The Fastest Way to Improve your Food Photography
Taking a great food photo involves so many factors, but one of the fastest ways to improve your food photo's is to use a tripod.
For one, it will slow you down. It will stop you from snapping away aimlessly, and you can really concentrate on what you are doing.
Using a tripod will also help you to improve your food composition techniques. Your camera needs to stay in the same place so that you can make small tweaks easily to your scene, to take your image from good to great.
You might feel that having your camera on a tripod limits your creativity, and that you prefer to walk around and look at your food. I feel the same way sometimes. A way around this is to set up your scene using a tripod, take a perfect shot using composition techniques, then take your camera off the tripod and take a few extra shots. Then you have the best of both worlds. I have found though in my own experience, I get carried away taking tons of images and think in the moment that the images look great, but after I get them uploaded on the computer, I always prefer the images taken with my tripod ;)
I use a Manfrotto 475B tripod with a Manfrotto 405 3-Way geared head, plus I have a Manfrotto repro arm for overhead shots (weighted with a sandbag). It is heavy, but that's why I bought it. It's stable and won't come crashing to the floor easily. The Nikon camera is quite heavy, especially with a 24-70mm on it, so the last thing I want is it toppling over. A lot of other photographers use more lightweight tripods, but honestly it scares me to think of going lighter myself :)
To create a great composition of food, it is best if you style your scene to the camera so that you have full control. That does involve a bit of prep work on your end, as you need to think carefully about your scene before you start building it.
Here are some things for you to consider when building your scene:
Which is the best angle to photograph your food to show off it's best qualities? For example - are you going to shoot it straight on, or 45 degrees? Think about how you can highlight the ingredients in the best way.
Once you've established how your food will look it's most delicious, then set up your camera and tripod to take a photo.
Place an empty bowl or unstyled food item to act as a place holder while you style all the elements around it until you have a composition that you are happy with. Then place your styled/cooked food in it's place when you are happy and ready to shoot.
Keep in mind which condiments, bowls etc will suit the angle that you have chosen, and carefully leave spaces according to the composition technique that you are using. Remember that your main focus is always to highlight the food, as that is the story that you are trying to tell.
If you're not sure which composition techniques you can use, you can check out my beginner Composition Tutorial below, packed with 25 Techniques in a 14 Minute Video, for only $5.99.
Often, if you style a scene to a 45 degree angle, the same image won't look as good as a straight on shot, and vice versa, you will need to tweak the elements to suit the new angle.
You can either look through your viewfinder on your camera when styling your food, or you can tether (which is a bit more advanced) and see what you are doing on the computer screen or phone. This is ideal, as it saves you walking back and forth to your camera, but at the beginning of your photography journey, you may not have all the gear and software to do this just yet.
The more exciting you can make the composition, the more your viewer will appreciate your image and food, and will most likely spend more time admiring it. You know that you have accomplished your goal, when you can hold more than a few seconds of your viewer's attention.
You've got this! Keep learning and keep practicing :)