Shoot Photographs of Food

Alpha Tutorial :13 - Shoot Photographs of Food

When you shoot dishes or sweets, it would be great if the photographs could convey even the taste of the subject. To shoot such photographs, take account of colour and brightness, so that you can reproduce the appetising look of the food from the actual image.

First, set the camera to the P-mode, and try the following techniques.

Reproducing the colour as you choose

Colour and brightness are important to make photographs of dishes and sweets look delicious. First, adjust the colour with white balance. White balance is the function to adjust the amount of whiteness, but it can also be used as a colour filter in digital cameras. First, shoot with the auto white balance [AWB] to see if the result comes out as expected, and then try [Daylight] or [Cloudy] if necessary. If you still cannot find your desired colour, the fine-tuning function for white balance is effective. Generally, dishes look more delicious when shot with a slightly warm colour (reddish hue).

These photographs were shot with different white balance settings. Shot with [AWB], photograph [1] looks whiter than the actual image due to the light source in the restaurant. Photograph [2] was shot with [Daylight]. The warmer colour has added a delicious-looking finish to the photograph.

Reproducing the colour as you choose

Considering the angle of light

The angle of light and brightness are also important points. Dishes look more delicious when shot with back light. When shot with front light, the shape and colour of the food are rendered clearly. However, as the light neither creates shadow on the subject nor shines through it, the photograph lacks depth and looks flat.

The photograph [1] was shot with front light. The shapes of breads and fruits are rendered clearly, but the image looks flat like a record photograph. Direct flash also creates front light, and results in a similar photograph.

Photograph [2] was shot with back light. With shadows, the breads are rendered with depth. In addition, the fruits and the drink look juicier thanks to the light shining through them. Simply changing the angle of light makes such a great difference in the finish.

Considering the angle of light

However, if you shoot with back light, the subject may look darker than expected due to the bright background. In such cases, use the exposure compensation function. If the food appears dark, adjust the exposure to the + side to make it brighter. The point is to adjust the exposure based on the brightness of the food itself; it doesn’t matter if that makes the background a little whitish.

In photograph [3], the food appears dark due to the strong light coming into the lens.

Photograph [4] is the result of applying exposure compensation to the left one. By adjusting the exposure based on the food to make it brighter, it now looks more delicious.

exposure compensation

Changing the composition

If you try to shoot an entire dish, it often ends up as an uninteresting record photograph. However, if you take a little more account of the composition, you can improve the atmosphere of the photograph.

In the photographs below, [1] captured the entire dish from the position of the photographer’s eyes. You can see the contents of the dish, but the photograph looks flat and pointless. Also, with the surrounding dishes and silverware in the frame, it gives a cluttered impression.

To improve this, [2] was shot by getting as close as possible to the dish. It captured the dish so close that it was partly out of the frame. This photograph has a greater sense of presence, and conveys the deliciousness of the dish. The background is also more organised.

In addition, shooting in the vertical orientation or diagonal orientation (with the camera tilted) is recommended, as it is effective for the expression of depth.

Changing the composition

Trying fixed focal length lenses

Fixed focal length lenses are useful for food photography as they can create great background defocus. In addition, as fixed focal length lenses allow a large amount of light to enter into the camera, they are also effective for indoor shooting in dim light.


This is a mid-range telephoto lens for APS-C format cameras.

It is ideal for shooting portraits as well as for framing and isolating areas of interest in broader scenes. Not only can you isolate the desired subject by framing, you can also take advantage of the lens's large F1.8 maximum aperture and circular aperture design to isolate your subject from the background by using defocusing.

The large maximum aperture also facilitates shooting in low light, a capability that is further enhanced by SteadyShot image stabilisation featured in α series bodies.

This is a mid-range telephoto lens with the 50 mm focal length perfect for portraiture.

This is a mid-range telephoto lens with the 50 mm focal length perfect for portraiture.

he large aperture and circular aperture design can produce beautifully defocused backgrounds. Moreover, by working together with the built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation system, it can shoot crisp and clear images under low-light conditions.