Monday, August 22, 2011

Food Photography Tips 3: Food Photo Composition

Welcome to Part 3 in a four-part series on food photography tips and tricks.  Each of the four parts of the food photography tutorial covers one of the following topics: food photography lighting, camera settings for food photography, photo composition (this post), and food styling and setting up props and backgrounds.

I've designed the food photography tips below for beginners regardless of camera make and model, but have kept owners of digital-point-and-shoot cameras in mind to help them take higher quality photos with the equipment they already own.

BakerGal Food Photography Tips, Part 3:

Food Photography Composition

Rule of Thirds: Many swear by the rule of thirds when it comes to photo composition. To try this out yourself, imagine that your camera screen is divided into thirds, both vertically and horizontally. As you compose the photo, try to place major elements either along these vertical and horizontal lines or at their intersections. (For more, see:

How many cookies?: Another rule of thumb that is helpful when using multiples of an object: odd-numbered multiples are usually more pleasing to the eye than even-numbered multiples. Keep this in mind when deciding how many cookies, asparagus spears, or other food items to set aside for your photo.

Keep the viewer's eye moving: Some people suggest that a successful composition keeps a viewer's eye moving throughout the piece. One approach includes arranging the food to create angles that will draw the viewer's eye deep into the photo and back again into the foreground, or roughly in a circle throughout the photo. Another approach is to try using a repeated color placed strategically throughout the arrangement that will draw the eye throughout the photo.

Food Photography Angles: When choosing where to place the camera, try to select angles other than those at which you usually see food. A photo taken from the angle at which you regularly see food is going to make the food seem, well....regular. Scanwiches ( provides a great example of innovative food images (cross-sections!). For a starting point, very low angles tend to flatter food and make it appear grandiose. Branch out from there to try other new food photography angles: experiment taking food photos from the lowest angle possible, from below the food, from straight above, etc.

Camera Distance to Food:  Very close photos allow you to show off details, help you fill the photo composition, and mean you have less to set up in the background. Most people are not used to getting so close to something they want to photograph. Begin by getting as close as you can without sticking your camera in the food (use Macro setting or the appropriate lens), and reposition to further distances as you continue photographing.

Try multiple arrangements of food: Don't be afraid to take a ridiculous number of photos of the same item in a variety of settings from a variety of angles and distances. Don't stop to judge yourself too harshly while you're working. Wait until you're viewing the photos on a computer to really evaluate them before paring them down.

"That was a delicious photoshoot!": Don't eat, take down, or get rid of your food setup until you've evaluated the photos.  You might realize something was out of place in your photo composition and need to shoot a few more. If you just ate your last piece of that food item, you'll be out of luck.

The next and final part of the food photography tutorial covers food props, background ideas, and food styling, selection and preparation.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any additional questions on food photography angles, composition in food photography, or other related questions.