food and drink photography

[Guest Post] Hi, I’m Tom Waller, founder of Food Envy and a specialist in food and drink photography. Food Envy Photography is a dedicated food and drink photography studio working with clients across the food industry spectrum, from the small independent/artisan manufacturers and restaurants, to large food and wine distributors and celebrated chefs.

Here are my 3 top tips to help you improve your food and drink photography when using a phone. 

It is fair to say that for many in the food world (including start-ups and established businesses) food and drink photography is not always at the top of the list when it comes to allocating marketing budget for the year ahead. Whilst this is understandable, as budgets are constantly under pressure and competing against other areas of the business expenditure for priority, a consistent approach and high standards of photography are essential.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean throwing hard-earned cash at the problem, instead, it is making sure you invest the time, effort and thought into the visuals you use to promote and communicate the quality, provenance and downright deliciousness of your food or drink!

The rise of the internet and social media means that we are becoming even more visual as a society, so what you choose to share will have a dramatic impact on how you are perceived.

“Your food is your brand, your website is your shop window and the food photography you choose to upload provides a customer with their first impression.”

And as we all know, you only get one chance to make that first impression, so it’s essential to make sure it a good one.

Here are just a few stats to highlight the importance of good food and drink photography:

food photography

We all have a phone in our pockets nowadays that enable us to take good quality photos wherever we are. This technology is amazing, but it can also be a double-edged sword, as it means there is an awful lot of bad photography out there by people who think that all they have to do is point and click to produce amazing images. But the technology is only one factor to consider… and in my opinion, for the aspiring food photographer, it is not even the most important.

“The question to ask is how to separate yourself from the crowd and mobile photography by itself will NOT cut through the vast amount of image noise that is out there.”

The best advice I can offer about how to take advantage of the powerful technology in your pocket is to dedicate more time and thought to what your brand is trying to communicate. You can then use the following tips to vastly improve the outcome of the image:

1. Think about your lighting

Even with pro photography gear, my first thought on any shoot is lighting, because if you get this wrong, no amount of money spent on a camera will save your shot. This is true in any form of photography but perhaps even more so in food photography… but as luck would have it, the best lighting (in my humble opinion) is daylight. Not only is it the best, it is also FREE!

However, not all daylight is equal – many people assume if it is a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky, then I should place my subject directly in this light. This is a bad idea as it tends to be too harsh, creating dark distracting shadows and colours that are too bright and wash away much of the texture and detail. What you are looking for is indirect daylight, or in English, some shade! It gives your food wonderful bright light with an even coverage that makes the food look at its delicious best. Check out the set up from a recent restaurant photo shoot where I turned off all internal electric lighting and just used window light that was shaded by another building outside

food photography

2. Composition is key

To put it simply, composition is the term used to describe the arrangement of stuff in your photograph. A well-composed photograph will direct your eye to look at a specific place, this should not be an accident and requires a lot of prior thought e.g. the hero ingredient, your brand/logo or person using a variety of techniques.

The rule of thirds is shown in the images below and is a classic photography technique of putting the main point of interest on the intersection of horizontal and vertical lines. The egg photo is also a good example to show how the eye is also naturally drawn to the brightest item in the photograph and what is most in focus i.e. the egg & truffle.

food photography

However, framing your subject and deciding where and what the camera should focus on, are not the only aspects to consider. You also need to think about the best angle from which to shoot from e.g. overhead for a pizza, 45° for a cocktail (so you can see the top and centre of the glass) or down low for a burger (so you can see all the ingredients).

3. Props make your food and drink photography come to life

How you prop or accessorise a food photograph is a very creative part of a shoot and can elevate your image to the next level. It can also be tricky, as sourcing the knives, forks, plates, bowls, linens, wooden boards, glassware, ceramic surfaces etc. can add a lot of extra cost to your shoot (unless you are very lucky to have a well-stocked supply at home). A well-propped image will add to the story you are trying to convey, but it needs to be well-balanced, otherwise it will look messy and cluttered.

Some things to think about are:

* Choose your plate wisely
* Add dimension and personality with accessories: napkins, utensils, glassware and other placements can fill up the composition and make your images more engaging
* Visit your local charity shop: I constantly pop into the various ones on my high street
* Get creative with your backgrounds
* Make sure your accessories are clean
* Interact with the food: having a hand in the shot about to eat the food can add interest and dynamism to the image

food photography

I hope these tips will help to improve your food and drink photography whilst you are growing your start-up food business. At the very least, you will now be able to shoot a better photograph than the vast majority of images shared on Twitter or Instagram. 😉

*** Special Offer for Smoothie PR Readers! ***

If your business has grown to the next level and you know that professional food imagery is essential to represent your brand/product to investors, wholesalers or, to further stand out from the crowd, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat. I’m offering all Smoothie PR readers 10% discount off their first shoot which you can book using code SPR2017.

This is an ongoing offer, no matter how far into the future you’re reading this post!

I would love to hear from you so you can email me, find lots of tips on my website, and follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

More food for thought…

Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end! If you’re looking to grow your business, check out blog posts written by other food industry experts, including 3 top tips for making food videos.

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