How to improve your food photography

Award-winning photographer Guy Harrop (and frequent collaborator) reveals some insider tips on how to improve your food photography

Lighting

‘Like many other photographers I am a big fan of natural light,’ says Guy. ‘Pay attention to the times of day that could best complement your product and have a play around. Early morning and evening light are usually the best as they will give you drama and shadow and enable contrast and depth. It goes without saying that a fairly decent camera will be an essential and enable greater versatility when it comes to lighting, however if you are shooting for social media – especially Instagram – your camera phone can achieve great results.’

Composition

‘Composition is key, and how you build your shot is as important as lighting. Think about how to frame your product to put it centre stage and make it look appealing. You might not want to show all of the dish: try cropping in, maybe just a hint in-focus to draw the eye in. There are many tricks perfected by great artists and photographers that I’m constantly learning from. I favour having something slightly off-centre and usually with a clean background out-of-focus, minimal props and complementary colours to help blend and show off a good food image. Also it’s really important to try shooting from a few different angles, some dishes look better from above, others from the side, and some at an angle. Experiment!’

Build a props bank 

Whenever we do shoot with Guy, part of the fun is rifling through his box of props. Guy says: ‘It’s taken years but I’m very proud of my bank of props. I’ve scoured many a French flea market and have my favourite local second hand stores who are always on the lockout for my ever-growing list of dishes, linens, cutlery, pots, pans.

‘To showcase your product think about how best to stage it, so choose props that complement the look you’re going for and the target audience. Also, try using natural outdoor settings: they can complement the food and tell a story by adding relevance.’

Guy Harrop food photography
Guy shooting behind the scenes at the Trencherman’s Awards

Clutter 

‘Make sure you remove unwanted background objects, or change surfaces if they prove to be problematic,’ says Guy. ‘I am a huge fan of a clean image as no one wants to see background clutter. Let the food be the hero not the shiny kitchen surface or background pictures that might detract from your beautiful food presentation. Less is more.’

Stay on trend

‘Food styling is an art and takes a creative eye. To keep up with the latest trends consider subscribing to online and printed magazines to give you inspiration and follow artists who inspire you on social media.’

Editing

‘To provide the finishing touches you’ll need some sort of editing software such as Photoshop or Lightroom. This isn’t necessary to change the photo because, if you’ve done a good job, you won’t need to. However, if you need to blur a background to make your product stand out more or if you need to remove an annoying shiny reflection these packages will become your best friend.’

Need inspiration? Check out some of Guy’s beautiful food photography here.

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