Saturday, 10 November 2012

Food Lovers' Essential Photography Tips by Krishanthi Williams

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I am very excited to introduce to you a very special person today.  Krishanthi is one of my favourite photographers.  Although her specialty lies in wedding photography, she also works in commercial photography.  She has worked with Daniel Galvin, Quill London and even Koj from Masterchef.  How amazing is she?  I know that you will love her essential tips in food photography, so grab a cuppa and enjoy the read my lovely readers!

We've all been guilty of it: that amazing melting chocolate fondant arrives on a plate, and you just have to take a photo of it.  This practise has become even more popular since the birth of iPhones, Facebook and Twitter: but I'm going to share a few simple tips with you on how to easily enhance your food photography, whether using a smartphone, compact digital camera or DSLR.

1) Lighting
Where you photograph your food will have the single biggest impact on the outcome of your photo.  Placing your subject as close to natural light as you can will render a pleasantly lit image - close to a window in daylight is a good starting point.  If it's a really sunny day (funnily enough I don't worry about this too much in London!) you might want to drape some white muslin or even a sheet in front of the window to diffuse the rays of light, and avoid harsh shadows.  This is how I photograph most of my food. 

2) Composition
How you arrange items in food photography can play a big role in the impact of the final image.  It may sound obvious, but pay attention to where you are placing components within your photo.  Our eyes naturally follow lines along an image, which gives rise to the ‘rule of thirds’.  The image below would appear slightly less dramatic if the marshmallow was right in the middle: 

Don’t forget that rules are there to be broken (in some instances, anyway!); placing your subject dead centre can also make for a high impact image and can be forgiving when you don't want people to look too closely around the bull's eye point of focus.  This photo was taken in a restaurant (the classic foody-nerd-with-a-camera scenario).  When the plate arrived looking like it did, I knew how I wanted to get this photo and had approximately 20 seconds to execute it before I would invite stares from surrounding diners.  The 20 seconds included dragging my fellow diner from his chair out of the way, as I wanted the glow of the restaurant's lights in the background rather than his shirt - whatever you have to do to get the shot!

3) Visualisation
It definitely helps to visualise the final image; knowing what you want the food to look like in the photo before you even pick up your camera can save you precious time, especially when you are in a public place such as a dinner party or restaurant as above.  That doesn't mean that you can't experiment as you go along, far from it: just that if you can imagine the end result, or a version of it at least, you can prepare your props accordingly.  When I say props, this can be anything from plates, glasses and cutlery to vintage sets, distressed wood and materials.

Trying to photograph an item of food that is not stationary is a classic example of when previsualisation becomes invaluable.  If, like me, you cannot settle for anything other than a runny yolk, then timing is imperative.  When photographing food in a cooking or moving state (e.g. egg yolk, pouring sauce, sizzling meat) then you have to time it carefully, and often you only get one or two shots before you will need to start from scratch.  However, if you’ve thought about the end result that you want, you’ll have a more streamlined (and hopefully less  painful!) journey to get there. 

4) Depth of field
Depth of field refers to how much of your photograph will be in focus; in simple terms this is the factor that will separate an all-over crisp image to one with a focused subject and blurred background.  This element of photography is much more difficult - but not impossible - to control when using an iPhone or compact digital camera; often these cameras will have a ‘food’ setting which is automated to give you that lovely blurriness in food images.  

If you are using a DSLR, depth of field is primarily controlled by varying the aperture setting on your camera.  My personal preferences in food photography migrate towards using a wide aperture (anywhere from f/1.8 to f/4) and taking action shots, just because I feel the image carries a bit more life that way.  Both of these photos were taken at f/2.8, and you can see the image start to blur behind the main focus of the shot: 

Bear in mind that choosing a wide aperture does not automatically mean that you will have all the surrounding detail fall out of focus, and vice versa.  For example, both of the images below were taken at f/4; yet it appears that more of the fig salad on the right is in focus, because there are more elements of the food resting on the focal plane at f/4, whereas in the ice cream picture, the nearest thing behind the ice cream was a shop about 8 feet behind.  So, distance also affects the blurriness of the background, but the aperture setting is a good place to start.  

I hope you’ve found this information on food photography useful; I by no means consider myself an expert in this area but it is always a pleasure to share what I have learnt with those who share my passion for food and photography!  If you share any questions for me please do leave a comment or get in touch with me through my website: or via email on

Krishanthi also has a beautiful fanpage.  Please feel free to join her on or her twitter handle is @KrishanthiPhoto.  

I look forward to your comments lovely readers.  Do you have any food photography tips that you would like to share with us today?  If so, then please do comment below as I love hearing from you.  And don't forget, Krishanthi may just be the person that you've been looking for to photograph your very special day.

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