8 tips to put the wow factor into food photography

  • Living
  • Wednesday, 22 Apr 2020

Plate your food well and it can look like a meal in a Michelin five-star restaurant.

Food photography is becoming increasingly popular, especially with many people preparing their own meals at home and posting photos of their creations on social media (#MyStayHome) during the movement control order.

So how do you make your photos stand out from the endless stream of food pictures on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Learning a few tips and tricks can make photos of your breakfast, lunch or dinner go from Blah to Ooh-la-la.

Up-close and personal

Don’t be afraid to get closer to your food. Unless you are showing an entire scene of dishes on a dining table, you’d want to focus on the food itself and not the surroundings. When you zoom in, take note of the textures and shapes and how they interrelate to each other to compose the perfect food picture. Do remember though that while you get closer, don’t zoom in too near until the photo is blurry.

The right angle

The side angle works best for this waffle-burger as it shows the layers within.The side angle works best for this waffle-burger as it shows the layers within.

Move around the plate or bowl and try shooting it from different angles to find the best one. Certain food (such as a sandwich or a burger) looks better from a side angle because it has layers and you want to see what’s inside. Others look look better from a top angle, especially food that is arranged in a bowl or plate, or even pizza. Some look best photographed at a 45% angle, such as drinks in a glass.

Main focus

Depending on the food that you’re photographing, you might want to think of where to focus. For example, if you’re photographing a chicken dish with some french fries and a salad, focus on the meat rather than the sides. Focus also means that you pay more attention to the food rather than the pot or bowl that it comes in, which only acts to complement to the food.

Keep it clean

Stick to neutrals for a clean background that doesn’t distract from the main subject – your food. A background that is too colourful might take attention away from the food.

Also, minimise the clutter. An untidy background, a messy fork, serviette, or kitchen appliances will also draw away attention from the food. Unless an item adds value to the picture, then it is better to do without it.


Natural lighting used to great effect. Natural lighting used to great effect.

Lighting is very important in food photography. Use natural light for the best effect. Avoid using the direct flash because not only is it too harsh, you’ll get shadows on your food, and the light bouncing off your food will make it look shiny/greasy.

Some artificial lighting (from lamps in your home) might also result in an orange or yellowish cast on your food.

But if you are taking food photos at night during dinner time, and it’s a bit dark, you can try this trick: Use a small torch light at a 45% angle so that the food will be lit up without any shadows. The key is soft, indirect lighting.


Plating is the art of arranging and decorating your food. This can either make or break your food photos. Plate it well and it can look like a meal in a Michelin five-star restaurant, even though you just slaved over the hot stove for it. On the other hand, plate it badly and even the most appetising dish may look unappealing.

A simple way to plate is, first choose the right plate because it is like your "canvas". A neutral colour is easier to work with and won't distract from the food. However, certain foods might be enhanced by slightly more colourful plates. Then, arrange your food on the plate. Remember not to overcrowd your plate, though!

Choose the right spot

Be creative. Sometimes it doesn’t all have to be taken in the kitchen or dining room only. Place a tablecloth on a small garden table in the balcony of your condo and put your food on it and voila, dinner with a view! But make sure the surroundings add value rather than subtract from the picture.


Colours can be enhanced through editing.Colours can be enhanced through editing.

Colours can be enhanced through editing. Some smartphones have a setting specially for food and macros (or close-ups) so use that. Make use of filters or editing software such as Photoshop to make your photos pop.

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