Guest Post: Take Better Food Photos

From Thomas: I would like to introduce everyone to my friend James Thompson, he’s the foodie behind the amazing Instagram account: @food_feels. I met James in NYC last September and we’ve kept in touch as we both traveled the world. I’ve received so many inquires from people looking for advice on food photography. Personally, I’ve really struggled with food photography so I couldn’t pretend to know what I was talking about. Lighting, arrangement of food, the angle and the decision of what food to shoot and what not to shoot have all haunted me. So I’ve finally convinced my friend, James, to take a break from eating and posting about cronuts and avocado toast and write this post, so we can get a glimpse at how he so successfully makes the mouths water of his 70k followers (and growing). I hope his tips and photos inspire us all to take better food photos. WARNING: Don’t go through his Instagram feed on an empty stomach, I’m currently making that mistake as I write this intro.

As part of the Behind the Scenes section of this blog, I hope to start off this series of Guest Blogposts so that we can cover topics that I don’t think I’m an expert in. It’s also a great way to introduce you to people that I think are doing a great job at something in particular. Please don’t hesitate to write in the comments section what you would like to see covered Behind the Scenes.

From James: I have always been a foodie and guilty for always uploading photos of my food on my personal Instagram until my friend suggested I start a food Instagram which I have now done for the past year focusing on cafes, restaurants, hotels and bars.

I have been lucky enough to travel a lot over the last year so I have eaten at some amazing places and tried a bunch of new things. I currently live in Sydney, Australia where there is a really strong foodie culture at the moment with a new cafe or restaurant opening every weekend so there is always somewhere new to try.

Lighting

One thing that hasn’t changed since I began Food Feels is that I still use my iPhone to take the photos, I find it takes amazing shots as long as you have the right lighting on your side, natural light is my best friend and I hate to use flash on food. It takes away any detail and color. So if you’re eating out get a window seat!

This photo was taken a few weeks ago in a pretty dark hotel room so I had to shift the table by the window to let in the natural and take a birds eye shot to get it right.

Food Feels Brunch Plate

This photo, this photo and this photo are examples where nothing needed to be done to the photo, it was just perfect morning light.

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If I do eat at a really dark or dim restaurant (and don’t judge me on this) I will go and take a photo of the meals before the waiter has even picked them up from the kitchen to bring to our table such as this photo and this photo.

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Keep it exciting

Apart from lighting, the only other tip I could think of for food photography is keep it exciting.. Especially with those meals that get the people talking! like the Ramen Burger In NY, this epic Chocolate, Fig & Ricotta gelato in Italy!  or this Seasalt, Watermelon and…. Popcorn ice-cream.

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Editing

In terms of editing, I will rarely use a filter on Instagram as I find you start to lose the quality of the food pretty quick. As long as there is some good lighting to start off with I mostly use the ‘LUX’ option as well as the brightness, contrast and sharpen settings.
Cronuts Culture Bean Cafe

Choosing an Angle

Thomas asked me if there’s a particular angle I use but it all depends what’s on the table. If it’s a burger I get up close and personal but if it’s an awesome looking meal from above I’ll shoot it from there. My favorite is the whole table with a bunch of dishes. I usually take one friend to a restaurant and we normally order 5 or 6 dishes so we are literally putting plates on chairs while we mix and match for birds eye view shots. Once again if it was a table of burgers you wouldn’t take it from above where if it was pizzas you definitely would. Some dishes deserve a photo on their own such as this and this and some look great from above such as this and this while some just look great being held in the air like this!

Moussaka of eggplant, seared scallops & taramosalata
Acai Bowl Sisterfields
Ramen and Dumplings
Three Williams Cafe
Shake Shake Burger

It’s exciting at the moment.. there are food trucks popping up in every city, start up businesses with new food ideas appearing everywhere, cafes on every corner and burgers are dominating the world. Exciting time to be a foodie.

If you have any questions or would like to get in contact please feel free to get in touch foodfeelsmedia@gmail.com

9 Comments

  • Shannon says:

    Such great tips! I will definitely be putting these tips to use! thanks for sharing!

  • Maria says:

    Thanks for the tips!
    Question: How do you avoid shadows from the iPhone when you shoot from above?

    • Thomas says:

      It’s hard to completely eliminate shadows. Darker shadows are caused by brighter light. Flash can cause bad shadows. If you look at the first example that James shared, he had to wheel the room service table closer to the window. When editing you can bring out the shadows a little so that they look less harsh.

  • Krissy says:

    Awesome post, love sharing a fabulous food find on social media! Here in DC, some restaurants are posting ‘No Photography’ signs on their doors. Are you seeing that anywhere else? It seems a bit counter-productive for the restaurant that would stand to gain exposure but on the other hand, I can see how food bloggers might be distracting to other diners. Your thoughts?

    • Thomas says:

      Now a days these restaurants would be crazy to have bans against photography. Social sharing is the cheapest most organic marketing any company can ask for. Whole restaurants and cafes exist and have crazy followings because they have built their business to be optimized for social sharing. Check out this post: http://galmeetsglam.com/2015/04/mr-holmes-bakery/ We talked with one of the owners, he had worked at an ad agency for years and they’ve built an amazing business.

  • Jennifer says:

    Ohmygosh, lighting is crazy important and I love that you list it first, haha. It can make the most amazing meals look awful, and the worst meals look great. I’ve always wondered–do you ever have to climb on chairs to get birds eye shots? Or maybe that only crosses my mind because I’m too short… Lol.

    • Thomas says:

      I personally don’t stand on chairs but I know people that do, James didn’t mention whether he stands on chairs.

  • Actually food photography does not require complicated lighting set up. Put food close to window light. the photo looks great immediately.

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