Getting Your Plate Social Media Ready: Food Photography Tips

picture of a plate of food staged by Centennial College Food Media program faculty

You can see the waiter making his way towards your table with your order of lobster mac and cheese and your friend's photogenic steak and mashed potatoes. You're almost salivating when he places the dish in front of you and asks if you'd like freshly ground pepper. You pick up your fork, anxious to dig in, when your friend nearly yells, "Wait! I have to take a picture of Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter!" You roll your eyes but wait patiently as your friend hovers over the table, snapping photos with her smart phone from different angles. It seems like forever before you can take your first bite.

Here are some tips you can offer your friend to get the social media-worthy shot — without your food getting cold.

1. Always shoot with your phone camera: Most social media sites give you the option to take a photo through the app. Don't use it. Your photo will never come out as clearly as when you use your phone camera. 

2. Windows are your friend: Ask for seating next to a window because the natural lighting will do the food the most justice. Don't use your flash. It will bleach the image. If you aren't next to a window or it's dark, get your friend to use the flashlight on his or her phone to use as "lighting." 

3. Set the scene: Use the table and what's on it as props. Does the restaurant have cool salt and peppershakers? Did you order a fancy drink? Are there cool placemats? Is the cutlery really fancy? Your plate can still be the focus of the photo even if it isn't right in the centre. On the flipside, watch for dirty napkins, half empty drinks, or anything else that could prove unsightly. 

4. It's all a blur: In some shots, the background can be a welcome addition to a photo. In others, it can be a distraction. For example, if the background is really busy or the tablecloth clashes with the plate. Using the manual settings on your phone camera, you can make the background a blurry to create the short depth-of-field effect that makes good food photography.

5. Compose the shot: Take a bite out of your pasta first and leave the fork on the plate. Cut open the stuffed chicken breast. Sometimes, the "real life" food shots (crumbs and all) can be more appealing than perfection. So, put some thought into the shot and you're sure to end up with a creative capture.

6. Angles: Stand up to take the shot from overhead for variety. Turn the plate around to see which item looks best in front of the camera. Shoot sandwiches at eye level so your viewers can see what's between the slices of bread.

7. Lean on filters: Filters are there to help your photos look their best. Remember that when you're taking forever to get the ideal image and everyone around the table is starting to grumble. Just don't overdo it because there is nothing less appealing than a green smoothie that looks like it is glowing neon.

8. Photogenic or not: Face it: Some food is just not photogenic. It may be the most delicious meal ever but it may not photograph well. For example, sauces, curries, stews, and anything that has a darker colour may just end up looking like a big blob in your picture. Unless there is some texture, you might want to save the photo taking until dessert or your next outing.

If you are the food photographer in your group of friends, you should consider taking your passion and turning it into a career with Centennial College's Food Media program. Much more than just simple food photography tips, this program covers the know-how students need to launch careers as food product creators, developers, presenters, advertisers and marketers.

By Izabela Szydlo

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