Soba Noodles with Ginger-Garlic Tofu, Carrots, & Kale

Food Photo Tips for Martha Stewart (and Others Who Might Not Care)

Food and Sunsets - Intellichick Instagram
Food and Sunsets – Intellichick Instagram

If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, it’s no secret that I post food photos from my eating adventures in LA and my cooking adventures as a vegetarian.  I am by no means a photographer or a photo-expert, but I have learned a few things when taking photos with various iterations of my smartphone over the years.   As a result, I am now fairly comfortable in the everyday caliber of my food photo-taking.  Then today I read this article on Jezebel: Martha Stewart Can’t Stop Tweeting Really Gross Pictures of Food.   Now my food-photo-taking self-esteem (long not recognized until this moment) has been elevated just enough to write a blog post of semi-expert advice.  So here we go…

  1. Not Every Photo is Going to be a Gem a.k.a. Don’t Share ALL the Photos: Let me start off by saying that we’re all human and we’re gonna have plenty of bad photos with a great meal.  Sometimes that greatness just can’t be captured.  It doesn’t mean we don’t share it – but it also means that we don’t have to share ALL the photos.  The Jezebel article highlights this well – if it was just one or two “gross pictures”, it might have been just funny, but wouldn’t have made as great a story.
  2. Angles and Framing:  Sometimes it’s all about the angle of your food.  Is it the texture of the watermelon that looks the most scrumptious?  Do you need to highlight the red peppers?  Maybe instead of an overhead shot, you can try capturing your food from different angles.
  3. More than One Photo: Regarding, #2, you will often need to take more than one photo.  Don’t go overboard – you should enjoy your meal – but two or three photos might be a good “shot” at it.  If you need to use flash, refer to items #4 and #5.
  4. Lighting is Key: As a person who has blogged about food and loves a good restaurant adventure, sometimes the “ambiance” is your food photo enemy.  If there are candles on the table, you may be able to use a spiffy filter to go artsy with it, but you’re likely not going to get a great photo.  If it’s just mostly dark, you’re chances of a great photo decrease exponentially, even with your flash.  Speaking of…
  5. Flash Is Often Your Other Enemy:  No, I don’t mean the part where your table and those next to you will be blinded by the smartphone flash.  In addition to that annoyance, if you’re seeing more flashlight than the food on your plate, it might not be a good idea to share it.  If you’ll have to use flash in a multi-photo taking session, for the sake of those around you, you might be better off just enjoying your food.
  6. Professional DSLR vs. Smartphone: I appreciate knowing that celebrities are real people who go out to places and enjoy taking food photos like the rest of us regular folk (though based on Martha Stewart’s feed I don’t think we dine at the same restaurants and with the same chefs!), but if you’re known for a particular industry then it might be best to share beautiful, professional photos you probably have pretty great access to, like amazing food pictures.  Real-time and art-time can often make for a nice food social media salad.  From my own photo stash, here’s my Dragon Fruit Salad taken with my Canon T3i versus my Freezer Leftovers taken with my iPhone at work.  Variety is the spice of life, right?  It can also help dilute the photo-taking judgment.  Just remember to ask permission and attribute amazing photos to those who have taken the time and have the equipment to make them a reality.
  7. Sometimes Less is More and Words are Even Better: Maybe it’s the writer in me, but word descriptions can sound just as glorious as seeing a photo of the food itself (sometimes even more so).  I’m a firm believer that good food is good poetry.  Not to mention, the imagination can even make it all the more delectable.
  8. Don’t Forget the Technology:  Let me put on my techie hat for this part.  In all this talk of food and photo-taking tips, an important part of this is the type of phone or camera equipment you might have.  If you have the money and the contract renewal, you can invest in a new phone, but there are also apps and components that allow you to connect external cameras to your mobile devices (this TechHive article has some great finds for iPhones).  Knowing your technology and what it’s capable of (and what you’re capable of) goes a long way.

Whether your food photos are gross, great, or in-between, please remember to enjoy your food and do your best not to annoy your non-food-photo-taking friends…much!

Happy eating and photography!

-cct