Hands In Frame For Food Photography
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m a freak when it comes to showing hands in frame. I feel like they add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way.
Hands connecting with food make a scene look very natural and the hands almost invite the viewers hands to also interact. It puls you in and makes you feel like you’re here helping, not just observing.
Now, let me tell you how you can incorporate hands in the photo.
Make sure to have a clear story
I think it’s pretty clear why this is necessary. If there are some hands just hanging out in the frame without a specific reason it will look like a mistake.
So think about how you can add a story to your photo. Did someone just bring a meal on the table, are you offering a drink to the viewer, did you just come from the farmers market and are bringing fresh veggies, are you lighting a candle to add some mood to your meal,…
Do you see a pattern here?
All of these stories make sense. So think about what the story is and how you can add interest to the frame.
Wash your hands – dah!
Okay, you’ll say that’s obvious. Who touches food with dirty hands?! Uhm okay, it happened to me more than once (a lot more than once), that I styled the set and hurried to take the shot with my hands in the frame and completely forgetting that there was some flour, sesame, or whatever food I was touching before, still on my hands (and my camera – oops).
You can usually edit this out (unless it’s a huge mess), but who has the time, right?
Out of focus
The hands don’t necessarily need to be the focus of the image or interacting with the main subject. Having a cake and someone eating a slice in the background can have a powerful story.
Show some action
I love process and action photos. They are the most dynamic food photo can be. Pouring a sauce, sprinkling some sugar on top of a doughnut, piping on frosting, cutting veggies… All these actions start with hands, so you don’t need to cut hands in the frame, but rather make them a part of the story.
Make them look soft and natural
This is probably the hardest part. At least for me. For some reason, placing your hands in a natural-looking way doesn’t always mean that they are actually in a natural position. More often than not, you’ll feel weird and unnatural holding your hands for the frame. It goes the same with your body if it’s also in the frame.
That’s so weird right?
So how can you make them look natural? Well, there’s trial and error and mostly it’s checking out the photo and trying to determine what looks unnatural. Are the fingers too square? Maybe they too close together and looking very tight or are they too wide apart looking like claws. Are you making sharp angles with fingers or elbows (this one happens very often)?
When it comes to images with multiple set of hands in frame, they are not the eaiest to capture in one take. And impossible if you’re the only person in the room.
Here’s where composites come in handy. All you need is a few photos taken with the same settings and photoshop. The rest is explained in my IGTV video here.
Think about how the light hits your hands?
Also a very important part. If the hands are very close to the light source they might be too bright and have too much highlights. One way to solve this is to place them in a different position or if that just doesn’t go with your story, you can try editing the brightness in post-processing, which is my next point.
Editing people and editing food are two very different types of editing. That’s why it can often happen that while the food looks nice and inviting, the hands may look lifeless.
This totally depends on the way you edit your images and the dish you are photographing. But, if it happens that your hands look lifeless and colorless, chances are they are too green. I usually bring photos like this in Photoshop and use the Selective tool in the Layers panel to add a Selective tool layer. Then choose Reds from the Colors Panel and lower cyan just enough to make the hands look natural again. By that point the whole image will look weird, so you need to mask out just the hands in the Selective color layer. And you’re done!
Btw, I have a Moody Food Preset Collection available, if you’re using Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw.
Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to create some images with hands in the frame. Hands are not the easiest to photograph, but they add so much character to an image that it’s worth going the extra mile.
Hi Anja, really nice article! We, as an Italian body parts model agency, absolutely understand the importance of adding a human touch to different types of photography and especially in the food sector. Promoting this concept is also one of our main goals. Take a look at our website and you’ll find more than 100 hand models, most of them specialised in this industry. They really make the difference!