Our cultural obsession with taking photos of our food is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it allows us to share these delicious, joyful moments with the people we love, if not the world at large; and a curse because sometimes the obsessive urge to snap away distracts from the delicious, joyful moment itself. Not to mention most dishes are very hard to photograph in an appetizing way. It’s terrifically difficult to capture lusciousness and umami in a photo. And a lot of the best meals are, well, mostly shades of taupe, tan and brown (pasta, burgers, tacos, etc!) — hardly the most tantalizing colors in the rainbow. However, it is possible to take food pictures that are both pretty and conducive to a fun, stress-free meal. These five experts explain how.
Alexa Mehraban @EatingNYC
“Food styling is definitely a big part of getting a great photo. Be sure to style the table for an overhead shot and decide on the best angle, depending on the dish. Something with depth, like a burger or a high bowl of pasta, looks great straight on, whereas a pizza pie typically works better as an overhead shot.”
Ali Rosen Author
“The main thing on taking food pics like a pro is this: Stop trying to take photos when you are dining out at night. Unless you are going to travel with extensive lighting equipment (which would be pretty antisocial at a restaurant), the photos just don’t ever look as good as they do in daylight. If you really want to Instagram your meals, choose times when there is still light outside — and sit as close to a window as humanly possible.”
Rosen is the author of “Bring It! Tried And True Recipes For Potluck And Casual Entertaining”
Jeremy Jacobowitz @BrunchBoys
“I think my No. 1 rule with food photography is ‘do anything for natural light.’ Food just needs natural light to truly shine, so I’ll do pretty much anything I can do to find it when I’m shooting at a restaurant. As much as I hate it, that does sometimes mean that I’m the lunatic outside taking photos of my food. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!”
Kelly Dobkin @KellyDobkin
“Try several different angles and take way more shots than you need. If you must photograph at night or in low light, have a friend turn his or her phone light on and hold it parallel to the table above the dish. Also, get creative and turn the plate around to see which angle looks best, especially for dishes with height.”
Dobkin is a senior editor at Zagat.
Dara Pollak @SkinnyPigNYC
“Avoid yellow lighting at all costs, which means NEVER use your flash! If you’re using your phone, grab a friend’s phone (with permission, obviously) and open the notes app or a blank email for nice white light. Anything with a mostly white background will work well. Then bump up the brightness on that phone to 100 percent. Use this as your light as opposed to the flash. It will be a more blue and white light, not as abrasive or yellow as the flash. Lastly, make sure all components of the dish are visible. This is key for food photos. If you’re shooting something with height, like a burger, you’ll likely want to get on eye level with it so you’re shooting it dead on to capture the stacked layers. If you’re shooting something symmetrical and round, like macaroni and cheese in a dish, an aerial shot (from the top down) will work nicely.”