10 food-shooting tips from a photo pro

What not to do: Using a flash made this dessert look washed out and bizarre.
What not to do: Using a flash made this dessert look washed out and bizarre.
Posted: September 08, 2011

ALTHOUGH HE'S the first guy to say that rules are meant to be broken, food photographer Steve Legato offers these tips to make your food pictures pop.

* Get the light right. If your dish is at 6 o'clock in the frame, light needs to be coming from between 9 and 3 o'clock - from the side or behind the meal.

*  Don't use the flash. Unless you want the food to look boring, gross and flat.

* Use daylight if you have it. Say yes to the table by the window.

*  Diffuse if possible. In harsh restaurant lighting, a plain piece of white paper, held at a 45-degree angle toward the light, can serve as a makeshift reflector, lightening the dark contrast and shadows. Or, you can use a translucent piece of tracing paper held over the dish to soften the hard overhead light.

*  Brace your camera. Blurry is unappetizing. A small, flexible tabletop tripod can help - $2.99 on Amazon.com.

*  Think the rule of thirds. Imagine you're looking at a tic-tac-toe board, and put the pork chop where the lines intersect - NOT smack dab in the middle.

*  Straight up and down is boring. Think angles, slightly off kilter for a more interesting shot.

*  Try to create an S, a sense of movement, in your composition. Maybe add another element, something that leads the eye around the frame. You want there to be an entrance, journey and exit to the shot.

*  Don't overstuff the shot. If the image is about a single subject, don't compete with too many other elements. Like listening to two songs at the same time.

*  Make it snappy. Food starts to look congealed and weird if you let it sit too long. Take that shot right away, then eat!

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