole scenario. This could be e.g. silverware, glasses, herbs or spices, some piece of cloth and whatever else you like. But be careful not to overload your picture – less is sometimes more! When composing your picture always check the effect in the viewfinder of your camera. Try out different angles of view as well. Small changes sometimes have a huge effect on the overall appearance.
Freezing movement in food photography is not as easy as shooting still life, but can be a lot of fun. Here you should have at least one external speedlight. Adjust the exposure values in your camera so that no surrounding light is visible in the picture, then add the speedlight. The short flash duration will freeze the movement.
Then you need to have both good coordination skills and a little bit of luck. Let your object e.g. fall into some liquid and press the remote trigger of your camera. You will have to experiment a little bit to find out the right moment.
Get inspired by – but don’t copy from! – other photographers, magazines, cooking books, commercial, etc. You can find nice food pictures almost everywhere.
Make notes once you think about a new theme. So you will never run out of ideas for your next shooting.
I’m a 28-year old German self-taught photographer, currently living in Austria. I came in touch with digital photography in 2008 the first time and since then kept on developing my knowledge, gear and techniques. In December 2015, I made this hobby to my side job and am now working as a commercial photographer. My focus areas are shoots of people, food and nature, but honestly I simply like to take good pictures that make me and my family, friends or clients happy.