When it comes to travelling, one of the most delightful things to enjoy in a place that isn’t home has to be the food. At least for me, that’s one of the best parts of any trip, experiencing the culture via your taste buds. Anyone else that is a self-proclaimed travel addict will argue that food is essential to the travel experience. Eating captivates all your senses. Foremost of all is to our sense of seeing that triggers our appetites.
Author and Food Travel Writer: Yone Liau, Flavour Journey
It’s no surprise that hashtags such as #cameraeatsfirst is popular. Afterall, we seldom will find people that don’t take a quick snap of their meal before really chowing down right? Yet, it can also be frustrating when you snap your plate and feel dismayed when it doesn’t capture what you are seeing. The phone camera and actual cameras are tools for you to master.
Guide to Aesthetic Photography
Fret no more! Here are some tips for better food travel aesthetic photography. Some that I've picked up from my travels and others from food photography itself. Hopefully, these can help you up-level your food capture game.
1: Where’s the best light seat?
At restaurants or cafes I always try to scout a seat by a window or where natural light works best. Food always looks most flattering with natural light, the idea is to highlight the meal and the area you are in. Same thing if you are shooting outdoors at a market, look for that soft light instead of harsh light.
2: Understand your light
Ever had your own shadow get in your way of your photo? Easy solve, move around! Change your position and see how the light will react, tilt to an angle even. Just like doing a crazy yoga-esque positions for outdoor photos, and the same goes for food. As in the case where you are sitting by the window, but standing between the window and your food... You will be casting a big shadow over it.
3: Please - Avoid flash photography!
I’m not going to rant about this but think about would you take a selfie of yourself on your epic trip with the flash on? No, because you wouldn’t look flattering right? Then why would you do it for your meal? It creates hard shadows and it makes the food appear static.
4: Learn your manual settings If you aren’t shooting with a phone and have a camera, get out of the comfort zone known as Auto mode. If you want to figure out how to get out of Auto, try learning more about the exposure triangle. Your ISO, shutter speed and aperture will be your best friends to help you craft the image you see in your mind.
5: What’s your hero angle?
Food photography has 3 popular camera angles. The most popular for social media being the overhead (also called flatlay). The other two are straight on and 45 degree angle. When taking pictures of your meal, try shooting these 3 different angles and see which one you like best.
6: It’s not about the camera, it’s the story you want to share
Enjoy the process, when it comes to food what is it that you love about it? Is it the setting you are in? A particular dish? Or is it even watching people making food? What is the mood what you want to convey?
7: Better composition If you haven’t turned on the grid on your phone/camera screen - do so now. Beyond that, explore and play with how you want the image to look overall. Venture beyond just capturing the main subject in the middle. Do you want to zoom in or get a wide angle? Think about giving it some breathing space (also known as negative space). Or look for naturally occurring patterns or layers where you are. With food travel photography you don’t have to worry about pairing props but using what you have. Be it your scarf, someone’s hands or someone pouring a drink in the background.
8: Photograph often and with purpose Do you not feel super confident about your photography? One of the things that impacts my photography to this day is shooting often. Try to practice everyday. This will train your intuition and instincts into reacting faster. This not only will improve your ability to read a potential image you see in your mind’s eye but also gets you more comfortable with using your camera/phone swiftly. Go on photo walks even, give yourself a prompt and set off.
9: Editing with consistency is key
If I can land an image and not have to worry about editing that is a delight to me. It’s no secret with other photographers offering presets or just all the filters on offer by countless image editing apps what a difference it can make. Don’t go too adventurous with trying different ones each time but see which ones you gravitate and like best. Sometimes the image just won’t turn out as you’d like and editing the image can really make it go from “meh” to “WOW”. Personally, I use Lightroom for editing.
10: Invest in a good camera lense For those that aren’t shooting on their phone. Often people are too concerned about getting the best camera for photos. But the real game changer is good glass. You won’t be surprised to find that a nice lens will almost cost more than the camera body itself. The nifty-fifty 50mm is a good lens to start with and won’t break your budget.
Like any of the tips? Used them? Please DO tag me @flavourjourney so I can check out your food travel shot! If you have questions go ahead and comment below in this post or drop me a DM on my Instagram.
Author and Food Travel Writer Yone Liau from Flavour Journey is a Food Photographer, Food Stylist and Foodie Blogger from Taipei, Taiwan. Discover more about Taiwan and other places on the Flavour Journey Site or follow Flavour Journey on Instagram!