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How to Photograph Food

Article by: AllRecipes  |  Picture by: Allrecipes
How to Photograph Food
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You've gone to the effort of documenting your recipe on this side for everyone to enjoy, so why not make it look like a million dollars with a good photo? Readers are much more likely to make a recipe when they know what the result is supposed to look like. You will find you don't need a tripod and professional lights to make an attractive photo - just follow these seven simple, commonsense tips.

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Lighting. Good lighting is the key to an attractive photo. If at all possible, avoid using the flash. Natural light is much softer and warmer while a flash can blow out the highlights of the subject and create a harsh shadow. Also, since flashes are mounted on the camera, they always illuminate the food from the front, robbing it of much of its texture and interest. Try placing your food on a table by a window. Notice in the photo to the left that the light is coming from the right of the frame but is not creating harsh shadows. If the sun is not coming out for you, or you got home from work late and just want to get a snap of dinner, you may have to rely on the flash. To soften the effect, try standing back from your food and using the zoom function, or place a piece of kleenex over the flash. Both of these techniques will soften the overall light, but all flashes are different so you may need to experiment.
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Use a reflector card. Sometimes, particularly with strong sunlight, one side of your subject may be dark in shadow, leading to an unbalanced photograph. This is easy to fix and doesn't have to be too much of a hassle - improvise a reflector card out of a sheet of paper or white cardboard and enlist a family member to hold it facing the shadowed side. This will reflect some of the light coming in and brighten up the shadows a little. At close range you will be able to do this by yourself. Or try having your light source positioned behind the food (this will create a lot of texture along the sides of the food and interesting shadows) and lighten the front with the reflector card. Try it - the effect is immediately impressive.
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Cropping. Don't assume you need to get the entire subject into the frame. Of course your recipe should be immediately identifiable for what it is, but close-ups that crop out the edges of the plate can be very effective in capturing the delicious details, especially with foods with lots of texture such as salads, desserts and decorated cakes, glazed meats and seafood. Keep in mind also that the site automatically crops your image into a square shape.
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Composition. You can have some real fun here. What would make your picture more interesting? Shooting the subject in the dead centre of the frame may (and should) clearly show what your meal is, but it doesn't give the eye much to do. The idea here is to get the eye moving around the picture from one element to another. Try shooting your subject a little to the right or left of the frame, and place something in the foreground or background (or both) on the other side of the frame. The background should not be too distracting - try a stack of plates, a beverage or the pot the meal was cooked in. A good object to put in the foreground might a spoon or fork. Notice in the picture how your eye checks out each of the elements in turn. A cool trick here is to use the macro function of your camera. Most standard camera settings will focus on every object in the frame, making it hard for the eye to know which is the most important. Using the macro will narrow the depth of field, more clearly emphasising the main dish.
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Colour balance. Clearly, if you're making tomato soup, and you photograph it in a red bowl on a red tablecloth, that's going to be too much red. Try to highlight the food itself by keeping the tableware and background material from being too distracting. If using brightly coloured tableware, pick a colour that complements the food, not detracts from it. Red and green, for example, are a good combination, as are orange and blue.
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Props. You want to show off your food, right? So don't photograph your beautiful decorated chocolate gateau sitting on a paper plate (even if that's how you served it). Good food deserves good tableware. Use the interesting bowls and plates in your cupboard, not the everyday ones. Garnishes can be a very effective way to make your food more beautiful. Remember - the first bite is with the eye.
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Break the rules. For every suggestion given here, you will be able to find an example that does the opposite. The whole idea is to make the photograph interesting and appealing, and if that means shooting in near darkness with a flashlight, do it! Food photography is a lot of fun and a good photograph is something to be proud of.
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