This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please read our disclosure policy.
A meaningful visit to any particular travel destination would not be complete without sampling the gastronomic delights that the place has to offer. Food is an important aspect of any culture, and to partake in a city or country’s food offerings is to acquaint yourself with their culture.
But if you’re the type who loves to document the food experiences from your many travels, it’s important that you know how to photograph these dishes properly to ensure that you are doing them justice.
And while you obviously can’t convey the distinct flavors and aromas of food through an image, you can show off the mouthwatering colors, textures, and the overall presentation of the dish simply by snapping a good photo.
Table of Contents
- 1 7 Practical Tips on How to Shoot Food Photos When You Travel
- 2 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
7 Practical Tips on How to Shoot Food Photos When You Travel
Find ample natural light
You can easily recreate the effect of natural light with the right lighting equipment, but it isn’t always possible to utilize such tools when you’re traveling. You may be dining in a place where flash photography is forbidden or frowned upon, or you may simply have no room in your bag for the extra lighting gear.
If you’re unable to use artificial light sources, that’s fine – nothing beats real natural light when shooting food, as it allows you to capture the true-to-life colors of a certain ingredient or dish. Varying degrees of sunlight depending on weather also add depth to the frame, allowing your audience to better understand the setting and context wherein your food photos were taken.
When dining indoors, pick a seat near the window or any other spot that allows the sunlight streaming in from the windows to reach you. If the cafe is in an enclosed area, have your meals served outdoors instead. This should give you enough natural light to play around with.
Use items on the table to create better lighting
As previously mentioned, bringing additional photography gear when traveling isn’t always an option, which means that you’re often left with just a camera and a lens on hand, and perhaps an external flash. In such cases, make the best of the situation by checking your table for anything that can help you create better lighting for your photo.
If the menu is printed on white paper, you can prop it up beside the dish and bounce your flash against it to create more diffused lighting. A white plate can also serve as a reflector, which can help you manipulate the direction of the light (whether from your flash or from a natural light source) and ensure that the food is well-lit for the photo.
If there is a candle on your table, you can use it as the primary lighting source for your photo for a more dramatic look. Play around with whatever’s available to see what kind of lighting you can come up with.
Add props to improve your composition
Apart from lighting, the composition is one of the most important factors that make up a good photo. You can try out different composition techniques, but keep in mind that it is extremely important to create proper balance and symmetry to ensure the best outcome.
For this reason, sometimes simply photographing the dish isn’t enough. In some cases, you may need to make use of props to balance out the elements in your photo, as well as to add context and visual interest.
Use whatever’s available—utensils, the salt shaker, or even a table napkin. Just mix and match the items on your table to create the composition that you want, but make sure to keep the props to a minimum to avoid detracting focus from the food.
Props can also help you hide any undesirable elements that you don’t want to include in your photo. For instance, if the pattern of the tablecloth is too distracting, you can use a plain cloth napkin to conceal it, giving you a clean canvas to work with.
Take photos at various angles
Photographing food is usually best done using the overhead perspective. However, you can experiment with different vantage points until you achieve the angle that can properly showcase the size, amount, and the mouthwatering appearance of the food on your plate.
Keep in mind that some angles are more suited for certain types of food than others. An overhead shot is best used for pizza or anything served in a bowl, such as ramen or soup, while close-up shots taken at eye level are best used for burgers or sandwiches as they provide a good view of all the layers.
Be mindful of your focus
Normally you would want the entire dish to be in focus, but there will be times when you’ll want to highlight a particular detail to make the food look more appealing or to showcase a particular feature of the dish that you find interesting.
Choosing a point of focus allows you to draw the eye to a specific part of the photo, so make sure to decide your point of focus beforehand.
Whether you want the whole frame to be in focus or if you want to keep only a certain portion in focus is up to you. If you decide to focus on one particular section of the photo, make sure to choose the appropriate aperture settings to create the desired depth of field.
A wide aperture (the smaller the f-number, the larger the aperture) creates a shallow depth of field, which gives you a nice blurred background with only a certain part of the photo in focus.
Incorporate the human element
One way to make your image stand out is to add the human element. It can be as simple as inserting your hand into the frame and capturing yourself interacting with the food in front of you, but you can also include other people (perhaps your server or the chef) for a better context.
This technique “humanizes” the photo and makes it more unique, more engaging, and in most cases, more interesting. People are more likely to connect with your food photos on a more personal level when they are able to see the dish being eaten and enjoyed, as it evokes their desire to eat the food as well.
While this tip isn’t always necessary, it can be helpful for certain compositions. Ultimately, it all depends on how you want people to view the photo, and the message you want to convey.
And finally, always observe the most important rule you should remember when taking photos in a foreign country (or any unfamiliar place): ask permission. This should be observed at all times, but it is particularly important when including people in your food photos. Certain countries have rules and laws in place against unauthorized photography, so it’s simply better to be safe than sorry.
Also, some people might not be comfortable with you taking photos of their food stalls and stores, so the decent thing to do is to ask for their approval before snapping away.
So there you have it – seven tips to help you navigate food photography during travel. Keep in mind that these are just tips to help you create better travel food photos, and are not meant to be strict guidelines for you to follow. Let your creative juices flow and, if all else fails, just put your camera away and enjoy the food!
Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Founder of Pretty Wild World and one of the leading experts in Europe travel, the Nordics, and Scandinavia Destinations.
Evan Kristine has been mentioned in big publications such as The Huffington Post and the Thought Catalog has been sharing her useful travel tips and hacks to the world for more than five years now.
Nowadays, she is a full-time traveler exploring and documenting her journey around the world providing you the next best travel idea for your great next adventure.