1.Shoot In Natural Light

Light is the key to creating great food photographs. Always shoot your food pictures in natural daylight rather than under artificial lighting which causes a ‘colour cast’ (making your whites appear orange) daylight provides a much more neutral coloured light.

The best kind of light for food photography is soft, diffused, natural daylight. When the weather allows you could try photographing your food outside.

 Overcast days are perfect for food photography because the clouds act like a giant diffuser, creating a soft light with more subtle shadows.

When you’re shooting indoors, use the natural light from windows to illuminate your subject. Having a table positioned near a window allows you to easily set up your composition to make use of natural window light.

2. Avoid harsh shadows

Shadows can enhance a photo, adding depth and visual interest, but can also ruin it by dominating too much of the picture.
The intensity of shadows depends on the type of light you’re shooting in. Strong directional sunlight will cast hard, dark shadows, whereas an overcast day creates a more diffused light, making the shadows much softer.     

 A.                                                                                                                                                                        B.
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The photos above show  (A) nice shadows with detail throughout.  (B) Taken with on-camera flash giving an overall flat appearance ( C ) was taken in bright sunlight with no diffuser or reflector, notice the harsh shadows being cast by the sun.

To avoid harsh shadows in your food photos, shoot on an overcast day or move your subject into a lightly shaded area.

If you’re shooting indoors and the sun is shining brightly through the window, use white parchment paper to create a diffuser.   Try using a reflector to fill in the shadows with light. You can use a simple white piece of paper or tin foil taped to a piece of cardboard.

Alternatively, you could try moving the food further away from the window, or use a different window

Position your reflector on the side where the shadows are – so that the reflector is facing the sun. The light from the sun will hit the reflector and bounce back onto the subject, brightening up the shadows.

3. Use A Neutral Background

When shooting a food photo, the background is very important. If the background is too messy or colourful, the judges’ attention will be drawn away from the food.

Using a fairly neutral background allows you to place maximum emphasis on the food in the scene.  A neutral background doesn’t mean that it has to be completely plain, but it should complement the subject rather than suppress it.

There are many objects that you can use as your background. A wooden table makes a great backdrop, particularly if it’s near a window so that you can make use of the natural light.

You can also use a neutral wall if you’re shooting your food from one side.

4. Shoot From The Best Angle

When taking photos of food, always think about which angle to shoot from to make the most of the subject. Shooting from above is often the best choice, especially when the food is arranged on a plate or bowl.

Shooting from above has several benefits. It allows you to include all the details of the food and the background, and it emphasizes the bold shapes of the dishes, cutlery and other objects within the scene.

Shooting from one side is also a good choice when you want to show details of  your dishes. Just make sure you shoot against a neutral background such as a wall.

Its best to try shooting at several different angles and decide which looks best.   Remember the judges will be wanting to see all the elements of your dish, so make sure nothing is hidden.

5. Arrange Your Food Neatly

The way you arrange your food will have a big impact on the final image.    

After creating your arrangement on the plate, make sure you haven’t spilled any food or sauce on the edge of the plate or the background.

Its often a good idea to present a small sauceboat of sauce next to your dish, this allows you to pour a small amount on the plate for presentation, and the judges will know there is more available!

In this difficult time some ingredients may not be available to you, the judges will understand the situation.  It would be a good idea to use the closest ingredient you can find to substitute for the photo and make reference to this to let the judges know

6. Add Props

The food and the background are both vital elements, but to make your photos more interesting you should also consider making the scene more interesting by adding some other smaller items.  Eg liner plates, cutlery, napkins etc but it’s important they don’t dominate the scene.   Your food is the most important part and should take up most of the photo, so keep props simple and subtle! 

It’s usually best to avoid using patterned or brightly coloured plates. Simple white china or light-coloured plates with a textured surface is often the best option, as it won’t compete for attention with the food.

If you’re shooting close-ups of food, you don’t tend to need any additional props in the scene.

It’s probably a good idea to avoid using slate, as this ‘suck colour’ and often comes out really dark. 

7. Use your contacts

Modern phones have pretty good cameras which should be adequate to take a decent photo of your dish.  However, ask around - there may be someone you know that owns a DSRL camera and would be willing to take the photos and edit them for you.   

A good photo of mediocre food still won’t be great, but a good photo of great food is a winning combination.   Having a great photo will help the judges see the dishes you have created in their ‘best light’ and will help them stand out from the crowd.

Another Example:

This is the setup example shot showing the baking parchment diffuser and foil reflector:

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