Photography Cheat Sheet: Food Photography Essentials

Want to take professional-looking food snaps? Today’s featured photography cheat sheet brings some essential tips to get you started.

We all dabble in food photography once in a while, especially when our inner foodie strikes or we eat out somewhere Instagram-worthy. Smartphone snaps can only take us so far, and if you really want to do it seriously and make it your bread and butter, you’ll need to churn out high-quality, professional-looking images with an actual camera. If that’s precisely what you’re looking into, a photography cheat sheet we spotted on Reddit should help you get started.

Dubbed The Principles of Food Photography, the cheat sheet below put together by Rob Bennett outlines the essential tips for taking mouthwatering food photos. From gear, composition, angles, and other technicalities, this quick guide is enough to equip you with the basics, especially if you’ve never done this before using a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

First things first: what should your gear comprise if you want to get into food photography? The guide suggests adding a macro lens to your kit, if you don’t have one yet. It will allow you to do close-ups and tight shots with ease, which is perfect for food photography. Also, it’s not mentioned in the guide, but it’s best to have a tripod ready in case you need an extra hand with keeping the camera steady. However, don’t splurge on expensive equipment right away; try to do more with less and practice with what you have.

Aperture-wise, the guide didn’t specify a single setting, but it depends on how much of the food or styling you want to keep in focus. How much available light there is in your shooting location is another factor. If you’re blessed with a location that has lots of bright natural light, start with a smaller aperture of f4.5 or  f5.6 to achieve a depth of field that will get more (or all) of the subject in focus. Then, experiment with wider apertures like f2.8 for more moody, detail-focused shots. Rachel of Two Loves Studio recommends smaller apertures for flat lays or overhead shots, and larger apertures if you’re shooting at an angle and want to blur out the background. Definitely check out her detailed discussion on aperture for food photography.

Related to the points above, it’s important to think about the story or message you want to tell through your photos. As with any kind of photography, great food photos are able to communicate a message to the viewer. For this, the composition is key. Find the right angles, be creative with your compositions and props, apply crops if necessary, and experiment with lighting to add mood.

Additional reading: Shoot Mouthwatering Food Photography

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Do check out our collection of useful photography cheat sheets so far to help you practice!