Recipe Photo Guidelines
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
This is very true for food photos! Real life photos of the dish are critical for a food recipe. You are essentially ‘serving’ your dish to the reader through the photo – don’t you want to make sure that the photo looks as good as it looked when you put it on the table?
The objective of a food photo is very simple – it should make the reader hungry just by looking at the picture - and maybe motivate the reader to get cooking! But taking a photo that makes a person hungry just by looking at the photo is no easy feat. It takes some effort to take pictures that have this juicy, mouth watering appeal. We will try to make it simple for you by describing a few techniques, which will help you take great food photos with minimal equipment and accessories.
A small point and shoot digital camera will work fine, but a dSLR would give great results. Most cameras have a macro mode, which allows you to get in close to the food.
Taking photos while cooking
Don’t limit your clicks to just a few, take up to 10 to 15 shots per cooking session. Depending on your cooking conditions and lighting, you might discover that some photos turned out to be blurry, too dark, or just not the way you wanted it. The more photos you take, the better chance that you get the perfect shot you wanted.
Most foods don’t have much color in them (of course, there are exceptions), so add a splash of color with a garnish, a pretty tablecloth or adding a silver spoon at the right spot.
White plates and white backgrounds always work! Pure whites with just the food standing out gives a classy feel to the photo. Avoid “busy” backgrounds (backgrounds filled with random things), and try to keep the background plain.
Unfinished wood looks great on photos. So if you have a wooden table, you could place the dish on the bare clean table and take your pictures.
Shoot in natural light, but not in direct sunlight. Diffused ambient light works best. Now, what exactly is meant by ‘diffused’ light? Imagine how it looks outdoors in daytime, when the sun is behind clouds and the landscape is lit with very soft but clear light. This is diffused lighting. This type of light is non-directional and it produces an effect of filling all areas of the subject. There are no strong lights or shadows, therefore no details are lost.
It is best to turn off the camera flash for your recipe photos and fully depend on the diffused natural lighting, since the powerful flash light could make the dish look very different from what it actually is. The best spot is on a table next to a window, with the light falling in from the side. If the light is too harsh from the window, adding a day curtain (soft semi-transparent white curtain or cloth), will provide the right amount of diffused light.
Angle of shot
If you check out the professional food photographs, you will definitely notice one thing – food photos are rarely taken from the top of the dish. They are almost always taken from the side, at an angle where you can see the side and top of the dish. In addition, the pictures look great when they are close-up shots. you can use the macro mode of you camera to get in close.
Main picture and preparation step pictures
You need two kinds of pictures – the main “cover” pictures and preparation step pictures.
Main pictures : Take a few high quality photos of the finished dish by using the techniques described above. Only recipe submissions that are accompanied by at least 2 good quality photographs of the finished dish will be accepted. The two submission photos should be taken at two different angles, and should be of the exact same finished dish.
Preparation step pictures : The preparation pictures should be taken during preparation/cooking time as you go along with the cooking. Try to get photographs of steps that are difficult to convey by words. If you are using an uncommon ingredient, include a picture of it so that the readers have a better luck in finding and using that ingredient. These pictures need not be of very high quality, since it is understood that it would be difficult to setup and ensure lighting and other aspects during the cooking time. These pictures will be presented alongside the preparation steps to guide the reader. You need to take at least 3 pictures along with the preparation of the dish.
External links on food photography