Guest Post By Sarah Jackson
How to Frame Your Images
No matter what you are photographing, framing your images properly is really important. With food photography in particular, composition can make or break an image. Being too close or too far from your subject or shooting from an inappropriate angle are all things that can have a detrimental effect on your final image. Composition in photography is simply the arrangement of things in front of the camera and when you look at a well-composed image you know instantly what the main subject is. A well-composed image is pleasing to view and looks balanced.
Luckily for us, taking amazing images has never been easier. Camera phones these days have the potential to rival big DSLR cameras and good quality lighting can be bought cheaply and is readily available. Just think of all of the amazing Instagram accounts out there that have all been shot on smartphones. With a little bit of know-how from me and a little effort on your part, we can up your food photography game and have you smashing out Insta worthy food photos in no time.
The Rule of Thirds
The most widely used composition tool is the rule of thirds. I say most widely used because it’s built into most digital cameras. When taking a photograph with a digital camera, when is the last time you noticed the grid on the screen? This three by three grid makes up the rule of thirds and it says that your main subject should sit either along one of the lines or on an intersection. This works because our eyes are naturally drawn to these points. The rule of thirds has been used for decades in photography and centuries in other mediums so we are already predisposed to think that images which stick to these rules are well composed.
This is a rule of thirds grid. Our eyes will be naturally drawn to anything sitting on the lines or at the intersections.
It’s often quite simple to choose your main subject to place in the grid, it will most often be the subject of your recipe. However, sometimes you want to just highlight a certain aspect of the dish and the rule of thirds comes into play here too. Let’s look at the example below. By getting in close and offsetting the part of the image we want to highlight, the viewer's eye is drawn to it. But getting in close isn’t always best, the angle you shoot at is an equally important composition tool and is something to consider when making your images.
As you can see the eye is naturally drawn to the lines and to the intersections. The focus of the image, those drips, fall right on the upper horizontal line and directly at the two upper intersections. The drip even flows straight down the left vertical line drawing our eye to that lovely wooden board.
Too Close or Too Far?
Capturing the detail in your dishes is important. It allows you to showcase all the wonderful effort you have put into decorating and styling your dishes. The details, however, are not the main event, they are part of the narrative. When selling your recipes, you want to use an image of the whole dish, this should be the first image the reader sees. Zoomed in shots of the details or zoomed out shots of the whole table are important images for your blog post as they help with the narrative. They tell the story of your recipe but they are not the main event. When choosing what images to submit to recipe sites or to use for your social media links, you should choose images that show the whole dish as the main focus of the image. After all, your readers want to see what they will be making.
The image on the left is too far away. The subject is too small in the space. The image on the right is too close, sure those drips look great but will your audience understand what they’re looking at?
Shooting From an Angle
Choosing the angle to shoot at is just as important as choosing where to place the subject in the frame. A flat pizza will look better shot from above, rather than from a 90-degree angle, as it has no depth and all the action is going on up top. Whereas a sandwich shot from above will look terrible because all you will see is bread. Between 90 and 45 degrees will be best so you can see what’s going on inside. When choosing a camera angle, you should have a good look at your subject. Where are the focal points? Where’s the action? Is your subject tall or flat? If it's flat, you want to be thinking about more of a 45-degree angle to get it all in. If tall, you can get away with 90 degrees.
Keep Your Horizon Level
If you take away only one piece of advice from me, please remember to keep your horizons level. Some people fall into the trap of rotating their camera to create what they think will be an interesting composition. This technique was popular for food images in the ’90s and like brown lipliner and overplucked eyebrows, it should be left there. It’s just too confusing for the viewer and it makes your subject look strange. Please, please, please, keep your horizon as level as possible.
Anyone else feel a bout of vertigo coming on?
And there you have it, my best tips for food photography composition. Don’t forget to show us your best food photos by tagging Kitchen Thyme in your social media post.