Capturing the essence: Food photography 101

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Food photography has come a long way since the questionable recipes and muted color palettes of vintage cookbooks. Today’s photos are creative and fresh, using lighting and backgrounds to showcase the wide variety of textures and details that make food naturally appealing.

At Ingredient, we do all our photography in-house; over the years, we’ve honed our skills to create simple, eye-catching images that resonate with consumers. Here are some of our go-to approaches for successful food photography:

Don’t over-style things.

We like to call it “perfectly imperfect.” We gently style the food, keeping it fresh, natural, and timeless. It’s all about being relatable and attainable—not overly difficult or pretentious. We want people to feel as if they can reach into the image and taste the food themselves.

Keep the background neutral.

We use natural lighting and neutral backgrounds to help the food’s organic beauty shine through. Busy backgrounds and unnecessary props can feel cluttered and distracting; when we’re shooting, the food is the focus.

No fake food.

Unlike some food photographers out there, all our food is completely edible. We don’t use any crazy styling techniques like paint, oils, shaving cream or glue (insert horrified screaming emoji here). Everything we shoot is real, cooked fresh in our kitchen, and ready to go. And then we eat it!

Keep a single focus.

We typically use selective focus, or a shallow depth of field, to feature one item, versus an entire tablescape. This allows us to bring full attention to the food and create some drama.

Choose composition that’s best for the food.

With the rise of Instagram comes an increase in top-down food photography. However, we don’t get hung up on any one angle or type of shot. We typically take pictures from a variety of angles—and then simply choose which one makes the food look best.

Recipe shots vs. product shots.

Beautifully styled recipes are easy to photograph, with so many ingredients and textures to draw the consumer in. However, in the case of a single product or ingredient, we need to get creative with the composition! Our team uses design elements to come up with an image that’s engaging and graphically interesting.

These are just a few of the rules we live by—for now. Instagram, iPhones and food bloggers continue to have a huge impact on the evolution of food photography, and our team is always on the lookout for new and upcoming trends!