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The Do's and Don'ts of Food Photography

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In a visual world, a picture truly is worth 1,000 words. And a picture of delicious-looking snacks or desserts could be worth a lot more than words—like new customers and the potential for incremental profits.

Social media is a huge tool when it comes to driving customers into your operation. Shorter attention spans mean you have a split second to make an impact before potential customers scroll past your post without giving your operation a second thought.

The most compelling posts are often led by appetite-appealing photography. Why just tell customers you’re menuing a limited-time OREO® dessert when you can show them?

However, a bad photograph could do just as much damage to your operation’s image as a great picture can boost it. That’s why you must take every picture seriously. Here are a few tips to help you produce top-quality food photography and elevate your operation’s awareness.

Step 1: Pick Your Plating

The composition of your photo is as important as its content. Dark or busy plates and bowls could work against you, distracting the viewer from the foods and causing a visual commotion. Black plates and backdrops in particular can reflect poorly on food, making naturally vibrant colors dark and muddy.

Most foods will shine on a simple, bright and uncluttered white plate. However, if you are photographing something white, such as vanilla ice cream, you may want to use a complementary color or one that matches a garnish.

Step 2: Choose an Interesting Angle

A molten lava cake looks best from the side, or at a three-quarter angle, so that you can see a bit of the top AND the dark, gooey deliciousness oozing out the side. But stacked items like macarons will most likely look better shot at eye level so you can get a close-up of each delectable layer.

When preparing your shot, make sure to think about which angle will show off the item’s best attributes. Then shoot from a variety of angles to make sure you capture its most delicious side.


Step 3: Set the Scene

The food is the hero, but colorful garnishes and surrounding objects help you tell the story. Careful propping and placement of the food is very important. As with plating, be sparing and make sure your dish works with your color palette. You want your background to support your dish, not overpower it.

While a stark clean plate is often the best option, you can still let the cookie crumble every now and again. Every shot should make you want to feel like you can rip it off the screen and eat it.

And remember to crop out any scenery not explicitly meant to be in the picture.


Step 4: Look for Natural Lighting

Operations can often have a moody atmosphere, but food needs to shine online. Do not rely on your flash to create fine food photography. Natural daylight is the best option for creating clear and bright shots.

Also, take note of any shadows. Make sure they aren’t casting onto your main food focus. And beware of glare. Hot spots—aka very bright areas—on your dish can detract from its yumminess and wash out the overall image.

Step 5: Focus on Quality

Focus in on the element you want to highlight. A blurry shot will make your image look amateur, throwing all of your propping and prepping to the wayside. It’s okay to have soft focus and create depth of field, but there has to be a main focal point in every shot.

You can also take advantage of editing tools on your computer or mobile phone to play with lighting, tone and focus to help you execute the best photo possible.

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