Tips for drool-worthy food photos

“How on earth does one make food look great in photos?” Granted I am not a professional photographer, but I am a lover of beautiful imagery, food and Instagram, and most importantly for this post; have worked as the Editor of a beautiful food magazine with a job description involving commissioning brilliant photographers and going through hundreds of stock photos regularly to select the best. Here then are some tips I’ve picked up along the way, and these are customized for the amateur photographer who’s keen on having a flawless Instagram feed (shameless plug: check out my gallery here) or blog roll:

1. Good lighting is key: Natural lighting is your best bet, as we all don’t always have the luxury of having fancy equipment and assistants at our beck and call. Imagine being at a restaurant with friends and whipping out a huge spot light to brighten up your bruschetta before you dig in! Simply move your plate under a skylight or next to a window and you’ll see a world of difference. Remember to shoot while facing away from the window to avoid shadows and silhouettes, unless that’s what you’re going for.

Please don’t use your camera’s automatic flash as that light is often too harsh and also makes it harder to post-edit your photos.

If you’re out for dinner with your friends and you really want to get a shot but it’s too dark, just ask them to flood the dish with their phone’s torches and voila! Oh, and if there’s low lighting, you need to be really steady otherwise the shot will likely be blurry.

Shot at the delicatessen of Sankara Nairobi.

This fraisier is one of my favourite cakes being sold in the city. Shot at the delicatessen of Sankara Nairobi.

 

Karan and I were making pizza at Brown’s Cheese farm, and he shot this for the Pizza issue of Yummy Magazine.

2. Don’t be shy to stand on stuff: my favourite shots of food are often top views, and I’m also quite fond of flatlays. The thing about that is sometimes the tip toe won’t work and you will have to kick off your shoes and stand on a chair. Yes, even at a restaurant. I mostly do it when the restaurant was expecting me and knows that one of my agendas is to get great shots of food. I’ve also done it with friends and family. Weigh the situation though, otherwise don’t blame me if you never get asked on that second date. Save your weird habits for the third date…once he likes you.

Shot this while tasting the Spanish/Lebanese tapas menu at Cin Cin Bar, Fairmont Norfolk. This shot is actually unedited.

 

Wendy Watta

It doesn’t really matter whether you’re using a phone or a fancy camera. Just know the expected results and manipulate the situation (lighting, etc) to help you achieve that.

3. Take numerous shots: It’s like taking a selfie: Gee that makes me sound so basic take several shots in different angles and with different backgrounds and props if possible so that you have a variety to choose from afterwards. Even the best food photographers take multiple shots- even once they think they have ‘the one’. There’s nothing worse that reviewing them later only to find that your shots are all blurry, or if you’re a little OCD about symmetry like me, discovering that some spoon or butter knife is facing the wrong direction.

If you’re taking a flat lay, make sure the table isn’t too crowded. Space everything out a little and move things around so it looks decent.

Pay attention to the minor details: cover that soup stain and remove the dirty cutlery- unless that’s what you’re going for.

tiramisu bakery kenya

Karan and I were doing the rounds to some of my favourite dessert spots in Nairobi for the chocolate issue of yummy, and he shot this at Tiramisu

Make your shots more dynamic by adding other items to the frame and using Instagram foodie trends such as #handsinframe, #drinksintheair #onthetable etc.

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4. Edit your shot: Getting the perfect shot is only 80% of the battle, and the other 20% can be achieved in post-editing. Thank heavens for filters, because everyone can now end up looking like a pro- all for the greater good of beautiful imagery. When editing on my phone, before I would only use snapseed to adjust 4 simple things: brightness, contrast, ambiance/highlight and warmth. However, over the past few weeks, you will notice that the @Afrowatta feed is now a lot more cohesive, all thanks to VSCOcam.

To edit on my laptop, I always use Lightroom, and I also installed VSCOcam presets which makes my work a lot faster and easier.

Yummy magazine diwali issue

Blogger Sandy Thethy made this dish, which @karankhalsa then shot for the cover of Yummy Magazine, Diwali issue. We had such fun going around various personalities’ homes to sample authentic Indian cuisine!

 

Cheeseboard. And wine.

Off to have me some cheese and wine. Yes, at 10:00am in the morning. Let’s just call it brunch. Lovely day everyone!

PS:

  1. Remember to eat your food before it gets cold, damn it!
  2. If it’s a fine dining dish and it’s in a magazine, many hands have probably been in it.

Happy snapping!

Cheers!

 

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