8 Pro Tips for Drool-Worthy Food Photography

Whether you own a restaurant or are a food blogger, you know how important it is to have high-quality, expertly composed food photography on your website and social media profiles. Getting the perfect photo can be tricky, especially if you are new to photography--you can cook an amazing-tasting meal all day every day, and still have no idea how to prepare a dish that looks mouthwatering in photos.

Here are 8 pro tips for when, where, and how to photograph food to get the best photos for your website and social media profiles.

1. Capture it While its Fresh
The best time to photograph food is when it's still hot, fresh from the oven, or just plated. Many foods will actually have less body the longer they sit, and won't have as much presence on the plate once they have cooled.

If you've waited too long to photograph the food and it's cooled, try brushing or spraying it with oil to spruce it up a bit before shooting. It's also always better to agitate and re-plate the food if it looks dull or dry.

2. Get Creative with Tabletops
The tabletop you shoot your photos on is a very important element to appealing food photography. Many food bloggers and restaurants don't have access to beautiful surfaces, or want to vary the tabletops they use for each photo.

One of the most simple solutions for this problem is to make your own affordable tabletop backgrounds, or order a few high-resolution stock photos that mimic different tabletops so you can match the tabletop to the tone you want to convey in your photo.

3. Stabilize Your Camera
To get a truly crisp image, you'll need to stabilize your camera with a tripod, or at the very least steady your camera on a chair or door frame to make sure there is no movement when you take the picture. Many beginning photographers will post food photographs that are pristinely styled, well-composed, and well-lit, but blurry.

For overhead food shots, try adding a side arm or lateral arm to your tripod. While balancing on a stool or chair may seem like a clever trick to getting a great overhead shot, it's dangerous and often results in a blurry image.

4. Keep Your Platform in Mind

According to Zagat's most recent National Dining Trends survey, 75% of people have chosen a place to eat based on drool-worthy social media food photos. With so much to gain, it pays to tailor your photographs to suit different social platforms and to stay on top of restaurant social media trends so you'll know what type of photos are currently popular.

lf you know you'll need a picture for your website, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, consider shooting at slightly different angles for each. Your audience may see the same post on different platforms, and it's always better to offer a bit of variety. Also keep size constraints in mind, and adjust your composition to flatter the shape and orientation that each platform favors. For instance, for Instagram food photography, you might consider altering your composition to look best for a square image.

5. Consider the Background
One of the easiest ways to ruin a great food photo is to have a cluttered or unharmonious background. Obviously, you want to clear away any unattractive items from the frame, clean up any noticeable spills or drips, and do your best to make your space look as high-end as possible. This can be achieved through backdrops.

Also consider educating yourself about color theory, and choose a background that complements or contrasts with your food, dish, and garnishes.

6. Find the Best Lighting
Many beginning food photographers end up washing out food with too bright of a light, or failing to capture depth of color by not illuminating their food enough. While the desired mood of your photo will determine the type of lighting you use, as a rule it's best to work with natural light when you can.

If you have a window in your home, consider taking advantage of daylight for your photos, as it results in soft shadows and vivid colors. You can use a white piece of fabric or poster board as a reflector to brighten photos and decrease shadows. If you want to tap into the dark food photography trend, you'll want to use a combination of light reflectors and absorbers to get the moody, sultry effect you desire.

7. Play with Depth of Field
Depth of field is, basically, how much of your picture is in focus. A narrow depth of field, where only a small portion of the image is in focus, is very popular in food photography and can draw the eye to your primary area of interest. To change the depth of field you'll want to adjust the aperture setting on your camera.

You can achieve some very neat effects by manipulating the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO of your camera--play around with different combinations until you find one that highlights your food. You can also use this tactic to downplay not having a great background if you're taking photos on the fly and can't control the setting.

8. Consider Cooking for the Eye, Not the Mouth
When you see an amazing food photo, you probably assume the food tastes just as delicious as it looks. In reality, many food photographers will undercook food to ensure that it's colors and textures are appealing.

If you're creating a meal that you know you'll want to photograph, consider cooking one portion for visual appeal. Slightly undercook vegetables so they will remain bright and crisp, and even dunk salad greens or other fresh fare in an ice bath to freshen it a bit before you photograph it. Get creative with garnishes, and always make sure you eliminate stray specks of sauce before you take your photos.

Taking amazing food photos for your blog, social feeds, and menus may seem daunting at first, but if you take the time to learn the basics of color theory and composition and a few tricks of the trade, you'll be well on your way to mastering mouth-watering food photography. Get started with these 8 pro tips.