Food photography has always been one of my favorite genres. It combines two things that I love to do – shooting and eating. 🙂 I was recently commissioned by Bono Lounge, a new Italian restaurant and cocktail lounge/bar in Tongyeong, to make photos for their menu. Here are some of my favorite shots from that day:
Huge props to chef Jo Yun Ho (조윤호) and big boss Young Jun for whipping up delicious dish after dish. They had the hardest job that day. Whether you’re craving delicious Italian food or looking to unwind with some drinks, Bono lounge in Tongyeong is a great choice. Check it out in Mujeon-dong, around the corner from Cafe Droptop.
Food photography isn’t as easy as it seems. The task of conveying the taste and appeal of a dish through a 2-dimensional image involves some extra steps that go beyond good cooking. That’s why bigger productions often have a dedicated food stylist to make the dishes look mouth-watering. However, we won’t always have a food stylist around. I didn’t have a food stylist that day and it was up to us to make the food look great on camera.
Here are a few tips and tricks to remember when shooting food:
1. Food only looks good for a short time. After a few minutes it starts to dry out, vegetables start looking limp, and the dish just loses it’s overall freshness. Shooting the dish within the first few minutes of it coming out of the kitchen will give you the best results. That means having all your lights and settings dialed in even before the first dish comes out. I asked the chef for a dummy dish so I could get everything set. Once my work area was all set up, I gave him the go signal to start cooking. From this point on it was dish in, dish out and each dish was shot within the ideal timeframe.
2. Cook for looks. This is what I told the chef during our pre-shoot meeting. Chefs know their dishes and they know exactly what to do to make the food look it’s best.
3. Moisturize! When dishes start looking a bit dry or need a bit of freshening up, brush a bit of oil on the surface. Applying a bit of water from a spray bottle works well too.
4. Garnish and decorate with fresh, raw ingredients. Fresh herbs and fruit are awesome for enhancing food photos. They add freshness and color to the dish. For instance, adding raw basil leaves to pasta or mint leaves to cocktails will make the dish come alive on camera. In this particular shoot, we used green-leaf sprouts and parsley to enhance the pasta dishes. We also used fresh (frozen ;)) blueberries to top the blueberry pizza, as seen above. Moreover, fresh, raw ingredients are also great for styling the background, as I did in this shoot. Of course, it’s always best to use ingredients and props that are actually related to the dish or recipe. Speaking of background elements…
5. Choose your background elements carefully. It’s easy to go overboard with background props. Keep in mind the rules of composition and balance. Props should complement the main subject, not overpower it. Choose colors that complement the main subject. In this shoot, I chose a plain white surface to go with the interior design of the restaurant. Background items were a combination of ingredients and utensils related to each dish. I used an aperture of 4.0 to 8.0, depending on how in-focus I wanted the background elements. Controlling depth-of-field also helps the main subject stand out even more.
Camera and lighting:
I used a Canon 5D Mark II and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L for this shoot. I Initially wanted to use a 70-200mm for its sharpness and compression, but the minimum focus distance was not good for the space I was working in. Food is always best lit from behind to bring out the texture. My main light was a hot shoe flash inside a 28-inch soft box. Fill light was another flash at half the power of the main light going through a white umbrella. On camera left, I used a piece of white board as a reflector. Here’s the diagram:
That’s about it! Have fun shooting food and remember, if the photo makes you hungry, then you’ve succeeded. 😉