People Eat with Their Eyes
How to Take a great picture of your food with your phone
Your guests will judge your food well before they ever take that first bite. They will search for you on social media, look at your profile on Chez Dine and make a decision if they want to come to your dinner based on what they see and feel.
When you take images of your food, ask yourself: are the colours correct, is there too much going on in the background, is there a human element? These are all things that will help sell tickets to your dinner.
Do not be afraid that you don’t have the ‘right’ equipment. Food photography is less about the camera / equipment and more about understanding how to highlight the natural beauty of your food through:
Plating: How you arrange your food
Lighting How you use light to bring out your food’s good side
Composition: How you frame your shot
Editing: Touch-ups to your photos that you can make in post
So sit back relax and start cooking because by the end of this you will be a pro at taking pictures of your food and will want to get started!
Choosing a great background is crucial to a mouth-watering photo. When selecting a background try and find a relatively neutral one that compliments the photo and does not take over the image and is too busy.
Try and make things contrast, light plate dark background, dark plate light background…see where I am going with this?
Pro Tip: Wooden surfaces tend to give a rustic feel and are great for foods such as burgers, fries, and meat. Where a classic white plate will allow bright colours to really POP!
You will want to choose your background based on the theme or aesthetic you are looking to achieve.
A poorly lit image can make or break it and when I say poorly lit I do not only mean dark, you can have too much light in a photograph, which also does wonky things to your image.
Light Sources & Types of light
The best lighting can often be found near a window or a natural light source. You want to try and use natural light as much as possible. Light bulbs / artificial light tends to cast an orange or warm glow and will mess with the colours of your food. Try to get your light source to always come from the side of the food. This is a great way to bring out the natural shadows and textures of foods like bread, cheese, and meat.
Direct Sunlight Hurts
That being said you want to watch out for direct natural light (aka the sun) It can be too harsh and cast some very bad shadows that will make your food look ominous (unless you are going for a spooky theme than the more shadows the better?).
Diffused Light is Best
If you have a window that has direct sunlight you can either use a sheer white curtain to diffuse the light or what I like to use are the white plastic table cloths from the dollar store. They work really well as a diffuser and they’re only $1.25 at the local Dollarama
Side note definition Diffused light is a soft light with neither the intensity nor the glare of direct light. It is scattered and comes from all directions. Thus, it seems to wrap around objects. It is softer and does not cast harsh shadows.
Try and steer clear of having your light source behind your image this tends to cause bright spots in the image and it can be hard for you correctly expose your image.
When plating food we are not telling you to take out the tweezers and paint brushes, but try and have your food organized on the plate.
Pro Tip: Salads and soups you can be a little more chaotic and messy with the plating of these foods On the flip side such as a layered parfait or ice cream sunday you might want to be a bit more meticulous as there are intricate details and layers that you want to showcase.
Use the Grid
Most phones have a great feature that allows you to see a grid when taking an image, this grid will help you keep your lines clean and level. Unless you are looking to take an extremely dynamic picture then I say F**k the grid rules are made to be broken.
Just like when photographing people the angles matter a lot!
When choosing the angle at which you are going to shoot your food try and think about a specific thing you want to emphasize in the frame.
Are great for Sandwiches or things with layers like vegan lasagna you may want to take the shot from a side angle so you can showcase all of the amazing layers.
Is the perfect way to showcase foods that lay flat soups, charcuterie boards, pasta, etc.
Pro Tip: If you are noticing lots of harsh shadows (and that is not your intention) try and move around your food and hit different angles. Take more than one picture in more than one angle, you will thank me later.
Colour & Props
Colour plays a vital role in your foods visual aesthetic, for example, if your guests know that a carrot is orange and in your picture, it is an unexpected colour like green they might think
1. You’re crazy
2. You will lose all credibility as a cook before they even make it to your event. This is why having a properly lit photo is so important.
Think about the colours that occur naturally in your food. Studies have shown certain colours can trigger increases or decreases in appetite. Warm colours (reds, oranges, and yellows) tend to stimulate appetite.
Greens can give your photograph a sense of being organic/natural. You should try and avoid cold colour filters as they tend to make food look less appealing such as meats, cheeses and bread.
When using props try and think about colour theory you should choose colours that compliment or aesthetically go with the food that you have prepared. If your food naturally does not have warm elements maybe try using a red or orange napkin in the shot. The props you use should add to the image without taking centre stage. If your personality is to be very loud and enjoy bright colours, try using small flowers or the natural ingredients in small quantities in the shot.
Negative space allows for a breath of fresh air for the eye this area should have little or nothing happening in it. You can achieve negative space in very obvious or not so obvious ways.
have space about a third of the photo (this is why you use the grid lines) and do not have any props or food in this space just background or counter space.
Using depth of field and selective focus can bring emphasis to a specific part of the image and create negative space as the same time as the eye will scan the out of focus area but will be drawn to the in-focus aspect of the image.
Authenticity & Human Element
With the above being said we want you as Hosts to create authentic images that tell your guests who you are. We want all of our Hosts to try and think of themselves as a personal brand and Chez Dine is a tool for you to elevate and build that brand.
The best way to be authentic in your photographs is to take pictures of food you are actually cooking, you don’t need to be perfect but show the love. If you are uncomfortable plating food like the pro’s show us you cooking in the kitchen and take a well-lit picture of the end result.
Chez Dine has noticed that even when a hand is in a picture with food brings us about 10-20% more engagement with that content so imagine what having your face would do….
That being said try and bring some humanity into your photography remember guests will be wanting to meet you as much as they will be wanting to eat your food.
Almost done I promise…
Amount of Pictures
This is not a one and done kind of process. You should take at least 5-10 shots of the same food in at least 2-3 different ways, remove and add props etc, doing this will allow you to choose the best one to edit.
If you had great lighting, took the time to plan your shots and the framing you should not have to do too much editing but here are some starting points I would do.
Sharpen & Structure
most apps that you use or directly in instagram allow you to sharpen and change the structure of the image. This helps sharpen the edges and also brings little details out in the image
in Instagram when you select edit you can change the warmth of the image. If your picture is looking a little blue try and slide it a little warmer remember warm images increase appetite
Brightness & Contrast
again a little dark boost the brightness a little again not too much as it will blow out the exposure, want those shadows to pop bring the contrast up a bit as well.
try and keep the saturation natural unless the colours are looking a little pale or unnatural again in Instagram you can edit the saturation and bring the colour levels up a little.
Remember small adjustments make huge impacts. I recommend playing with Instagrams sliders to learn what each one does this will help you visualize what over exposing with brightness does vs. contrast etc.
If you do want to download an app that can help you edit your pictures a good one that I have recently found is Snap Seed and it’s FREE!! Want to learn more about how to use it watch this video
That is all from me for this one,
hope to see all of your content take a step in a positive direction, use these tips to share your food with your guests.
Remember that people begin the eating process with their eyes and will judge your food before they even take that first bite!
Ryan is an entrepreneur, graphic designer, Co-founder of Bruha and the head of growth and marketing at Chez Dine. Craft beer and whisky are his go to drinks, and you can usually find him hanging with his daughter and family when not working on Chez Dine.