Let’s elevate your festive food photography together!
It’s that time of the year again when we bring on the most delicious comforting foods, spend time with family, and bring out our decorations.
I love this festive season so much and love capturing its spirit in my food photos.
For that reason, I am sharing a few things I pay attention to when I take festive food photos during the Christmas time and New Year’s festivities.
Crafting a narrative with festive decorations
An engaging Christmas story is a photo that takes you on a journey that makes you immediately feel like you’re a part of the festivities.
However, just adding decoration does not create a story that your viewers will relate to. Dig deeper into what those decorations represent and how they can be involved with the food and the scene. What is the setting WHERE THE FOOD IS USUALLY PREPARED OR SERVED?
And don’t forget! The decorations are here to add to the story and not distract from it. Make sure to use decoration that matches the scene in:
If any of these four key characteristics are off, the balance of the frame and the story will be off, too.
Keep in mind that it’s usually better to take one thing away than add more to the scene.
Be creative with styling
Christmas time is the time when we can be a little bolder with our styling choices. So why not use the decorations you use in real life as part of the set or a part of the dish?
You can include Christmas ornaments in fun ways in the scene like I did in the two photos below.
Here are a few decorations to spark your ideas:
- Tree ornaments
- Other sparkling ornaments
- Pine branches
- Festive twines
- Christmas candles
- Porcelain houses and decorations
- Pine cones
Engaging the senses: Festive smells and cozy feel
Festive food is all about the delicious smells.
Think about how you can place and style your food subject so you can showcase the taste and smell of the delicious foods. Which food elements can you add to the scene to showcase the taste of your foods? Cinnamon, star anise, oranges, and similar foods are very common for this period.
Our tables are usually filled with baked sweet goods that have a lovely crumbly texture, so don’t be afraid to showcase it. Adding a crumb here and there will give the viewer the idea of how crumbly a freshly baked festive dish feels when they eat it.
The festive season is something that we often associate with a warm and cozy feeling. To convey that sense in a frame, try adding elements that remind you of it.
This can be some elements that are more common, such as warm fabrics, candles, twinkle lights, and materials we associate with a homely feel. Regardless, it can also be something very personal to you or to the viewer who will be looking at the photo.
The composition has a big part in a cozy feel as well since we often use the type of setup where the elements are closer together to convey that warm connection.
We actually touched on this in the 3-Day Composition Masterclass + how to convey different moods and stories into our compositions.
Playing with Christmas lights
Christmas lights simply add that magical touch to Christmas food photos. I love using twinkle lights in my festive food photography. And beautiful as they are, they also can be challenging to figure out.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you use festive lights in your food photos:
Keep an eye on the aperture
Make sure the aperture is as low as it needs to be to get the twinkle light to be nicely blurred, and you get that beautiful bokeh. There is no set rule here as to which aperture to use, but I encourage you to test a few apertures to see which one feels best for the scene.
If the twinkle light is too small and not blurred enough, lower your aperture.
Take a look at how the difference in apertures looks in real-life examples below, where I used apertures f3,5 and f4,5, which may sound very similar, but the look is very different.
Keep the lights at a distance
Distance plays a key role in how blurry the twinkle lights will be. The further they are from the camera if they are behind your focal area, or the closer they are to the camera if they are in front of your focal area, the more blurry they will be. What does this mean?
I like to play with twinkle lights placed behind the subject and make them blurrier. I like to place them quite far away in the back. For a larger scene, this may mean they are a meter or more away. When you photograph a scene from a closer perspective, they can be closer than that.
Test a few distances and see how they make your twinkle lights look.
When you want to create more interest in a festive photo, you can even place the lights before your subjects and place them very close to your lens to create a lovely, soft, blurred effect in the foreground.
Beware of the twinkle light placement
Twinkle lights are very bright and can easily overpower your subject. It is easy to get overboard with lights and add too many to the scene.
Keep an eye on how balanced your composition looks. Does your eye go to the lights or the food? If your answer is light, then you will most likely need to remove a few.
Most importantly, have fun creating festive food photography!