by Paulette Phlipot
Light: Choose a location with the most desirable light. The diffused light from a window can produce beautiful results. If the light seems too bright, a sheer curtain will help. Learn how to reflect light back onto your subject—a hand-held mirror works great, as does a piece of cardboard covered in foil.
Location: Once you have chosen a space that has nice light, start thinking about the background of your photo. A painted wall is great, as is a piece of poster board or a piece of fabric. The main thing to consider is keeping your background simple so the food can stand out.
Presentation: Decide what kind, color, shape, and size of plate or bowl you will use. Choose colors that contrast well with your food. White will almost always work. Decide if you would like to add a napkin, silverware, ingredients, or additional props to the photo. Be cautious of over-propping though, or choosing props with too many design elements. “Less is more” for food photography.
Composition: Is the image better as a horizontal photo or a vertical photo? Should you step a bit closer or should you step back? How about the angle you’ve chosen to take the photo from—should you bend down a little or should you find a chair to stand on so you can look down on the plate? It's helpful to start at the height of the food then adjust your angle from there. A tighter crop works best.
Blurry background: You will notice a lot of food photos have a blurry background. This helps to separate the food from the surroundings. If you are photographing with an SLR camera, set your aperture to 2.8, 5.6, or whatever is the lowest number (largest aperture) you have. If taking photos with a point and shoot, put it on the “macro” setting.
Flash or no flash? I recommend sticking with natural light. Using a flash for food photography can be tricky.
Stabilize: Use a tripod if you have one. Otherwise, brace the camera against yourself, a wall, or even a chair.
Focus: Continually check your focus. Having accurate focus is imperative to successful food photography.
When to shoot: Take photos along the way as you make your recipe. You'll be surprised how nice preparation photos can look and how helpful they can be displayed next to your recipe. Shoot the finished dish as soon as it is ready; no matter how good of a photographer you are, you will never be able to make wilted greens look fresh.
Most important: Have fun, get creative, and take lots of photos!
Paulette Phlipot is an award-winning food, travel, and lifestyle photographer, and photo editor for Teton Family Magazine. She studied at The Western Academy of Photography in Victoria, B.C. You can find more of her photos in the popular cookbook A Taste of Wyoming and at p3images.com.