When I photograph food, I’m very particular about everything in the frame. The tabletop, textiles, colors, and dishes all play a role to bring a the scene together. I typically set everything up ahead of time, even before the food is cooked, so that things are ready to go well ahead of time.

Once the food is on the plate, I don’t stop paying attention to those details.  In a recent shoot, I had a small cup of coffee in the background of my scene. I filled it up with coffee and a little bit of cream, and placed it in the background of the frame. After previewing my first few frames, I noticed that the coffee in the cup was not visible! It was there, but at the angle I was positioned I couldn’t see it.

I immediately added a small amount of coffee to the cup to balance it out. That tiny little bit of coffee completed the photo! Without it I would have had too much white area in the corner of my frame.






When photographing food, the direction of your light is very important. Certain angles of light will help shape the scene and can also be the difference between a successful image, and one that is just “meh”. Three different types of light: back light, front light, and side light.

Back Light

Placing the light behind your subject is a common setup, and one I have used quite a bit. It is good to highlight and rim the food, and works well for images with leafy herb garnishes (such as mint or basil) as the light can shine through and light up through the leaf. Plus, it allows you to really flood the background with a lot of light, brightening up your photograph.

Side Light

Just like with back light, side light is another great choice, and is one of my favorite setups. It is especially great for foods with clear or flat liquid surfaces, as it tends to prevent distracting reflections on the liquid itself. It also adds a very nice shadow to the side of the subject, which can either be tamed with reflectors or left as-is for a more dramatic shot.

Front Light

One direction of light you may want to avoid is front light. Granted, in the right conditions (such as a space that is very well-lit in all directions) this may work okay, but in the example I have here it is not ideal. Photographs my food in a corner of an office, and the only significant light source comes from just one window. With this setup, the light only shines in the foreground and falls off in the back, leaving the image flat and filled with a dark background.