Today, I have a quick starting point for food photography for you.

Food Photography

Food Photography

  • Lighting: small speedlights are good.
  • Use one umbrella on top, and one gridded light from behind to add accent (and to light the steam. If there is steam, try to use a dark background)
  • You may want to shoot from a low angle.
  • Blur out backgrounds.
  • These backgrounds can contain a cup or glass, cutlery, etc.
  • Prepare the food: If you have no food stylist, you are it. Every detail counts. Make it look great. Add some “green stuff”. Use a brush with oil to make surfaces shiny and yummy.

And do not forget to eat the food, afterward.

Indian Food Photography

Indian Food Photography

(Although you would be surprised how many food shoots use fake food. Ouch!)

One more, for good measure (I shot these for West of the City magazine early this year).

Indian Food Photography

Indian Food Photography


OK, do not eat quite yet.

I shoot events. All the time. It is what I love to do.

And these events are organized by corporations, or wealthy people, or governments, or charitable organizations. You name it. People like to get together. And all these people have paid a lot for the food – or sweated, making it.

And food is ephemeral: it’s there – then it’s not.

This is where photographers do a very useful job. One good photo, and that food exists forever. Like beauty, or youth.

And like these delicious strawberries, which I shot at a very nice private event in Toronto on Labour Day:

Strawberries, by Michael Willems

Strawberries, by Michael Willems

There. And this too:

Food Shot, by Michael Willems

Food Shot, by Michael Willems

The way to do this:

  • Set your camera to manual exposure mode.
  • Expose two stops below ambient (choose aperture and shutter so that the meter reads -2. This might be 400 ISO, f/4, 1/60th second).
  • Make sure your aperture is fairly open (that’s the “f/4”).
  • Bounce your flash off the ceiling/wall behind you.
  • Focus on the closest part.
  • Tilt as needed.

Your images will be loved by your client. The book can now include food shots as background or detail shots. The food is now good forever. The investment is secured for all eternity. And the story is a better one: not just grip-and-grin images, but also “background”.

Capture the detail

When shooting anything, including events, always make sure you catch little details, not just the big overview pictures. Like this, from a recent corporate event shoot:

Snacks at an event: a food shot by Michael Willems

Snacks at an event: an impromptu food shot

Wide open aperture, bounced flash, camera to manual: grab shots like this and you add to the story.

Shooting an event: choice of shots

A few tips, on and off over the next few days, about shooting events. Events such as parties, clubs, openings: lots of people and they are camera aware.

Today: What to shoot. I recommend that you shoot “all three views”:

  • Overview shots, showing “the whole thing”: wide shots with the entire venue, entire room, and so on.
  • Medium shots, with one or two people
  • And finally: detail shots. An aspect of the room. The stereo and a CD that’s playing Notes on the fridge. Or like in this shot, the food:

(Can you see that I bounced the flash off the ceiling behind me?)

If you shoot plenty of all three views, you will have plenty of material for a great album. And people remember the details!