Looking to improve your food photography compositions? You’ve come to the proper place.
In this essay, I’m going to share my favorite composition tips – for arranging and styling food, yes, but also for adding creative touches that’ll give you an ultra-professional look.
So whether you’re a complete beginner just starting out in food photography , or you’re a far more experienced photographer looking for some composition-enhancing tips, this guide will help you on your way.
Starting with tip #1:
1 . Change your angle for an unusual perspective
Beginning food photographers often shoot food straight on, as if they’re sitting or standing at the table with their camera.
And while such an approach can work, it can also fall a little flat. Instead, think about a different perspective, one that will enhance the most interesting parts of the meals or highlight key elements.
For instance, a straight-down approach – where you shoot from overhead, with the sensor parallel to the plate – is a superb way to showcase all of the food, plus it can add some artistic flair.
Alternatively, shooting from low down or along side it gives the viewer a new angle to consider and will highlight the food’s details.
2 . Consider orientation (portrait vs landscape)
As you’re certainly aware, you can photograph food in either portrait or landscape orientation – but don’t just stick your camera in one position and call it a day.
Instead, think carefully about which orientation best highlights the food and best frames your composition.
Personally, I think landscape-oriented images tend to look great for showing beautiful compositions. But take to rotating your camera and see if a vertical shot might work well, too. You may find that a vertical composition actually enhances the photo by reducing distracting elements around the central theme.
3. Use the rule of thirds for well-organized food compositions
It’s a photography classic, however for a good reason. So if you’re struggling to come up with beautiful compositions, why not try the rule of thirds ?
You see, the rule of thirds works by dividing your image into thirds (via gridlines). It suggests you align your main subject as well as other compositional elements with these gridlines; that way, the entire image feels both balanced and dynamic.
Like I placed the bowls along gridlines here for a pleasing composition:
4. Break the rule of thirds
It is important to note that the rule of thirds is just a food photography guideline , not really a true rule – which means you certainly don’t need to stay glued to its terms.
After all, rules are there to be broken! Don’t be afraid to move food items around and test out different compositions. Take to putting your main subject in numerous locations, away from the rule of thirds gridlines and intersections, and see what you get. Who knows; maybe you’ll hit upon a composition you really love!
Pro tip: Positioning the main subject dead-center or slightly off-center generally speaking works well. It’ll lead the viewer’s eye around the image and then toward the main subject:
5. Consider adding elements to the composition
The objects you include alongside your main subject are essential to creating beautiful compositions.
Of course, it’s important to have a main food element – but you should also add extra items to elevate the scene beyond the ordinary.
Some examples of what to include could be additional food pieces, garnishes to brighten the main subject, cutlery such as for instance a knife and fork, and even cooking utensils.
6. Add props
In the previous tip, I recommended including little extra elements, such as cutlery or garnishes.
But if you want to really double down and create unique images, you might also try including props . I’m not talking about items of food, but rather objects, such as for instance bowls, plants, jars, austere boxes, and the like.
Aim to arrange the items so that you showcase – rather than obscure! – your main dish.
7. Re-arrange the current weather (beyond the normal)
Often , the natural way to prepare food elements is as a chef or waiter would:
Food on the plate, knife to one side, a glass in the back, etc .
But to create a more striking composition, I suggest you mix it up. Move some of the items to a different invest the frame. For instance, you may move the knife out in front of the food, as I did here:
Really, the main thing is to experiment; test out different compositions, use your creativity, and then capture the shot you like best!
8. Use patterns
As a food photographer, patterns are your friend.
And while you don’t always need patterns in your photos, you can use them to creatively highlight your food. For instance, you might lay out a batch of baked goods within an eye-catching arrangement, or you could circle your main subject with a selection of different-colored fruits.
The key is to produce a sequence or structure that creatively emphasizes the main dish. That way, the viewer knows where to look – and is also impressed by your artistry.
9. Use negative space
Here’s another tried and tested food photography composition technique:
Use negative space in your image.
Negative space refers to the part of your frame that is free from any elements or props, like a bare table, a stretch of cloth, etc .
And while additional elements and props can look nice, negative space is a good way to encourage the viewer to focus on the main dish without the added distraction that props bring. Plus, more negative space makes for more simplified compositions, which is generally a good thing.
10. Shoot specific elements of the food
Not all of your food has to be in each image.
So in place of zooming out to shoot the entire dish, get close and capture parts of the foodstuff. Emphasize mouthwatering details that’ll look great to the viewer, but make sure to carefully structure your compositions; the aim is to make the main subject be noticeable against the rest of the shot.
11. Use natural and artificial light
Did you know that light can significantly affect your food photography compositions? It’s true. Light can add volume, create shadows, and emphasize (or de-emphasize) different elements.
So before getting started, you will need to think about the light that is present in the food photography location. Observe how the light falls and ask your self: does it look natural? Is the light too bright or too dark?
Strong direct light, for instance, can ruin your compositions by making the food too bright. Then when faced with direct light, try moving your food to avoid this harsh light, or place your entire composition in the shade to create a more balanced image.
In situations where there is not enough natural light, you will need to brighten up your compositions another way. One solution is artificial lighting; consider using a flash, or even a lamp or fixed room lights, to add more brightness and lighten the subject.
Food photography composition: conclusion
Food photography composition can make or break your images of food, which means you should pay careful attention to these tips.
Nevertheless, remember to be creative; in the event that you don’t like one of these recommendations, ignore it! Food composition and styling is a personal choice and is entirely subjective. There is no right or wrong way of photographing things – so be sure to balance these tips with your own vision. This way, you can create images that look great, and that you love.
Now over to you:
Which of these composition tips is your favorite? Are you experiencing any tips of your own to add? Share them in the comments below!