Whether it’s a picture perfect roast dinner at home or an exquisite dish at that new restaurant you’ve been waiting to try out for months, we’re all guilty of trying to capture the moment when something arrives on our table looking just too good to eat.
With the rise of the ‘foodstagrammer’ trend fuelled by Instagram, people from all walks of life are positioning themselves as avid food photographers, whether they are creatives or not. That said, even with the best of filters and editing tools, a plate of food can quite easily lose its mouth-watering appeal down the lens of a camera if not done right. A bad angle or the wrong lighting can make or break a photograph, with some of the top chefs even banning photography of their dishes.
With many of us Bulletproofers self-confessed ‘foodies’, our New York team decided to invite lifestyle and food photographer, Evi Abeler to our NYC studio to share her tips on how to create a winning shot.
Evi, who has worked for Whole Foods, Baileys and Fitbit to name a few, came to host a lunchtime workshop transforming our humble office lunches and turning them into dishes that resemble Michelin star, fine dining.
Evi grew up in rural Germany surrounded by fresh produce and home cooking, instilling her passion for food from a young age. Her work is dynamic and celebrates creativity with food, spills and all! The team gathered while Evi gave a short presentation talking about her background and what inspires her creativity. She then shared some of her trade secrets.
To help our team get the best from this masterclass, Evi had brought a selection of tripods and back drops to use as well as different textured materials and props. With everything laid out, the team was keen to start experimenting! She reassured us that expensive cameras weren’t necessary for the session. We could achieve the same quality using our smart phone cameras…all we needed was the right lighting and a few simple tricks…
Eat with your hands
Have someone’s hand coming in or out of the shot to add a warmer, more inviting element to the composition. The blurred action will make the setting seem more human and causal.
Be a picky eater
Food stylists will often separate the elements of food dishes, as if for a picky eater, to highlight each ingredient rather than it turning into one big pile of mush. Craft your scene with intent, but don’t make it look overly styled.
Play with your food
Sometimes your food needs a bit of oomph to make it that much more appetizing. Having a spray bottle of water, or a dish of oil to brush on for highlights can add just that little extra bit of ‘wow’ to your photo.
Eat from the floor
Although table tops and granite surfaces are great, sometimes the best backdrop for your photo can be the floor. A textured concrete or rough wooden floor can change setting and overall feel of the image while differentiating your photos from all those shot on typical countertops.
Having unique props can elevate a composition when the food itself might not be all that interesting. Find them anywhere you go, flea markets, antique stores, friends kitchens.
Keep the lights on
Using light cast from a window is the perfect way to give your dish a more natural look. When you can’t use natural light, continuous lighting can be used. They’re not as bright as strobe lights, but you know exactly what your scene looks like before you shoot.
If the food is ugly
Sometimes the process of making the food is nicer than the finished product. Take photos of the ‘behind the scenes’ action creating your dish, and then style up the finished product with those fancy spoons you stole from your friends.
If you don’t have the time to cook or simply don’t know how to, just have someone make the food for you! Take out food, especially Thai food, is great for this because everything comes separated already, making it easy for you to create the scene yourself. Plus, you can photograph the whole delicious process of you eating it: the food arriving, opening the containers, getting messy once you start to dig in, transferring the sauces to a ramekin instead of the plastic cup it comes in, and finally the empty containers!
Be a little messy
A perfectly composed shot is nice, but it’s that human touch that brings a scene to life. Mess can be anything from a missing piece of food to crumbs, drips, drops, or messy utensils.
Don’t finish your plate
Those cake crumbs can be more beautiful than the cake itself – plus, you get to eat the cake first!
Food brings people together, and this workshop was testament to that. It was great to see the whole team gathered round the table with everyone getting involved and helping each other out. Evi’s photographic style is reflective of that, allowing passion and a fun sense of creativity to show through in her work. We certainly had a lot of fun creating our photos! You don’t need state of the art equipment to achieve great photography, but you do need to understand the basic principles for making food look good enough to eat. Follow our top tips and you’ll not go far wrong!
Evi Abeler’s portfolio is available on her website where you’ll find further information on her workshops and classes.
Blog written by Julia.