When I first start taking food pictures, it was not a conscious effort. With advanced cameras, and photo-editing apps on our smart phones, it is easy to turn random snapshots into decent quality pictures. However, not every food image can appeal to your viewers’ appetite. Why is that? By trial and error, it finally dawns on me that the subtleness between technical-excellence, and that water-mouthing WOW effect is indeed psychological. It is all about CREATING THE DESIRE to “take a bite”! How are you going to add the stimulating flair to your pictures? Here are my top 5 homecook-friendly ideas:
1. Who’s eating?
The simplest and easiest way to implicate deliciousness is to show that someone has “taken a bite” already literally. By leaving tidbits on the plate or by a bite mark on your food is sending a clear message of “let’s eat”. There are two simply ways you can do it:
(i) Smart use of depth of field: This technique is best for dishes where you have multiples of the same food on a plate. Take a look at this recent picture I took of my new dish: Butter Garlic Escargots with Crispy Mushrooms. First, I set the focus on the composition on an individual portion. Then, I break down another portion as background, while I chose to use a wide aperture. The idea is to allow viewers to have a sneak preview of the hidden ingredients, and thereby may want to explore the dish further.
(ii) Complete deconstruction: You have to think carefully before you use this technique as it will take away the integrity of the presentation of your dish. Ask yourself these key questions: What is the hero of my dish? Is my purpose to highlight the ingredients? Do I care about showcasing my presentation techniques? If you use it right, it certainly will stand out as you are leading your viewers on a tasting journey.
2. Hints of flavours
Taste is king. The flavours in some dishes may not be obvious until eaten. For dishes with very distinct, and easily identify flavours, like lavender, you may want to give a hint by planting the raw forms of the ingredients here, and there. This will help bring back memories of dishes with similar taste.
3. Leave room for imagination
Have you noticed the recent rising trend of “simplicity” when it comes to plating? Food is placed on only one side of a dish while there is a lot of empty space on the dish. Alternately, food could be placed with a geometric balance. There is a good reason for that. It allows you to focus on the food, while leaving room for you to imagine what is going to happen next. A very zen concept indeed. This technique is best to use for more refined dishes.
4. It is cool!
It is quite challenging to shoot cold drinks as you may have to shoot fast. If I have to shoot a cold beverage like Rum Coke, I usually will place the glasses in the freezer first. The sudden change of temperature will help to leave some droplets naturally on the exterior. And, yes, you may want to try out your picture composition with some dummy empty glasses first. Also, when you are ready to take the shot, make sure you PUT EXCESS ICE inside the glasses. This will serve as an invitation to your audience: Isn’t it cool? Want one?
5. Set the table
Let’s have a meal. Food alone can’t make it work. A nice table setting, with a good glass of wine, will help set the scene, and create the right mood for a good meal. Simply by adding cutlery on the side of your plate will remind your audience: it is time to eat!
I am a believer in limitless creativity. Techniques and rules form a good foundation as we develop our skills. Yet, I have broken my own rules, and opt to trust my instinct at the time of the shooting. Just enjoy the process. Are these ideas going to work for you? I would love to hear your feedbacks. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Let me know how they work out for you!