Top 5 food photography tips

food treats in Agra India by Steve DaveyWhat is it about the wonders of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and all manner of photo uploading sites that have suddenly given us amazing photography powers? Or maybe not? It’s not as easy as it looks and let’s face it, there are a lot of very unappetising photo shots being shared, so photographer extraordinaire Steve Davey to the rescue with some much-needed foodie photo tips…

“Some people seem to have a compulsion to record, blog, tweet and update their status with everything that they do, or think. One example is in the habit of photographing each travel meal and posting them on Instagram. Am I unique in not wanting to see everyone’s dinner before they eat it? I might though be interested in seeing a good photograph that shows me something about the culinary traditions or cuisine of a country.

So how can you elevate your food pictures from the level of the sort of face-on record shots that are used on menus of low-rent eating houses? Just take a little care and show a little self-control.

To help, I have set out my top 5 food photography rules for travellers:

1). Ask yourself why?
If you are chowing down on a plate of chips, then I am not really interested, but if you are eating a good example of a characteristic dish of a country, then you could have the possibilities of an interesting photograph. Be discerning: only photograph the interesting stuff. It might encourage you to try some more interesting food too!

2). Try to make it look appetising
Get in close, shoot from the side and try to make the food look like you might want to eat it. Look at good food photography and try to emulate what they are doing. Don’t just shoot a whole plate of food from directly above!

La Costa de Vejer tapas bar in the calle Alvarez del Gato, Madrid Spain by Steve Davey

3). Show the background
If you compose your food shot with a significant background then it will give your meal a sense of place. This might be the rest of the restaurant; the view from your table or even some of the other diners. Use a relatively shallow depth of field and the background can be out of focus, but still recognisable.

4). Don’t use flash!
Flash is a harsh and generally unflattering light source that will kill much of the atmosphere in your pictures. Try to shoot with the existing light, and if there are artificial light sources, remove any colour cast with the camera’s white balance facility. A better option though can be to shoot at lunchtime using daylight as your light source! This can be ideal, especially if you are sitting in light shade and not in direct sunlight.

roadside snacks being cooked in Kerala India by Steve Davey

5). Get into the kitchen
Often food will look better and you will be able to create a more interesting photograph of your food being prepared. Plus getting into the kitchen can be a good way of checking the hygiene of the food you are about to eat!”

Steve Davey is a writer and photographer. He leads his own range of photography tours, with all of the land arrangements provided by Intrepid Travel. The next available tour is Impressions of Jordan in April, 2014, and more info can be found at

Steve will also be providing his unique mix of encouragement and photography tuition on our special Spitsbergen Explorer departure on 9 June, 2014. This is your opportunity to experience the Arctic with the experts and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime photography adventure!

Photos: © Steve Davey

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Nice tips! I like the “go into the kitchen” 😉 but it’s kind of difficult to ask if you can join the chef for a pic… Or maybe I am just not used to ask!

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