Food Shooting Tips to Help Your Holiday Photography
For the budget-conscious (or anyone trying to stay sane during a holiday meal), a food stylist is out of the question, but a few quick tips can drastically improve your photos. Before you do anything, manually set your white balance. Cameras are smarter than ever, but their auto white balance feature will usually leave your photos slathered in unappetizing bluish or orange tones.
It's no surprise, really, but our number one tip is to keep it simple. Clean, close-up compositions will show off the food, and not the disaster happening in the kitchen. Shoot low and close; there's no reason you need to keep the entire plate in the photo frame. Scrivani's right; playing with different sections of food or the table makes it easier to find interesting shots. By bending down and shooting the plated food at its level, you'll better be able to capture the texture and lay of the dish. (Don't believe us? In cooking shows, the overhead shots are most often used to cut between kitchen movements and establish the scene, not highlight the food.) Similarly, use a simple background, and control the depth of field (read: make the background blurry) to draw attention to the dish.
As far as lighting goes, natural, candle-lit or low-light situations will bring out interesting colors and shadows, but these usually require the use of a tripod or timer to keep things stable (unless you want to go through the hassle of setting up a mini studio around your table). Unless you really know what you're doing, avoid flash at all costs, as it will make your food look greasy and bland. To compensate, bump up your ISO (which most point-and-shoots let you control), and open up the aperture (5.6 or lower). SLR users should grab a fast lens.
Shooting people chewing and drinking is much harder than it looks, so save the candids for when people are gathering at the table and enjoying after-dinner drinks. Enjoy the meal, and ditch the camera until later.