Commercial & Food Photography
Taking pictures of food isn't an easy thing to do - there are several things that need to come together just right to make it be all it can be. Lighting, composition, styling - all of these components are critical to good food photography. If it were easy, we'd all be making money at it. On the other hand, there are some gorgeous pictures of food on Instagram and on food blogs across the Internet, so it doesn't have to be a professional taking the shot with expensive equipment - it could as easily be an amateur with an iPhone taking the shot - as long as it makes your mouth water, it is on the right track.
So what needs to happen to make a good food photography shot? Well food photographers will tell you that you are looking for the combinations and moments that bring out the food item's best traits - color, shape, interaction with other items, etc. It needs to look delicious with textures that make you want to dive into the shot. No blurring, no weird angles, and you have to avoid the dreaded yellow cast if you want to get anywhere.
Lighting is probably the single most important factor besides the food itself. You are looking for lighting that is closest to indirect daylight - like a spot of shade when the day itself is sunny. This light is the best because you aren't going to get those strange tint that can show up sometimes. You're going to get the pure colors that are in the food item - and that's all. And stay away from the in-camera flash - just say no. This feature kills the color due to harsh highlights - you can't see the item correctly.
Once lighting is working well, a food photographer will work on positioning relative to the light source. Ideally, you want light coming from three positions - behind the plate and from either side. This gives more depth and mood to the photograph. And then you want to think about composition - how to create a striking composition that reaches out and grabs your attention - that is the goal. Think about sectioning the ingredients or food product in a grid that is 3 x 3 so you want your composition to be in thirds.
The eye is drawn into the photo in a way that feels familiar and comfortable - just like the rule itself. In the grid, you want to portion out your photo against the grid - sometimes placing the main item at the forefront of the grid and sometimes choosing a single element of the main item to focus on - and in this way you will get a striking shot. Then commercial photographers will tell you that you need to consider at what angle to make the shot - directly above, obliquely from the side, almost looking up at the item as you are positioned at and below the table.
All in all, food photography is somewhat complex, and those who do it for a living make us want to stick our hand into the picture and pull back whatever is photographed. Making you hungry with the picture rules.