We’ve all been guilty of photographing a plate of yummy food and posting the results to Facebook. And while the meal in question might well qualify for a Michelin star, a poor picture can make it look more like a cheap takeaway. Don’t worry though – help is at hand. If you want to get the best foodie pictures, simply follow our tips below.

Tip 1: Use Natural Light

Food always looks better under natural light, especially softer lights. If you have any control over the direction of natural light then aim to have it either behind the food or to the side as this will bring out more texture in your food than lighting directly from above, which will tend to flatten the whole plate.

Last but not least avoid using flash if possible as this will more than likely bleach out your food making it look unappetising, especially if you are shooting up close.

Tip 2: Frame your Food

Your picture will usually look more engaging if you experiment with some creative angles so get in close and look for an interesting angle.

If you’re using a smartphone or basic compact then you probably won’t have any control over aperture,  however if you’re using a DSLR or compact system camera then try using a low aperture of around f/1.8 to f/2.8. This will enable you to create a shallow depth of field effect, which means you can fill the frame with food, some of which will be pin-sharp and some of which will be nicely blurred. Use this technique to pick out parts of the dish that you really want to stand out.

Fruit and honey

Tip 3: Location, Location, Location…

Broadly speaking you have two choices of how far away to take the photo from: either get in close and fill the frame with food so that it’s the primary subject of the photo, or draw back so that you can put the plate into the context of where you’re eating it. For pure foodie pics the former is usually your best bet, however if the location is as interesting as the plate sitting in front of you then don’t be afraid to show it.  

Tip 4: Use a Tripod

OK, so this isn’t always possible – especially if you’re eating out. If you’re at home creating a culinary masterpiece, however, then do your food justice by using a tripod. This way you can dim the lights or use a higher aperture to ensure that the whole image is sharp.

 Burger and chips

Tip 5: Colour, Contrast and Saturation

The greatest challenge with food photography is to make the food look as good to eat in a photo as it does on a plate. One way to do this is to give the colour, contrast and saturation levels a bit of a boost so that the resultant image ‘pops’ with that extra bit of deliciousness. Be careful not to boost things too much though, otherwise your photo will look as fake as the backlit images above the counter at your local McDonalds.  

If you are using a smartphone experiment with filters either those included or using apps like Instagram.

Tip 6: Clean Plates

It might sound obvious, but try to photograph your food before you’ve eaten any of it or pushed it around the plate. If serving up at home then be sure to wipe the sides of the plate clean too. After all, all good chefs put a lot of time and effort into presentation, so the last thing you want to do is photograph something that looks half-eaten or poorly presented.

Pepper composite

Tip 7: Before and After

Another neat trick that works well, especially if you’re cooking at home, is to create a ‘before, during and after’ composite image.

To make a composite image you don’t need specialist image-editing software like Photoshop – there are dozens of simple-to-use apps that can be downloaded straight to your phone or tablet that will do it all for you with a few clicks.

Take a range of images that show the raw ingredients, the cooking process and the finished article and then blend them into a single image. Not only will it look great, but your friends will be even more impressed with your cooking skills

Tip 8: Background Props

While the focus of the image should be the food itself, there’s nothing wrong with giving the meal a bit of context. For example, a Sunday roast can look great with a glass of wine in the background, while nothing says ‘romantic meal for two’ quite like a candle illuminating the background with soft, warm light.

Just be sure that the props don’t steal the show though, so your camera allows it then select a low aperture to get a shallow depth-of-field effect, or if using a smartphone select focus on the food so it remains sharp.