How to illuminate and frame food photography

We have already talked about choosing the most suitable camera to photograph our dishes at home. But you have to keep in mind other factors when it comes to getting a good snapshot, especially those referring to adequate lighting and framing of the scene that we are going to capture. With a few simple tips on how to illuminate and frame food photography We can get excellent results.

We start from the base that we do not have expensive lighting equipment, spotlights or reflectors, so our photos depend on the natural light. Therefore, when taking the photos we will try to place the dishes near a window or source of natural light, but avoiding direct sunlight, which would create strong contrasts not very suitable.

A table near a window or even the kitchen countertop can be good places, provided they have good light. In general, better results are achieved if we do not use the cameras' built-in flash, even as a fill light, as they provide unnatural lighting.

As we mentioned when talking about cameras, it is highly recommended, if not essential, to use a tripod stable to support the camera and thus prevent the photos from moving, especially when we shoot indoors. So we can afford to frame perfectly, focus carefully and shoot with slow speeds, which would give a blurred image with almost total security.

The sensors of our digital cameras are increasingly sophisticated, including systems of light measurement multisegment, measuring the light in many areas of the image to obtain an average. In some cases, depending on the camera options, we can make specific measurements of light, very useful when we want to expose a detail of the image.

On the table or countertop we will place some neutral background, such as a pastel or white cardboard, or a more or less smooth tablecloth or dishcloths. If they have a discreet drawing they can look great too, but always in light colors, so that they do not distract much.

We will compose the "still life" as if it were a picture, placing the stew in neutral dishes not very large. It is convenient to put small quantities, it is more elegant for the photos. If it is a soup we must put little liquid, so that the solid elements, if it carries them, stand out more. If it is a cream, always decorate with some chopped green grass or a cream cord, or a crisp, always something that creates relief.

Let's decorate with some simple element, without excesses or baroqueism. Today, simple, clean photos are taken, with clear spaces surrounding the central and bright motif. We can put a fork on the plate, or a spoon or a knife on the table. In the background we can put some color note, like a cherry tomato and a celery branch, as we see in the photo of zucchini with tomato and celery. We also give a reference of the ingredients used.

He framing it can be horizontal, always more natural, being more similar to human vision, or vertical, suitable in some situations. A slight dump of the image is usually very good, giving an interesting artistic effect. To do this we will rotate the camera on the tripod until we achieve the desired effect.

Personally I like to use the backlighting, that is, shoot with the light from the window behind the object, as in the cover photo of our bagels or donuts. Thus we achieve spectacular light effects, with blurred backgrounds and somewhat veiled. However, they require careful measurement of light and give priority to shadow areas. This requires some practice and a camera that allows more control, mid-range or reflex.

The best and easiest natural lighting is the side lighting or oblique, which is one in which the light comes from the right or the left of the camera, obliquely affecting the object, creating soft shadows. With this we will have good results almost always.

The shadows, when the light is intense, at noon, can be softened using a home reflector, which can be a white cardboard, for example, or any white surface that we can handle. If we hold it to the opposite side of the source of the light, we will see through the viewfinder that moving it disappears those sudden shadows.

It is advisable to always use the home reflector to reduce shadows. 90% of the photos I take for this blog are taken this way. A simple but effective trick. If there is little natural light we can help with halogen light, which is more similar to that of the sun, but artificial light creates unnatural color dominance, so it will only be suitable for cases of need.

I hope these simple tips on how to illuminate and frame food photography, arising from my experience, help you improve the quality of your photos.