One of the best things about Christmas is the amount of colourful festive food that’s on offer; it doesn’t just taste good, it looks good too! If you’re a photographer who’s also a food lover, food photography can be great fun, and even more so at this time of year.
And you don’t need any expensive specialist kit – you can easily put together a simple setup at home.
For the best results with your Christmas food photography you’ll want to use natural light and a reflector. Reflectors enable you to bounce natural light onto subjects to bring out detail in shadow areas, and they come in a variety of colours – we’re using a gold reflector to produce lovely warm tones for our shoot.
You can pick up a reflector for around £15, but if you don’t have one you can wrap tinfoil or gold wrapping paper around some cardboard.
We’ve selected some mince pies as our main seasonal subject, but the same principles apply to whatever food you’re shooting. The most important thing is to spend time on the small details, and keep checking the frame for distracting elements. Take plenty of shots, and fine-tune your setup until you’re happy with the end result.
We’ll show you how to set up and light your shoot and which camera settings to use. And the best part of this project is that you get to eat your subjects when you’re done!
Tip 1: Aperture priority shooting mode
Shoot in Av mode for food photography as you want to control the aperture. Wide apertures (f/2.8) are usually best for food photo, so you can blur foregrounds and backgrounds to focus the eye on the food.
Av mode also works well in changing light – the sun was in and out during our photoshoot – because you can fix the aperture while your DSLR automatically adjusts shutter speed to obtain a good exposure.
Tip 2: Use natural light
For best results simply shoot using natural light and a reflector. You’ll get different depending on what side of the reflector you use.
For warmer results use the gold side of your reflector, and for cooler tones use the silver side.
Tip 3: Food, glorious food!
Don’t think that you have to include all of the dishes or the whole table; it’s much better to just include parts of the food, with a hint of the decorations, a bottle of wine or table in the foreground or background. This enables you to focus on the photogenic food and make it appear bigger in your frame.
Tip 4: Use a sturdy tripod
As you’ll be working indoors in low light, use a tripod to keep your camera steady to ensure sharp shots during long exposures.
Using a tripod also ensures your camera and photo composition is fixed, leaving your hands free to adjust and reposition food to improve your shots, and to hold reflectors as you fire your camera remotely or with self-timer.
Tip 5: Live View focusing
Recent DSLRs come equipped with Live View so you can see what you’re shooting on the LCD screen before you press the trigger. Live View is great for focusing on food shoots as you can zoom in x5 and x10 views for total accuracy.
Zoom in on screen, switch to manual focus on your lens and focus manually until the food you want to be sharp is in focus.
When your DSLR is fixed in place on a tripod, Live View is also helpful for composing your shots, as you can move food and table decorations around for the best photos.
You can also use the Live View histogram display to check exposures before pressing the button.