I am not a professional photographer nor am I a trained food stylist. I have, however, been passionate and interested in food and photographer pretty much my whole life. I took photojournalism in high school and have always had an eye for taking photos.
Since I really started food blogging and upping my food photography game, I have learned a few useful tips and tricks, and created my own guerrilla photography methods that allow me to take gorgeous photos without the use of photography lamps, backdrops, and fancy/expensive equipment.
1- Use Natural Light
Here is an example of delicious food and terrible lighting: some incredible pasta with meatballs, garnished with parsley. So delicious, yet so unattractive as a result of the lighting in my kitchen at night. Needless to say, I never posted this photo on Instagram.
Indoor kitchen light is your food’s worst enemy.
This is the golden rule of food photography, and really most photography in general. Indoor kitchen light is your food’s worst enemy. It causes harsh colors and unappealing reflections and shadows. There really are times when I make something magnificent for dinner, but because the lighting is so terrible I just don’t post it. A girl’s gotta have standards.
2. Be Resourceful With Household Objects And Surfaces
This is a photo that received the most likes I’ve ever received on Instagram, and it is really simple. It has no special props, no antique or vintage utensils, no crumpled up muslin tea towels, and no filters. It is just natural and beautifully lit. Un-fussed with.
I have beautiful granite counter tops, but they are dark and shiny: two characteristics that just don't translate to beautiful food photos.
- Wooden cutting boards
- My wooden dining room table
- A side table in my family room
- A shelf from my armoire (my favorite)
Look around your house and think outside the box and definitely outside the kitchen.
Note on my favorite surface: It is a shade of blue that can go from greenish to gray depending on the lighting, and it is so much fun to play around with. It is also mobile, so I can place it wherever the light is best, which is often on the floor or side table by my south westward facing sliding glass door. This is the spot that consistently gives me my 'money shots' as you can see with my Sweet and Salty Graham Cracker Toffee above. Look around your house and think outside the box and definitely outside the kitchen.
3. Use Interesting Elements To Fill Out Your Shot And Create Visual Interest
I like to keep the shots of my finished dishes pretty simple, with maybe a pretty cloth napkin and a utensil, but sometimes I like to do an overhead shot as I did with my Moldovan Borscht. I love that this photo tells the story of the entire meal: big pot of hearty soup, a bowl ready to be eaten, and a rustic, torn loaf of bread.
Food Photography Tip: If you are wondering how I did an overhead shot of this soup without fogging up my lens, here is my secret: This was taken the day after I made it. It cooled in the refrigerator all night, and just before I took this photo I stirred in some fresh parsley, dished it up cold, and took my photo.
4. Leave Something To The Imagination
If you notice with all of my photos in this post (except the terribly lit pasta), there is some element that is cut off or left outside the frame. These photos of my White Chicken Chili Verde highlight how I do this whether close up or zoomed out.
This is certainly not a rule, but it is my preference. I take many shots of my prep work that are all inclusive, but I really prefer to shoot my finished dishes this way, and when I'm browsing my IG or BeFunky feeds I am drawn to these types of shots as well. I feel it creates a more casual, realistic portrayal of the dish--less fussy somehow.
I hope you've enjoyed my guerrilla photo tactics, and I hope you have found some inspiration from my photos and tips. Bottom line: Make delicious food, don't fuss with it too much, and have fun!