Because, honestly? What’s the point of taking all that time to bake Santa cookies if you can’t take a pretty picture of it for Instagram? We’ve curated a list of our favorite food photography tips to help guarantee you make the most out of your holiday cooking experience every step of the way, including that often overlooked window of time that is optimal for taking photographs of your dinner.
Prepare and Buy the Right Equipment
There’s no shame in wanting to take aesthetically pleasing pictures of your food this holiday season, even just for your Instagram feed. The internet makes sharing memories easy; but putting care into them is what makes them stand out. Whether you are shooting with your iPhone, Android, or a standard camera, make sure your image file is RAW for the best editing results. Here are some other tips for preparing to shoot:
- Know what’s on the menu. You can still take beautiful food photographs even if you aren’t hosting the event. But you need to know what’s being served so you can stage accordingly. If you’re serious about capturing memories at a party through food, call up the host and ask questions!
- Stability is essential; no one likes a blurry picture. Make sure you have a tripod on hand, even if you’re using an IPhone (there are plenty on the market.) If shooting on an IPhone, using the volume keys as the shutter button is better than tapping your finger on the screen. But you can also buy a remote shutter.
- Use household items like white napkins, mirrors and aluminum foil to reflect and diffuse light.
- Make sure you have the lenses to add variety to your shots. There are plenty of interchangeable ones available for IPhone.
Let There Be Light
Even amateur social media photographers know that lighting can make or break a shot. Natural light is always preferred, so during a lunch near a window is the best time and place to photograph a feast. If you use a flash bounce it off a ceiling to eliminate shadow. Add depth to your subject by lighting it from behind. Use a small light source instead of a big soft light to showcase the texture of your food and make the viewer’s mouth water.
Set the Stage
Staging is a way to add a bit of creative flare to your food photos, but it’s also necessary to make sure the composition and framing of the photo is correct and that the viewer’s eye goes where you want it to. First, use photography’s basic rule of thirds and visualize the nine-square grid to place everything in frame where you want it. If you have more than one item in your shot, use leading lines and unique angles to guide eyes down the path you want them to go.
Be Fearlessly Festive
Don’t forget we’re talking about Christmas, here. Don’t be shy about adding festive accents like tree branches, ornaments or candy canes to your shot. Don’t overdo it. Less is more and one or two decorative elements is usually sufficient. For roasts like turkey and ham, brush vegetable oil on top to add shine.
Timing is Everything
We’ve already told you why lunch is the best meal to practice holiday food photography. But there is perhaps a more important rule related to timing: You must photograph your food soon after it is finished cooking or baking. There is nothing pretty about a droopy soufflé or melting, dripping desserts. Make sure your stage is set beforehand so you can plate and photograph soon after that timer rings.
Tell a Story
These are your photos. Remember to include your loved ones in them. While staged, tabletop photos are great, the story of your favorite dishes is sometimes best told through the person eating it. Once the story is complete, you can great a beautiful photo album at any of the best photo printing sites, and give it as a gift to everyone who attended. This way, they can remember the joyous celebration as well…and how amazing the food was!
There is No Such thing as a Perfect Photograph
Remember, playing with your food through photography is fun! Even if you’re planning to sneak a food photo into a holiday photo book, embrace imperfections. If your angle is off or your plate of cookies doesn’t look perfect, it’s OK. That’s what gives it your artistic point of view.
Don’t be afraid of photo editing! Software is your friend for color correcting or adding a bit of brightness to a scene before you add it to your photo book. Filters are not the enemy, either. Just make deliberate choices that fit the aesthetic of your photo project. ‘Tis the season to show off your culinary skills on the internet. Show off that plate of milk and cookies that would make Santa proud.