8 Tips for Better Commercial Food Photography for Beginners

Snapping photos of food for commercial usage is a hard-earned talent. Even the famous food stylist Rishon Hanners; the owner of Well Done; a famous YouTube channel, art directors, and commercial food photographers all depend on their creativity and expertise to capture the perfect photograph.

Previously, you had to manipulate food and props to overcome the heat that comes from a studio’s light set, and to prevent the food from looking dull, or from melting. But the lighting these days has improved. But even so, there are still several tricks and methods commercial crews are using to keep their food fresh, or at least, look fresh.

An Amazing Shot Begins at the Store

When it comes to shooting the perfect food imagery, you need to identify the best product first. And talking about the best product, finding the best-looking food out there is especially crucial when shopping for what is going to be included in a commercial food photograph.

Likewise, every great food photographer out there has his or her own favourite store, and even the tips for getting the perfect produce. However, shopping for the best photographic food takes time and is practically tedious, too. 

In an interview with a freelance food photographer, I learned that for a single shot, she managed to locate the best fruits after exploring the store manager’s back-end inventory.

Read More > About How to shoot Macro Food Photography

What is Food Photography?

Snapping food images is one genre of photography that has been trending in recent years. People are now cooking more, and thanks to the wake of social media technology, it is possible to show the world what you are cooking or eating in just a click of a button.

Commercial food photography
Commercial Food Photograph

Today, there are more restaurants, dishing out different types of food, which need photographing, to share with the world, and seduce the viewer. If you are planning to start a food photography business, I have shared 8 effective tips for better commercial food photography for beginners.  

Styling your food is going to be as easy as pie with the following tips and methods (and some sneaky tactics) to make the food pop. And just like Bernard Shaw would often say;there’s no sincere love that beats the love for food. 

8 Tips and Methods for Commercial Food Photography for Beginners

According to recent analysis, more than 50% of diners search for food photographs while exploring a restaurant’s site before deciding where, and what to eat. That number, however, increases at younger diners, but most particularly among the millennials and the so-called generation Z.

Similarly, when it comes to advertisement in this internet era, food brands know that commercial photography of food is yet another very useful tool at their disposal. And if used accurately, it can act as a determining factor in bringing new clients.

Talking about advertisements, photogenic foods like sushi donuts and rainbow bagels, for example, flood our social media feeds every single day, whetting our appetites, and influencing viral Ad campaigns. 

That shows that it is an exciting moment to venture into business food photography. I have been studying how the industry and its aesthetics have evolved for the past few decades, and where they are likely heading in the coming years. 

Here are some hacks and tricks to help you update your Licensing portfolio.   

01. Consider Going Natural

Turn away from glossy and highly stylized life. Today’s photography in the food industry is moving toward a more authentic view. The best way to get a better feel for this type of contemporary food photography is to explore the web. Explore social media and top food blogs’ feeds, where the work seems to be more relatable and approachable. 

There is no need of having a huge budget for an elaborate studio setup to host a shooting. Not when you can find a room at the house, with beautiful, natural light and fresh air, and use it to capture appetising commercial food photographs for your portfolio.

Moreover, natural food styling is trending, so don’t feel much obligated to capture the most perfect image. For a messy chic vibe, for instance, you can think of adding small details, such as sprinkling breadcrumbs, or a lemon splash. This helps to convey a homey, lived-in environment, adding a human touch to your photographs. 

And if, let’s say, you find yourself in a restaurant or café with good lighting, you can take it as a good excuse to snap some photographs for your Licensing portfolio.

02. Show the Process

Nowadays, food has become an experience to appreciate from start to finish, starting with the raw stuff and ending with a meal with your family or friends. Moreover, your dining room or even kitchen, for example, is enough to host a shooting for commercial food photography

But, before you begin snapping photographs, it’s important to ensure that you have a list that has everything, from choosing ingredients, to chopping or mashing your veggies, and plating the meal for eating. Accordingly, for better food photographs, it is highly advisable that you cook your food a little less than usual. Let me explain.

Even though I’m not particularly an expert in these things, I know that overcooking may affect the juiciness and colour of your food on camera, resulting in a less appealing commercial food photograph. After all, once you have finished taking photographs, you can always take your food to the oven and continue cooking.

