I’ve gathered some common mistakes in food photography and added some simple fixes that will take your food photography to the next level.
If you are reading this article about common mistakes in food photography I’m guessing you need some help. And trust me, we all do! Why? Because it’s so easy to forget about detail when you have so much to do. If you cook the dish you’re shooting it takes time and effort. Then there’s light, composition, styling, camera settings, etc. So much to think of!
Just look at the photo above. I love the composition, light, and styling but there’s one thing I can’t overlook. It’s the grease marks at the edges of the soup. While I was shooting this the soup got cold and cold grease doesn’t photograph well. I didn’t include this in my list of common mistakes, Let’s say it’s an extra! 🙂 How I could have fixed it? Shoot faster or reheat with a hairdryer.
There are a ton of mistakes you might be doing but these are the ones I see most often.
1. Focusing incorrectly
In order to draw the viewers eye to the right part of the dish you need to define where you want the focus to lay. Whether you are shooting at a wide or narrow aperture, you need to know your focus point.
What to do: The way I ensure my focus lays where I want, is to zoom in on the spot I want to be sharp and then manually focus. Camera screens are way to small for us to see if we’ve nailed the focus. The zoom option is a good alternative. Ideally, you would shoot tethered, but honestly, unless it’s a commercial shoot I don’t shoot tethered. So far the zoom button has worked well.
2. Tungsten contamination
There’s nothing worst but an unintentional orange highlight from that light you forgot to turn off. If you’ve made this mistake before you know it is very difficult to fix this in post-processing.
What to do: Turn off that light! Make a mental note before shooting to turn off ALL lights, not just the ones in the room you are shooting in. Turn them off in the hallway, kitchen, … If the light (even a small amount) can reach your setting it needs to be turned off.
3. Not using fresh ingredients
Food photography is all about looks, so we need to make sure the ingredients we use are fresh and look great.
What to do: buy fresh ingredients and use tricks like lemon water for foods that oxidize and change color. Cold water is great to keep greens like salads and herbs crisp.
There are a ton of dishes that just
What to do: Think about whether your dish will look overcooked in a photo. If so, try undercooking the dish or even cook different ingredients separately to make sure each ingredient is cooked to perfection.
5. Not trying new things
I have a favorite setting for shooting which I know will work almost every time. But if I didn’t try anything new, like new light setups, new dishes, new angles, new props, new stylings, new compositions and so many more I would end up with photos that all look the same. It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone and try new things because you can fail. BUT you can also find amazing new things about photography and it’s how you find your style.
What to do: Easy! Next time you shoot,
6. Using wrong props
In food photography food is the hero. Yes, the whole scene can be the hero too but esencially you want the viewers eyes to go to your dish. Props that don’t match the story or are too bold can move the focus from the dish to that prop. Not cool.
What to do: Chose props that will help tell the story and match the style of the whole
Guilty! When I look at my old photos, I’m blown away (not in a good way) by how staged they look. Of course, it’s all staged, but the viewer shouldn’t think so. The best food photos are the ones that look natural and true to life.
What to do: One thing that will help immediately is to think in odds. Odds create triangles and triangles make beautiful compositions. Also, let your scene get messy and sprinkle around some crumbs, flour, sugar or whatever is in that delicious food of yours. Place the spoons more organically and not parallel to each other, use diagonals. Study other people’s work and write down what makes the scene look natural.
8. Crooked horizon
I cringe at a crooked horizon! This is one of my pet peeves in any type of photography. Are you guilty of creating crooked photos that make the dish look like it’ gonna fall out of the frame?
What to do: Use a level guide button, turn off the grid on the camera when shooting or fix this in post processing.