I always gravitate towards shooting my food images in a vertical format. When I’m teaching classes, this is when I notice almost everyone is holding their camera horizontally when shooting their food photos.
The first time I taught a food photography class this shocked me. So I asked the students why they were all holding their cameras horizontally. Each student looked at me and said they had no idea. So we talked about it and since then, I always incorporate this in class.
Turns out they all agreed, it was much more comfortable to shoot that way. It had nothing to do with what the image was going to look like. I couldn’t believe it. So there it is, I had to change their mindset about that.
But in the meantime, they literally have 100’s, if not 1000’s of images that were shot horizontally. So, here’s a fun assignment – take some of your horizontal images from the past and give them new life! Crop the crap out of them! Crop away some plate, some background, and get right in on your food and share them below in the comments. If you don’t have software yet to do this, keep reading.
Your blog is all about your food, not your props, not your backgrounds, not your surfaces, as lovely as they may be. That is not what your blog is about.
Now, of course there are some exceptions to this, where there’s an environment that is beautiful and contributing to your story. That is totally different.
I’m talking about those images where there’s hardly anything in the background worth looking at. Maybe even shots where some props are distracting and taking away from your food. Rework those those images and see if you can create a new way of seeing them.
Here’s some examples with before and after:
In the shot above, I think the fork is distracting so I cut that out. Crop into the plate, bowl, or platter. That automatically makes your attention go to your food. You don’t have to show the entire plate, that’s not what you are selling.
The image above was done for a restaurant. If any food bloggers out there shoot restaurants, listen up! Many restaurants plate their food for presentation, not for shooting, which is exactly what they should be doing. So, many chefs love putting their beautiful food on big, bulbous, round plates. Which is awesome for presentation, and not so great for shooting. Again, I am not chef bashing here at all. This is their job and they do it well.
When in this situation, try to think how you want that final image to look. In the image above, the huge dish helped us. I was able to crop in to make the food float on a white space. It’s all about the perfectly cooked black cod, not the huge dish it’s in.
The fun thing with cropping your images is that you can make it any size you want.
Above is the full frame vertical shot of the same dish. Notice how I put some water glasses in the background to break up the white space and have a little something going on back there. If I were to use this vertical shot, I would probably crop some of the bottom out, or put text in that area. That’s a lot of dead space we just don’t need.
Side note: When I shoot at restaurants, I always bring many fork, knife, and spoon options with me in case their flatware doesn’t shoot well. People, it is REALLY hard to place a simple fork into a shot. I probably have 15 shots of this one fork in different positions. Many times I fire the fork – take it out, because it doesn’t work, meaning it takes away from the food. So if you struggle with this, welcome to the club! We all do.
Now, here’s an example of the first shot of a dish where the chef saw it and recognized it needed some tweaking. This chef had a lot of shooting experience so he totally knew the drill. Which is awesome.
Notice how he moved the beef slices to look more appealing. Then I asked him what the dressing looked like. You see, I always shoot a dish before the dressing is applied so I can get a sense of the structure of the dish first. When he showed me the dressing I noticed it was quite thin and might look strange had we just poured it on, then shot. So we decided to do an action shot.
Try Shooting Vertically Next time
This vertical shot was not cropped in from the first shot. I turned my camera to be vertical. I wanted to allow room for the container that the chef was pouring from. We did test shots where there wasn’t anything in the container so the chef knew where he needed to be in the frame. Then we filled up the container and poured. I took several frames of this action.
If this was a horizontal shot, it would not have looked as exciting as the vertical shot because there would be too much space around the dish to allow for the container.
If you are one of those horizontal shooters, try to do some of your next shots vertically. I’m sure you’ll like how it will look. And, don’t forgot an important thing – vertical shots show up much bigger on your blog. Just look at all your favorite food bloggers who you admire. Most of their shots are vertical. Try it!
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How To Crop Your Photo
If you are not a Photoshop or Lightroom user yet (what are you waiting for??), you are wondering how to crop your images without software. There are loads of great online editing websites out there. You simply upload your images, crop them, apply text if needed, then output them at the size you need for your blog. Each editor is a little different, but you get the idea.
Google “Online Image Editor” or “Online Image Crop” and see which ones look fun for you to use:
Here are just a few, there’s literally pages of them on google now:
Now, once you’re using one of these online editors, look for the cropping tool – it always looks something like this:
One tip – always save your original file if you are using your own software on your computer. If you choose to crop one of your images, do it as a copy so you can always go back and change things if needed from the original.
About this images shown: The two salads were shot on a system equivalent to a 100mm macro lens on a full frame sensor 35mm camera. The restaurant images were shot with my Canon 5D Mark iii and a 100mm macro lens.
I hope I inspired you to go through some of your older images and give them another try. I’d love to see them in the comments below. Please share your images and if they are live, share links to those as well.
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Happy shooting everyone!
Disclaimer: The photoshop and Lightroom link is an affiliate link with amazon. All other links are not affiliates.