FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY used to be the realm of the experts but these days it seems as though almost everyone has snapped a shot of their favourite meal — even if it’s only on their phone, to upload to their Facebook page or share with friends on Instagram.
By the same token, takeaway owners and pizza restaurant proprietors have been quick to recognise the benefit of using enticing photos of their food to help promote their business.
But before you take a photo of your signature pizza to upload it for potential customers to see, it makes sense to learn at least a little about the art of food photography.
That way you can make sure you’re presenting your pizzas and other menu items in the best possible light (no pun intended) — light being one of several factors you should be considering to ensure your food presents as well as it can.
Here are some of the others:
The way your food is ‘styled’ - i.e. presented, dressed-up, positioned for the camera — is going to have a big effect on how it looks in the finished photo. When photographing pizzas there are some obvious points to consider.
Firstly, you want to ensure that neither the pizza cheese nor the edge of the base looks blistered or burnt. This means using a good quality cheese like Perfect Italiano Mozzarella or Ultra, and ensuring an even cook for the pizza. In the case of a wood-fired oven, some scorching on the pizza edge is often inevitable — but avoid overcooking the pizza, as it will look dry and unappetising when photographed.
When preparing your pizza, make sure you have a nice even spread of ingredients on each slice, and when slicing the pizza for the camera, make sure the slices themselves are of similar size. Ideally they should look nicely symmetrical — remember, as Club Perfect Ambassador Theo Kalogeracos points out, each slice of pizza should be prepared as a meal in itself.
Consider also your mix of ingredients. Many pizza toppings are very colourful and will look great when photographed — but again, it’s important to ensure a good, even spread across the pizza.
Also bear in mind that what your customers see in the photograph is what they will expect to receive when they order the food. In other words, make sure the amount of toppings and overall appearance of the pizza matches what you actually serve — or you’ll have disgruntled customers on your hands!
Almost all contemporary cameras have an autofocus but it can usually be switched off easily enough. Autofocus is not a good choice for food photography as it take away the appearance of depth in food, especially if there’s not a lot of contrast in the different elements that make up the meal.
What angle you take the photo from — front on, to the side, from above etc — can make a surprising amount of difference to the attractiveness of the shot, so experiment with different positions.
You might think that for a pizza, shooting straight down from above makes the most sense, but this will result in a very ‘flat’ image. Check out some of the pizza photos on our Recipes section and you’ll see that pizzas tend to be photographed side-on, to capture a sense of the thickness of each slice and the various layers of toppings.
Obviously any photography needs enough light to make the subject visible, but in the case of food, too much light can make your food look flat or dull.
To take a nice pizza pic you typically need light coming from a single source either at the back or side — for example, through a side window.
This will help highlight the food textures. Keeping the light to just a single source will also help ensure the overall presentation looks natural — which is a big plus when dealing with food.
Pizza photo
An example of effective pizza photography - note the even spread of ingredients across the pizza