The age of social media has given birth to diners who don’t lift a fork – not before saying grace – but before taking photos of their food, dozen attempts notwithstanding.
People restraining their friends to touch their meal for a couple of snaps, people standing up on their chair to get an overhead shot of the entire spread, and people not talking to each other as they are busy writing the wittiest caption that would get them the most number of “likes” possible have all become a regular sight nowadays because it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to document the beauty of a dish served.
This phenomenon has, in turn, challenged chefs and food artists to come up with the most visually arresting presentations of every meal.
For someone who has zero experience in food plating or food photography, it would seem a Herculean task to replicate something that looks delectable in person and on screen. But behind every artfully plated dishes and photos worthy of the hashtag #foodporn, are simply a few tricks that anyone can recreate at home using everyday ingredients.
Plate what feels right
San Miguel Pure Foods Culinary Center challenged chef and food artist AJ Reyes of Privatus Private Dining to whip up scrumptious dishes using their products and make the said food items look mouthwatering.
Having spent most of his culinary career in premier hotels and restaurants, Chef AJ admitted that using local products in making fine dining fare was something new to him.
“When you work in high end restaurants, they tend to get ingredients from the US, Japan and Europe… and when you think of San Miguel, you think of food cooked by your mom. Making it fine dining was really a challenge,” he told The Standard Life.
Vitty and Marie Gutierrez’s quaint Bee House in Antipolo served as Chef AJ’s kitchen as he demonstrated his food plating skill using seared Monterey ribeye, fried sweet potatoes, grilled oyster mushrooms, fresh arugula and amaranth, and Wandah! All-Around Mix gravy. In less than five minutes, Chef AJ served a plate of his creation that pleased the palate and the eyes.
“When you plate, just go with what you feel. There is no precise art or way in food plating,” he advised.
Up your food photography game
Even the most appetizing looking food – like that juicy steak or colorful salad – can easily look drab and unsavory in photos when it is taken the wrong way. On the other hand, even a bland dish can look like the next food magazine cover if you know how to snap right.
To help struggling food photographers improve their food photos, SMPFCC tapped food and travel blogger, professional food photographer and Manila Eat Up (a site that advocates the local food scene) founder B’ley Villones to share her tried and tested tricks on getting the best food shot using a smartphone.
1. Find the right light
Take advantage of natural light when taking food photos as, according to B’ley, it helps enhance the colors of the food instead of washing them out the way white flash does.
The best times to “find the light” is from 9:00 to 11:00 in the morning for yellow to bluish-gold light, 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon for warm light, and from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. for shadow effects. In case it’s dark, say you’re taking a photo of your food in a dimly-lit bar, B’ley suggests using a flashlight and covering the bulb with tissue paper or napkin, to diffuse the light.
2. Know the best angle
There are currently three popular angles when taking food shots. You can try them all, but if you’re in a rush (because the food is getting cold or you and your companions are impatient to dig in), it pays to know the best angle for every particular dish or meal situation.
The overhead shot, or more popularly known as flatlay, is best used when showcasing the variety of the spread, particularly the different shapes and colors of food and plates. Flatlay also works best when showing action, such as hands of the diners partaking of the meal.
For food items that don’t have much texture like soups, the 45-degree is the best bet as photos shot from this angle allow other elements in the background, such as utensils or towels, to become part of the image.
The head-on or eye-level angle is used for featuring the layers of decadent and ridiculous food items, such as steaks, sandwiches, desserts or anything that is high in calories or high in cholesterol.
3. Explore background and negative space
“Food photos don’t necessarily have to be always just food,” opined B’ley. Integrating elements that are not part of the meal, like walls or tables or utensils that complement the focal point, will help give the photo a fresh look and a dynamic feel.
Filling the photo with objects, without leaving a blank space, was previously considered better. But B’ley said negative space actually makes the photo look more cohesive as well as creates a certain kind of zen.
4. Utilize mobile apps
Take advantage of free and trial versions of photo editing softwares available on smartphones. B’ley’s top picks are Photoshop Express, VSCO and Snapseed.
So there, you’re now ready to take photos that – who knows – could become the next cover of a food magazine.