I love food photography, but at times, I just want to get the shot and go home! When I’m stuck or just need a quick pickup shot for a menu, I usually fall back on a few tried-and-true composition principles that will make a killer photo.
The key here is speed. If you’re a food blogger who needs a great photo in a hurry, here’s how you put it together.
Foreground, Middle, Background
The problem with photography is that it’s a 2D medium in a 3D world. If you want a strong photo, it’s usually a good idea to build out a scene and give it some depth. The way to do this is by putting in a foreground, a middle, and a background element. Here’s an example of this principle:
In the photo above, the avocado toast is in the foreground. the cup is in the middle, and the lemons are part of the background. I also accentuated depth by layering the surfaces. The toast is on a plate, the plate is on a towel, and the towel is on a tablecloth. In real life, nobody would eat like this, but it works for a photo.
The idea of depth is a big deal in many styles of photography. This picture of the Griffith Park Observatory I made a few years ago follows the same principles. It works because it’s layered and feels 3 dimensional.
Triangles Are Your Friends
Once you look for them, you’ll notice triangles are everywhere. They’re used in everything from architecture to painting.
In photography composition, triangles enhance the order of various elements and direct the eye towards the main subject. In the photo below, I relied heavily on triangles to showcase the main element.
As you can see, there are three triangles:
- The pan and cookie cutters
- The cookie cutters and the bowl
- The bowl and Fried Cinnamon Tortilla Chip stack
The same design principle is also at work in the avocado toast photo above.
For the ultimate example of a triangle used in composition, check out the Mona Lisa:
Keep Things Small
In food photography, the different objects in a scene should be about the same size. A large dinner plate will kill a scene. It’s just too big and will throw off the balance of a composition.
When I’m having trouble with a shot, it’s typically because I’m trying to combine something cool (but too big) with something small.
In the scene below, I used a small plate and placed the forks in the background to reduce their relative size. Food photography composition should be about the food, not the plates and dinnerware.
Keep it Simple
Lastly, if you want to shoot fast and create powerful images that grab people’s attention, KEEP IT SIMPLE! If you look at the cover of any food magazine, the images are clean and to the point.
When putting together a composition, get rid of the junk and highlight the main subject. If you do this, you’ll have beautifully composed photos in no time flat.