11 a.m. Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco.
Early signs of the hustle and bustle are slowly crawling in. The warm and cozy California sunlight is pouring in through the ceiling. Everything is popping up with a vibrant freshness under the softness of natural light. This place is not only a foodie heaven. It is also the ideal locale for snapping the perfect shot.
With the dawn of the smartphone era, travel food photos become a new art form. However, only a handful of these images really make the cut. One of the main reasons is because it is harder to control the setting and the environment around you. And, you probably have to shoot fast. Some of the most common problems include:
– poor lighting
– no composition
– messy or chaotic background
Despite the challenges, it is not impossible to take food photos like a pro on the road. Assuming you are not a professional and just have your cell phone with you while travelling, the following tips will help enhance the quality of your pictures:
Like booking a hotel or a tour, you should always do research for your meal plan. As you are checking out the menu, do a quick image search and get a sense of the ambience of the restaurant. Are there window seats? What is the table setting? Can you make use of the cutlery? Can you take advantage of the table material as your background? What do other patrons’ pictures look like? Visualize and compose the image in advance.
A close-up and a wide shot. Or, alternatively, a top-shot and a side shot. Or, all of those. You can then pick and touch up your favourite ones later, when you relax in your hotel room.
3. Time your shoot
Check the weekly weather forecast. Adjust your itinerary if needs to. Also, check the sunrise or sunset time. Opt for early dinner if you can. The benefits are two-fold. Avoid wasting time in a long queue while tapping on the “golden hours”. If there is an outdoor patio or window seats, make sure you request that when you make your reservation.
4. Get the best out of your light source
Overhead lighting is very common in restaurants. It may pose challenges as ceiling lights will create shadows and limit your cellphone movement. Don’t be scared. Try to get the best out of it. Glitters from overhead lights, for example, are pleasant garnishes for a deluxe oyster platter. You just need to shoot from a side angle. Also, move around the plate or switch chair to avoid direct overhead lighting if you can.
Consider carrying a “pocket-sized” reflector with you. I don’t mean the professional ones. Mine is homemade, wrapping up cardboard with aluminium foil. Easy to carry in a handbag, without drawing much attention. That can become handy to brighten up shady spots.
5. Less is more
Food on the road is about spontaneity. There will always be surprises. When the food itself is THE STORY, simply follow the flow. Grab and hold up that burger served in abundance. Zoom in to the yellowtail sashimi on a white plate. Simple deliciousness.
Golden rule: You should live in the moment. Never keep your travel companions waiting, or let a hot dish turn cold. The essence of travel is about the experience. Enjoy the food. Appreciate the culture. And, treasure your memory. Now, go and pack up. Get ready for your next trip!
Related Link: Solo Foodie in Seoul