Let’s be honest: photographing food is hard. Anyone who’s ever pulled out their phone in a dimly lit restaurant has likely abandoned their attempt at doing their entree photographic justice. Yet we’re endlessly compelled to continue trying. Why?
Because food is art. At least, it can be, given the right tools and techniques. That’s why we’ve invested in a cutting-edge “food studio” complete with ace photographers and food stylists, each driven by the pursuit of capturing the moments where a dish looks as good as it tastes.
And just as art evolves and changes, our food studio team is committed to staying on top of — and pushing ahead — the food photography industry year over year. Here’s their 21 favorite photos (of the thousands) they captured in 2021, and a breakdown of the tips and trends they’re tracking with lately:
Our 21 Favorite Photos of ’21
When you’re going for an expansive shot that captures the entirety of a feast, try using an overhead technique. This approach really allows you to play with the composition of shapes made from dishes, glasses, and table decor. These shots are substantially easier if you have a camera with a tilting screen.
When you’re looking to nail a dramatic mood, try using a single, directional light source to create, high contrast, bold highlights & shadows. The contour and texture of most food will make for some interesting outcomes.
It’s all about layers with this one. A side-profile shot of a mountainous sandwich or burger can really convey the craft it takes to assemble our favorite handhelds. So don’t be afraid to get low to the surface with this technique.
Inspired by classic painting techniques, and leaning on replicating the way light and shadow react to reflective and matte surfaces can create an almost painterly quality in the image.
When you’re really looking to capture a down-to-earth, casual vibe, consider reclaimed barn wood, scratched metals, or dark tiles. Raw, organic surfaces can create that authentic, casual tone — which lends itself favorably to comfort food.
Minimalism puts an emphasis on extreme simplification of form, typically using only basic shapes. Translated to food photography, this means focusing on the food itself and not relying on excessive propping or styling to tell the story.
The facade of pristine, commercial food photography has long lost its appeal. Instead, people gravitate towards any and all cues that food is real — and imperfect. A well-placed crumb goes a long way to helping people believe what they’re seeing.
Going for a farm-to-table vibe? Then it should be a no-brainer to incorporate aspects of nature in your food photos. Wood grain or even stone backgrounds can add some natural warmth and texture.