To some of us, food photography is an irksome new trend or, worse still, the height of rudeness. To others, snapping your supper is an addiction; a vital way to showcase what’s delicious in your world right now. Regardless of which camp you sit in, food photography is here to stay – so best get it right.

Travel writer Jacqui Gibson spoke to International Food Wine and Travel Writer Association photographer Jim DeLillo to find out how to master food photography.

Photo: Food photography at its best: perfect composition, great light, closely cropped and a clean plate (c) Jim Delillo FWT Magazine.

Photo: Food photography at its best: perfect composition, great light, closely cropped and a clean plate (c) Jim Delillo. FWT Magazine.

Q: Jim, what’s the number one rule when it comes to food photography?

A: It’s inevitable that when we sit down to dinner, before we raise our forks, we raise our cameras. But you’ve got to remember, it’s food. It should look good enough to eat.

Q: So, tell us how it’s done.

A: Here are six tips I live by to achieve great food photography.

  1. Shoot only pristine, clean plates, utensils and cutlery. That’s a hard and fast rule.
  2. Look for good natural light to shoot in. Next to a window is often good and never use a flash – it flattens everything out.
  3. Shoot fresh produce when it is at its best. Think crisp texture, vibrant colour and produce that’s full of life.
  4. Zoom in and get close up to capture those mouth watering, interesting details.
  5. It’s a good idea to vary your camera angle for interest and to create depth, perspective and scale. Alternatively, play with the composition of the dish or produce – the way you arrange a bunch of carrots or piles of nuts can have a dramatic effect, visually.
  6. Finally, get snapping as soon as the food hits the table. That’s when a dish is usually looking its best.

Q: Is good food photography possible with a phone camera?

A: Yes, absolutely. You can take a great image and have it online in minutes, without leaving your chair – no PhotoShop, no lightroom. In fact, in just a few quick camera edits you can turn an unappetising blob into a foodies’ dream.

Q: Okay, show us how …

A: Sure, here’s an example of transforming a poor shot into a good one.

A dish 'before' editing (c) Jim DeLillo. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Jim’s dish ‘before’ editing, taken with a phone camera (c) Jim DeLillo. FWT Magazine.

The same dish 'after' editing (c) Jim D FWT Magazine.

Photo: The same dish ‘after’ editing (c) Jim DeLillo. FWT Magazine.

Jim’s tips: Mastering food photography with a phone camera

Here’s what I did to achieve the final, edited image you see above.

SELECT THE IMAGE

  • Start by opening up the photo library.
  • Select the photo you want to edit.
  • Click on edit.
  • Note the various editing tools.
  • Select the cropping tool.

CROP THE IMAGE

Next, crop the photo by dragging the corners at will. 

In my opinion, you can never crop too much. The closer, the better.

  • Strive to eliminate all of the distractions. Forks, crumbs, water glasses, runny gravy.
  • If there is a pattern, like the lattice work on a pie, it should look continuous – don’t show the edges.
  • Bring up the detail, eliminate anything that’s unnecessary.

EDIT THE COLOUR BALANCE

Next, open up the menu for light, color and B&W. Colour balance is probably one of the most important qualities of food. We eat with our eyes. So, if you want the plate to look enticing, the color has to be accurate, but aim to get rid of any yellow, green or unappetizing gray look.

Here are colour elements you can adjust:

  • saturation (deepens the color)
  • contrast (makes the color pop)
  • cast (this element takes the image from cool-blue to warm-yellow – and it’s really important).

EDIT THE LIGHT

Next, edit the light. You can change the quality of light by adjusting the exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast and black point. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You can always undo your editing by reverting to the original.

REUSE THESE TECHNIQUES

Once you become familiar with these tools, your dinner plates will never look the same. Remember to use the same techniques with all your travel photos… Straighten horizons, brighten up a gray day and saturate that sunset.

A great example of capturing mouth-watering details (c) Jim Delillo. FWT Magazine.

Photo: A great example of how to photograph mouth-watering details (c) Jim Delillo. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Take stunning images of evening beverages with great lighting and close cropping (c) Jim Delillo. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Take stunning images of evening beverages with great lighting and close cropping (c) Jim Delillo. FWT Magazine.