Introduction: How to Make Food Pics Look Appetizing With Props and Natural Lighting
A picture says a thousand words!
There's nothing like taking a memorable picture and showing it to friends and family and getting fave reviews on how that picture looks and how it makes you feel when observing it.
As an avid foodie myself and not a professional photographer, I have taken thousands of pics of food, people, architecture, plants and animals in my home and while travelling.
It's quite difficult to figure out because even if you have a fine camera, pics still may not look their best.
Hopefully my simple guides with composition, lighting, props and just simple doodads you may have around your environment will help you take some great pics for your hobby, travels or get togethers.
The Burger Pic
Meat pics are quite difficult to do but with a few tricks that I have learned by trial and error I successfully make brown/black foods look appetizing.
1. Pay attention to the bread ontop and below the hamburger. They are beige, the same family as the brown burger. If I don't layer colours in-between the whole burger looks unappealing. I do not want the bread to be the main focus so my close up "suggests" that there is bread but, it is not the main focus....can you tell it's a bagel?
2. This picture is taken immediately upon removal from the BBQ leaving the shiny juices on the burger capturing light giving the impression of a juicy burger rather than a dried piece of meat. If I am not organized and have the fixens' ready, then the burger can be brushed or sprayed with oil to give the same look.
3. Colourful veggies are added to brighten the brown burger. Red and Green are bright contrasting colours that compete and give the viewer the needed interest for the viewer to "want" to grab and eat that item. This was taken inside closest to my sliding door which, brings in a lot of light on a sunny early afternoon!
4. Close ups for me are the best as they show the viewer everything they are getting without distractions. The bright green kale adds a great deal of colour to this appetizing picture.
Step 1: Composition; Indoor/Outdoor Lighting and Props
A. When you take pictures of food I find it important to get to know your camera.
B. Play with the apertures so you know what your camera can do. Apertures allow light or block it.
Write down which aperture you were using so when you transfer the pic to your files you will know how much
light the aperture uses.
C. Consider the composition and what story you would like to tell the viewer.
D. Use a variety of glasses/dishes/backgrounds for your pictures. This will add interest and change the whole
look/lighting and feel of the photograph
E. Have fun and take lots of pics.!
Lets start with a simple picture of milk and cookies.
The 1st two pics are cookies and milk displayed on the same plate and glass.
1. The first one is literally ontop of my closed lid BBQ against my brick wall background, straight, facing the
camera. Its composition is angled giving it an interesting look. The milk looks clean and white even though it's almond milk which is not as white as cows milk.
Notice how the natural outdoor lighting and front facing angle adds great natural lighting with no tricks.
The bit of colour from the coloured candies pop and the cookie looks quite appetizing and makes you want
some. This angle lets you see the golden tops of the cookies.
2. The 2nd pic is an indoor picture, still daytime and although the close up, above composition, looking down is
still great but, the cookies look darker and the coloured candy although visible, are not quite as appealing.
Now, notice the milk looks slightly beige which, almond milk is off white...not very appealing in a photograph is it?
This picture would have benefitted from a brighter day without having to use fancy lighting.
3. The 3rd pic is the same cookie, the picture is indoor with a black bamboo placemat.
It is not as close up as the others, creating an unappealing shadow around the cookies and the partial glass
of milk is now only a slight suggestion rather than a meal suggestion. It composition doesn't work well since the cookies are round and so it the plate...there seems to be no interest pulling the viewers eye to the pic.
4. The next 2 pictures are Molasses Trail Mix cookies.
Placing these cookies on a white rectangular modern plate gives colour appeal to a rather dark cookie and
mirrors the white chocolate chip in the cookie, creating interest next to the dark raisins inside a fairly dark
cookie. The white plate contrasts on the beige bamboo mat background which is really similar to the cookie.
You can see the slight rim of sugar that is baked right into the cookie making it appetizing.
5. The last picture is the same cookie but is placed directly on the same beige bamboo mat. Not only does the
cookie now darken in colour, making a delish cookie look unappealing but, the same cookies look burnt and
the glass of milk looks like it's half finished where as the previous picture the same glass half full is appealing!
The angle of the main ingredient (cookies), also takes up too much of the composition in this photo.
Step 2: Angles, Props & Lighting
This picure using my Instructables cutting board shows a wonderful grain in the bottom background of this tasty appy. If you'll notice the logo in black matches the knot in the wood grain pulling the eye across the appy back and forth.
By changing the angle of the Instructables cutting board I have created more interest and less shadow on the top right corner of this toasted appetizer. The grain of the cutting board also runs in the same direction of the bread.
By allowing the Instructable logo to enter the picture I don't leave the eye wandering and the mind wondering what that logo looks like, like in the 2nd photograph.
The contrast of vivid colours of veggies ontop of white bread comes alive when placed on the multi grained cutting board.
The dark grey wood table brings the eye back into the photograph because the shadow of the bread at the top right corner connects to the top right of the pic., where as the shadow at the top right corner of pic #2 leads the eye off the picture.
Step 3: Props & Lighting
Look at the next 2 sets of pictures
They are the same foods. Potatoes and peppers
Purple Sweet Potatoes
Which would you rather eat?
1. The white potatoes were cooked inside a foil packet but the small pkg makes the veggies look dark, small and tightly packaged. When given space, placed ontop of bright green veggies the simple white potato looks appealing and the yellow pepper becomes the pop of colour and not the main colour as in the 2nd photo. The white dish actually brightens the cooked potato and shows off its roasted appeal.
2. The next pics of the sweet potato to me are both amazing because I love the colour purple.
But, the 1st picture looks appealing to eat simply because it is more of a natural food colour. Where as the next picture looks like a colour that is not necessarily a food colour but, rather a candy or clothing colour...I still love both but for food purposes I would use the 1st photo...both are indoor daytime natural lighting. The 2nd photo is taken at the kitchen window. They are both on a white surface and their composition is up close and personal so that there are no other props fighting for attention due to it's bright colour.
Step 4: Adding Colour to Foods
At the beginning I showed a juicy appetizing beef burger and now I am showing a tender, light, chicken burger.
Look at the difference in the colours of the meats. Although both are delish, the lighter meat is not as appealing. In fact it is quite bland and it would not be my first choice right?
This is an outdoor pic showing a golden brown crusted burger topped with a generous, colourful array of fruits and veggies. Topped with a crusty chunk of bread that shows a fluffy white crumb and a delicate piece of lettuce.
All of these colour additions, take the eye away from the bland burger because the eye it attracted to colours. When the eye has had enough of the pops of colour, you focus on the burger again and you now realize that this burger is just as appealing as the first burger and it would be just as satisfying...in fact the keen eye/viewer would also realize that the healthier lighter burger would be the chicken burger making this a low cal item with less guilt...The props here are its shell, the bread. The outer crust of this bread is virtually the same colour as the burger. If I had placed it directly on top the colourful salsa and burger would have been hidden. I offset the top so that the white crumb would add brightness to the salsa. The light green salad also does not compete with the bright coloured salsa and mint but rather it enhances those colours because they are monochromatic and mirror the stronger colours. The black background enhances the bright colours and do not complete with the white crumb. If a white background was used the white crumb and the bottom bread crust would have disappeared and the bread would have been less appealing.
A picture tells a thousand words.....