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So You Want To Be A...Food Photographer

by Samantha Lee (follow)
Blog (395)      Articles (166)     
Rather than simply just being tasty, meals these days are being served to look beautiful, and worthy of being photographed and posted on social media. If you're guilty of not starting a meal until you've captured its best angle, then this article is for you!

Study the classics
Long before Instagram, the act of capturing food started in the 16th century by way of still life paintings. The subjects of these paintings ranged from a bowl of oranges to an entire feast that required a meticulous arrangement of the chosen subject in different environments.


A lot can be learned from the still life paintings from hundreds of years ago in terms of composition because the painters had to commit to a specific arrangement before they could start painting. They didn’t have endless memory cards, filters or studio lights to help them fix their images, all they had were their paints and canvas to help them make the food come to life.


They always liked to emphasize on unusual shapes and textures, which I always use make my food photographs have a unique edge.


Surround yourself with light
Whether you’re using natural, studio lights or a set of flashes, it is important to make sure that you surround your subject with light. If your light source is only coming from one direction (like your in-camera flash), this will cause shadows and awful highlights,that may obscure some details of your subject.


Shadows also tend to evoke a more dramatic, moody atmosphere that doesn’t often work well with food photos.


Go beyond the table
The popularity of food flatlays on Instagram may lead one to believe that food photography is limited to marble and/or wood table tops. Once you move past your initial fascination with the latte and avo toast you had this morning, it’s now time to explore the endless wonders of shooting food against studio backdrops.


The thing about shooting against backdrops with studio lights is that you don’t ever have to worry about the light changing, which is the case with natural light. This setup also allows you to deconstruct food, shooting bare ingredients to highlight their different textures or to shoot food with different elements that may look weird in a table setting.


Placing food outside of its so-called comfort zone and experimenting with different elements will make your photographs more unique, and will set you apart from the already too-big number of Instagram food photographers. There's a great example of creative food photography here.


Getting paid to do new work
The market for food photographers is vast and constantly evolving. Your services could be needed for things like menus, fliers, food website and magazine features or even photos for social media accounts.


Being popular on Instagram is good but nothing compares to the value of putting yourself out there. This is especially important during food and wine festivals that are happening in your city. These festivals give you an opportunity to meet everyone from popular food bloggers, magazine editors and restaurateurs who could all be in the market for fresh new talent.


One way to get a lot of mileage during these festivals is to attend a the various dinners that are scheduled throughout the week. Chances are, the person that you will be seated next to works in a magazine or blog that could require your services. Arm yourself with business cards printed with various samples of your work to hand out to valuable connections you might meet.


Get paid for your existing work

Being a stock photographer is the gift that keeps on giving. Who wouldn’t want to keep getting paid for their photos over and over again? There are a few things you can do to get started in stock photography, the first is to do your research.

Look through the libraries of different food photography agencies to determine the look and style they are going for. Check their list of clients and think about whether these are companies you want to be working with. Compatibility is key, and finding the right agency could make all the difference between selling your work and not.


It’s also important to know about all the latest food and fitness trends to keep your images relevant. Chances are, most clients are looking for photos of the food that everyone is talking about at the moment. Is kale the “it” vegetable of the season? Then go out there and shoot lots of kale.

Once you pick out an agency, it’s time to send in your portfolio. Variety of imagery is good, but it’s also important to make sure to only send your best work. If your area of expertise at the moment is shooting tabletop vignettes using natural light then send those in.
It’s better to be perceived as a niche photographer than a mediocre photographer. You can always update your portfolio later on as your skills advance.

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