Food photography is more than taking a photo of your delicious meal at the café around the corner – there are many factors at play. Experimenting with lighting, angles and how you style the food will elevate your snapshot to a shareable post.


Learning to utilise and manipulate light is extremely important, whether you’re using ambient or artificial light. Natural sunlight tends to create a soft, warm effect. If it’s too bright you can soften it by using a professional diffuser or simply use a piece of sheer white fabric. And if you need more light you can bounce light into a picture by using a piece of white paper and explore with angles until you create the light you want. The downside to natural lighting is that it moves, so you’ll have to shoot while the light is good. Keep in mind that external lights in a room can affect the final image.

Alternatively, you can use flash or constant lighting, this allows for more control. Making use of a large softbox ensures that the light is even with no hotspots or unwanted shadows.

The great thing about using studio lighting is that you’re in control and can tweak where needed until the light is just perfect.


There are three popular angles; shoot from the top, from the side or at a 45° angle. Each one gives a different look and feel, which means you can play until you’ve found the look that best suits the dish.

Basics of food photography - Angles 3
Basics of food photography - Angles 1
Basics of food photography - Angles 2


After you’re done with testing the light and exploring angles, you can now start setting up and styling the food. This can be a tedious process of adjusting the food here and there to make sure the highlights and shadows are displayed correctly. Start with the “main subject” and build around it. Create “s” and triangle shapes or use leading lines to create a visually pleasing result. These techniques can all be used to frame your subject or lead your eye into and out of the frame.

Consider the Colour Scheme

Complementary colours are colours that are on the opposite sides of the colour wheel and play an important role as the colour of the food gives your audience a sense of how it tastes. Use complementary colours like blue and orange that give a combination of warm and cool tones to attract attention.

Consider what mood the colour is associated with, for instance, blue is often associated with calm and orange gives a sense of solace and kindness. You can play around with dark or light backgrounds, each can enhance the colours of the components you are using.

Basics of food photography - Colour Scheme

Levitation Technique

This is a cool photography technique that creates the illusion that your subject or condiments are floating or falling. To create this look you’ll have to use lighting wisely. Start by placing the camera on a tripod and make sure it’s steady. Photograph your background first so that you can build your final image on your background image in Photoshop. Thereafter you photograph your subject (food or drinks, condiments). Using toothpicks, skewers, fishing lines or sellotape you suspend the products individually, photograph them and layer them all in Photoshop to create a levitating effect. You can also use incense to create a steam or smoke effect, to give your image more character.

Splash Technique

This effect gives us the ability to freeze food or drinks “moving”, this will help catch the viewer’s attention, but it also makes your food images seem more appealing and appetising because it brings life to the image. 

For this technique, you’ll need a tripod to keep your camera steady. A fast shutter speed is required to freeze liquids mid-air. A flash isn’t necessary but it will definitely come in handy to help you create sharper images. During post-production, the images are layered and blending tools are used to create that spilling effect.

Basics of food photography - Technique 1
Basics of food photography - Technique 2

Keep in mind that people eat with their eyes. We hope this introduction makes you a bit more aware of what to consider regarding lighting and styling and inspires you to create mouth-watering images the next time you experiment with food photography.