Purple carrots do a lot of the work for you, making the photo interesting in subject matter alone, but think about the composition and lighting nonetheless.

I’m not a great photographer. The only time I had any real training in the subject was in high school when I took introductory photo and darkroom techniques. It wasn’t the most subtle or well-developed program ad certainly didn’t have any component about food. So, everything that I’ve learned has been through trial and (lots of) error as well as the advice of a few generous and considerably more skilled friends.

The most important thing when taking a photo of your culinary creations is the light. Assuming you have a decent camera (I use an entry-level Canon DSLR) you’ll need to either find or create suitable light to highlight your subject and produce the depth and texture that makes the food pop on whatever print or electronic medium you’ll eventually use to display the photograph. I try, whenever possible, to use natural light from nearby windows, but this is not always possible. Yes, you can take decent photos with the overhead lights in your kitchen, but try putting a lamp nearby, behind the camera. The industry calls this a “fill” and it softens the harsh fluorescent shadow you’ll most likely encounter with purely artificial light.

Framing is just as important, and can really elevate you from amateur to professional status. As a general rule the food should fill most of the frame, or at least be centered enough to be the focus of the image. Until you start composing elaborate backdrops and sets for your food (I’m not there yet, and don’t know if I ever will be), keep the scene simple: a plate or display surface, some garnishes, your meal front and center. With just a few elements in the photo your depth of field will be even more pronounced. The carrot photo above almost takes this too far, but having some background or foreground blurry is not at all bad, and can give the photo far more impact.

Again, I’m not a pro and I’m probably not even qualified to give photography advice, but who cares? I like a few of the photos I take and try to emulate the components in those that I think work particularly well. You can certainly do the same. Play around, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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