03. Add a Personal Touch

The famous Instagram hashtag FoodWithAView has taught us that food photography is far much more than just a meal. It has taught us that food is also about the context and the setting. And that eating is a social activity, and as such, you should consider including people in your photographs to make ’em pop.

So, be sure to invite your friends for a day of cooking or taste testing, and don’t worry about getting your hands dirty in the process. Make it an excuse to snap some photographs of people preparing the food and eating during a casual meal at home with friends or relatives. 

Additionally, you should also ensure that everyone in your shooting signs a model release before you begin taking photos. This will be particularly helpful when it comes to licensing your commercial food photographs

04. Add Some Action

Not every food photograph is static. You can use higher shutter speeds to capture your food and beverages while in motion. But this sneaky trick works relatively well when, for instance, you are sprinkling sugar onto your baked food, or pouring a glass of lemonade, or even when you are pouring the sauce onto the dish.

05. Think International

From Italian flavour’s to Indian recipes and East African grains, the majority of today’s food trends showcase traditional cuisines and ingredients. Equally, Facebook’s Topics and Trends Report, today points to an increased interest in a wide range of multicultural foods. 

Moreover, international cooking equipment sales are also trending, and over a third of families with young kids are talking about how much their children appreciate international foods. 

If you are, or considering becoming a commercial food photographer, you should tap into local cuisine and culture as it will be particularly rewarding in the coming years. And this is whether you are cooking at home or travelling to overseas. 

06. Avoid Copyright Problems

When Licensing your images for commercial usage, be very cautious of any trademarked details. These could be anything from company logos on crock pots to small stickers on fruits. 

Also, keep an eye on annoying labels and packaging, including any small details on utensils or other kitchen equipment. All these details will have to be excluded from your photographs or edited out during post-processing.

07. Keep it Timely

Generally, commercial imagery sales often run in circles, as consumers, or in other words, buyers anticipate and plan for seasonal advertising campaigns. Therefore, it’s advantageous to be prepared with your holiday-tailored photographs, nicely edited and submitted at least several weeks in advance. This is so that designers can see them first when they start searching. 

Furthermore, remember to incorporate seasonal foods into your sets for commercial food photographs with a timely twist. For example, watermelon for summer, pumpkin for spring, and citrus for winter.

Likewise, you should also keep in mind that some foods are timeless, and photographs of such dishes will sell month after month, all year round. Also, by including evergreen images of popular foods, such as cakes, pasta, sandwiches, and salads, you will be making sure that your portfolio is always up to date with relevant content.

08. Camera Equipment

Camera equipment can be tricky. And there are always people and articles telling you to buy new or those fancy cameras that come with new features and settings. 

When it comes to food photography, there is no very specific camera. Anything that has a few basics is good enough. High ISO, the capability to snap photos in raw and multiple focal points are the most crucial features in this area of photography. So, if, let’s say, you have a DSLR, pro or entry level, then you are good to go. 

What is the Best Camera for Commercial Food Photography?

When it comes to finding the best camera and equipment for photography, you need to know what you are going to do with it. 

Some cameras are designed to snap several photos in seconds, while others are more particularly designed for studios. But neither of these is important when we talk about food photography. So, what exactly should I look for when it comes to  food photography for commercial use

The first crucial thing is to work with a crop sensor or a full-frame. Having a crop sensor affects your camera lens’ focal length, which helps you to get your camera closer for macro food photography. But it surely does affect your image quality. 

A camera that’s capable of shooting in raw is usually better. And this is because raw photographs usually store more data from the scene, allowing for more play during post-processing. 

For camera recommendations, of all other great photo devices out there, I would recommend Nikon Z9 or Canon R3 for any photography genre. They are not only popular, but are also rated among the best Pro mirrorless cameras. But be sure to check other types of cameras before deciding what suits your needs best. 

Furthermore, since their introduction, Nikon Z9 and Canon R3 have gained so much popularity and welcomed a tremendous amount of support from top photographers. But to help you decide between these two cameras, I recommend reading Nikon Z9 vs. Canon R3 to know which one is perfect for you.