How to Shoot Food

[photograph © Jonathan Perugia]

British photographer Jonathan Perugia has built a reputation as one of the most prodigiously published assignment photographers in the business. Here, Jonathan gives us his tips on how to shoot world-class food images.

1/ Light matters
Whenever possible use natural diffused (i.e. not direct) light: by a large window is ideal.

2/ Find your angle
Once you’ve chosen your spot, rotate the dish slowly to chose the best angle, not forgetting to look from directly above and from eye level to the dish.

3/ Consider the angle of light
Do the same with the direction of the lighting – walk around the dish and notice how the light changes from each angle. I generally don’t choose a spot with the light behind me – it tends to be flatter and duller than light coming from one side or behind the subject.

4/ Play with light
Don’t be afraid to shoot into the light – this works especially well with lighter dishes like salads and desserts. You want to expose for the foreground/focal area, allowing the background to overexpose, which gives the image a bright, fresh feel.

5/ Improvise for gear
You may well need some kind of reflector to bounce some light into the shadow area: white napkin, tea towel or white menu works fine if necessary.

6/ Look at the background
Your angle will determine how much of the background you see. This can really add to the composition or be quite distracting, so think carefully about how you’re using it.

7/ Use props for atmosphere
You can use glasses, flowers, condiments, menus etc, as background elements which help to suggest the atmosphere of the place, and create pleasing shapes and colours that combine well with those of the dish.

8/ Use your tripod
If you have a tripod, use it: as well as helping you keep the camera steady and allow smaller apertures, it will help you to be more considered with your composition.

9/ Choose your lens
The ideal lens is some kind of macro lens, but you can still take good food shots with a standard lens.

A super-useful bit of kit:
Infrared flash trigger. I don’t use flash very often when I shoot travel photography, but when I do, I almost always use this. It helps avoid the flat diffract light from on-camera flash, and allows me to create both dramatic shadows or flattering directional light for portraits and still lives.

 Jonathan Perugia is a member of The WideAngle photographers network. For a portfolio of his images, please click here.

In addition to his freelance work, Jonathan leads photography holidays with Authentic Adventures. This year he is leading trips to Havana and Rajasthan. 



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