As a photographer, I go one step further and believe the picture itself can help or hurt what you’re trying to say. The more creative and visually interesting the shot, the more attention it grabs! Here’s a quick and dirty photography tutorial with principals that will improve your shots no matter if you are shooting with a cell phone or DSLR.
Get up close and personal
A lot of people take the big picture view with photography… everything including the kitchen sink is in the shot. With the small picture view, you can give a new perspective to an everyday object. If you think you are close to the subject of your picture, get a little closer. What you’re after is not the entirety of the object in your picture, but a fraction of it. Once you get your phone within 6 inches of the subject, tap the object on the screen and it will focus on it and blur the background. As a photographer friend told me, those blurred backgrounds are the money shots.
Step Back and get Low for Scale
If you want to communicate size and scale, step far away! Think of a new angle to take that big picture shot. I took a pic in a warehouse of dozens of pallets stacked up high. Instead of just standing there, I got on my belly to get a little bit of the floor in the picture and the shot was more interesting than if I just stood on my feet. Maybe you want to take a picture of your store front…. get down low and fill the shot with the building and the blue sky!
Shoot at the Food’s Level
One of the biggest take-aways to up your composition game is to not stand around to take a picture. Everyone does that and everyone knows that point of view. When taking a picture of a plate of food, lower your hands and camera to the level of the plate and then take your shot. Have colorful veggies on a chopping board? Lower your hands and camera to the level of the veggies and take your shot.
Find the Star
Regardless of shooting the big or little picture, you need to pick one thing to be the star of your photograph. This will take your skills up a notch by finding one person or item to frame your shot around. There are times you need pics of more than one person, but make sure you have a grouping of people, which creates that single object or focal point. Again, don’t just point your camera and take the shotgun approach! If you are going big with a scenic picture, what is the main thing in the scene you want people’s eye to fall on when they look at your picture? In the case of a restaurant, find one thing that stands out and frame in into your shot…. Keep reading, that focal point doesn’t have to always be smack in the middle!
Rule of Thirds
Now that we’ve covered what your shooting, let’s talk composition. There is a rule with photography to divide your shot into thirds. Once you have chosen the lucky subject for your photo, put it into one of the thirds of the shot… right, center, or left. You want that big view of your busy restaurant. Pick a willing server to frame into the right third with all the activity in the background.
Speaking of crazy angles and contortions, start observing things and look for a different perspective, that crazy angle! Your pics will communicate creativity. Don’t be afraid to get on your belly, squat, climb, or get to a place where you’ll find that perfect shot (okay, be safe about all this, bodily harm is never worth it) . Also, what is interesting in your life or business? People by nature are voyeuristic so play it to your advantage, give them a peek of your unique world (use common sense).
Look for Lines
I am always drawn to things that create visual lines. Railroad tracks, staircase, handrails, conveyor belts, etc. Compose some shots with that lineal element as the focus. I’d start with it in the middle or in the left third of a shot and let the line continue through the frame.
Look for Shapes
There are a lot of patterns and geometry going on in nature. Look for it and use that as a focal point. A great example of this is the rough texture on the outside of a pineapple…. Beautiful little geometric shapes that are visually stunning if you fill 75% of your shot with them.
Light is your Friend
Use plenty of light. Natural light will make your pics look great and that means catching the eye. The more natural light, the less you will need to rely on filters. I talk a lot about composition, but if you don’t have the lighting, your creative shot will not reach its full potential.
When Light isn’t your Friend
Don’t shoot towards a light source or window. Unless you are going after a creative shot, you’ll get a whole lot of light and a silhouette of your subject.
Taking pictures of your food, no matter where you fall in the food industry, will boost your message and help people understand our corner of the industry. Here’s a little creative nudge to get you started!
- Shoot from the top down
- Get close to a produce item so that only a fraction of it fills the frame
- Shoot with the camera inches above the ground
- Look for parallel lines to focus on like the rows of a field
- Look for an interesting mechanical component to focus on
- Look for the lines: conveyor belts, staircases, hoses, etc.
- What new perspective can you shoot a big picture shot of the plant with?
- Get a close up of tools
- Top down shots of things cooking in the pot
- Get shots of what you’re dicing up on a chopping board
- Get pictures of ingredients in the cooler, lighting in a refrigerator is on pointe!
- Get close to your food!
- Practice focusing on something on your plate in the left or right third and getting the blurry background
- Focus on one item on your plate
- Look for new angles to shoot a picture of your food, remember, get on the food level with your hands and camera
- Lighting is usually great in grocery stores with great looking items. Have fun!
- Get close to the item you’re shooting, close enough but not touching it
- This is a great place to look for shapes and lines that naturally occur with produce
- Top down shots are fun and easy with produce displays
- Take selfies with your arms up slightly. The key to being photogenic is making sure the jawline shows up for the picture
- Don’t just shoot a room of people, take pictures of groupings. This occurs naturally or have some fun and ask for the shots
- With group shots, click the shutter multiple times. Get a normal shot and then get a silly shot.