Tutorial: A Recipe for Taking Standout Food Photos by Barry Morgan

Barry Morgan is a commercial photographer based in Dubai and the creative force behind Barry Morgan Photography. His passions are photography, food and family, although not always in that order. He believes you should love what you do, to do exceptional work. Cooking was always a family affair in his home and so, naturally, once his passion for photography took root, he was drawn to food photography. Barry Morgan Photography now works with hundreds of clients, turning their tasty dishes into mouthwatering visuals.

In this tutorial, Barry shares with us a few of his secrets to ensure that your food photography looks breathtaking.


A Recipe for Taking Standout Food Photos

There has never been a more popular time for food photography than the present day. With the ease of taking smartphone photos and the popularity of sharing meals on the blogosphere and social media sites, food photos are something that everyone wants to have a go at.

Social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram are continually flooded with never ending streams of food photos, so it can be challenging to find a way to stand out in this massive sea of images. You should use these sites and the works of an experienced food photographer in Dubai to gather inspiration and see which types of food images you are drawn to.

But, at the end of the day, you want to be creating your own breathtaking shots. Here is a five step recipe for taking standout food photos.

1. Embrace the shadows

While many food photographers shy away from using shadows, you shouldn’t if you want to take standout food photos. The truth of the matter is that shadows make a food scene look more realistic. They give your food texture and create the mood, so having shadows can actually work to your advantage.

If you want to create beautiful, dark shadows, then allow the light to hit your food either from the side or the back at a relatively low angle – just a little bit above the surface of your setup.

Opt to use reflectors sparsely, or not at all. The job of reflectors is to bounce the light back into the areas of the photo that your natural light source is unable to reach; in other words, into the shadows. So if you want to keep the shadows dark, you don’t want to reflect the light back.

A photograph by Barry Morgan as published in Photo/Foto Magazine

2. Look for unusual angles

For an unusual angle, opt to shoot upwards from slightly below the food, this works really well for creating compelling images of tall items such as cakes, and things that are stacked, like burgers. As the food will be towering above the viewer of the photo, it will look big and impressive. For this reason, don’t use this strategy on flat food like pizzas and egg frittata!

3. Engage the viewer with action

In order to engage the viewer, include action in the image. This helps to ensure that your viewers feel as though they are a part of the picture. There are various methods of employing or implying action. This can be done through something as literal as a hand holding a hamburger, or a waiter pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes.

A photograph by Barry Morgan as published in Photo/Foto Magazine

On the other hand, you can simply suggest that something is happening or has just happened in your photo. For example, the viewer likely knows that the lifespan of the beer foam on the top of a mug last only for a couple of seconds. So by showing a glass of freshly poured beer, they know that someone must have just been there to pour it.

4. Don’t be scared of negative space

Your food photo doesn’t have to be filled to every square inch with food or props. In fact, having a small amount of empty space gives more focus to the food and saves your viewers from feeling overwhelmed or claustrophobic.

A photograph by Barry Morgan as published in Photo/Foto Magazine

When you are starting out on your food photography career, make sure to study the rule of thirds thoroughly. This means imagining your photo dissected into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and then having your subject placed on or near one of the four points where those lines intersect. Ensure you have nothing else within your frame other than your subject, and then take a test shot.

At this point, you can decide if the scene looks appropriate to you, or if it is too barren. If you find the setup too bare, add more elements to the frame one by one, along the imaginary lines that dissect your frame. Continue until you finally get the composition you want.

Here are a couple of other tips related to the rule of thirds:

  • Ensure that the subject of your photograph occupies only 75 percent of the frame. However, design it so that that 75 percent is not in the dead center of the frame.
  • Keep the focus on your primary object (the food), but also have three objects in the frame to even things out.

The main point to take away is that when it comes to the rule of thirds, ensure that your image is not positioned dead center so it doesn’t look too orchestrated. Instead, the focus of your photo needs to be on the elements of the dish that you want to stand out.

5. Create visual contrast

Contrast is what will make your food photo stand out and look different from someone elses similar picture. It comes in many varieties, but a simple way to start is by integrating unusual shapes into your shot such as something rectangular, rounded or square.

A photograph by Barry Morgan as published in Photo/Foto Magazine

Contrast can also be created by including complementary colours in your photo (those that are on opposite sides of the colour wheel), such as red and green, or blue and orange.

That’s it for this practical recipe for taking standout food photos. Follow the above tips to ensure each one of your photographs come alive — the way the best food photographers are able to.

You can see more of Barry’s work and tutorials at:

barrymorganphotography.com | Blog

All images copyright Barry Morgan.