Do you have trouble figuring out what is the best camera angle to use for your food shots? I find that with the students that I teach, this is a very common problem.
My students often teach me what I need to teach them. When I first started teaching, I would do a demo in class where I set up my camera while my colleague, who I was teaching the class with, would set up our food and props for the demo shot. A student asked me, “how do you know where to put your camera?”. I had to think for a few minutes. This has become so built in for me, that I realized I didn’t even think about it, I just sort of knew where to put it.
This was never taught to me in school that I can remember. I have two degrees from two different schools. Neither of these schools ever talked about food photography when I was there. So how did I know where to put my camera?
The answer is, I think that from years of shooting, I just learned it on my own. I’m sure that’s not what you want to hear, but it really is true with photography. The more you do it, the easier it will get. I promise!
So in the meantime, while you are learning how to improve your food photography, this is something you should be aware of and start thinking about.
Where to put your camera?
The food shooting scenario I am going to be talking about is the one where you are at home, and you have a little time to spend on your food shots. As I’ve mentioned before, I always shoot on a tripod. If you are not shooting on a tripod, you are really limiting yourself, and how you can work on your shot.
Here is what I do. Let’s say I’m working on that shot above of the rustic peach tart. I knew I wanted to get a real close up shot of the peaches. As it’s sitting on the table, I look at the tart, but not through the camera, and decide where I want my focus to be on the peaches.
Once I know where my focus will be, I know how to place my camera to get that part of the peach tart in focus. In that shot above, the camera was at about a 45 degree angle looking down into the tart. I took this with a 100mm macro lens so I could get nice and close to it.
I’m going to break this down into the four most common camera angles to shoot food with.
1. 45 Degree Angle
This is probably the most common camera angle for shooting food.
Shooting at this angle with a longer lens, like the 100mm lens, or setting your zoom lens to something like 75mm or higher, you get to really see into your dish and in a lot of cases, only see the surface of what you are shooting on – there is no background (surface is the wood here – background would be what you would see beyond the surface, like a wall).
If you are one of the many bloggers who are still using a 50mm lens to get your shots, you will probably run out of your surface area unless you get right on top of your food. The 50mm lens is considered a wide lens for shooting one dish of food. Everyone who uses it has to get extremely close to their food to get a shot that doesn’t show lots of things in the background that you don’t want. This can be very limiting.
I would say for all my commercial jobs that I shoot, that this is probably the most common angle I use.
#2 The slightly lower angle, 30 degrees
When the food on the plate allows for this, I will lower the camera angle a little bit so that I can show a horizon line in the back of the shot and show a background. It was really nice to show how thick the side of the lamb is in this shot below.
Notice that the profile of the plate is very shallow. There is hardly any lip on the edge of the plate at all. If this was in a large bowl, I would have to raise the camera angle higher to see into it.
So I figure out where I want the focus to be AND what camera angle to use with the dish the food is on.
#3 The straight-on shot
This is a fun way to shoot some foods and is very common for burgers and sandwiches. When shooting burgers and sandwiches, you want to show what’s in them. If you put the top bun on (we call this the crown), you are covering the food, so you have to shoot from the side like this.
When I am shooting for a burger client, quiet often the camera is a little bit lower than straight on and I am angling the camera up a little bit to see the food. This gives the burger a very heroic look.
#4 The overhead shot
This is a camera angle that we see all the time with food blogs. Some blogs use this too much I feel. It’s easier to make a composition this way because you are eliminating depth in the shot. Your food becomes shapes and colors that you place into your frame.
It’s a very fun way to shoot – just remember, please, don’t do this all the time, or it will get boring very fast.
The point here is to use different camera angles in order to keep your readers engaged. Mix it up! Try different camera angles if you are still learning this and are unsure of which camera angle to use.
#5 – What ever angle is needed to get the shot you want
So I have to mention that these top four camera angles above are just a guide to the most common ways to shoot food. This really does depend on the dishes and glasses your food or drinks are in.
Here is a shot of drinks. When I shoot glasses, I like to make sure that you can see the back edge of the glass so that you can see the top of the drink.
In this shot, I am slightly higher than a straight on camera angle, in order to see a little bit of the top of the drinks and the back edge of each glass.
Obviously, if you are shooting a bowl of soup or a one-pot meal in a dutch oven, your camera angle will need to be at least at a 45 degree angle in order to see into your dish. You might need to be higher to look down into something.
So the next time you are setting up for a food shot, try a few different angles and see which one you like the best. In time you will start to get a sense of what looks best for your shots. The more you shoot, the easier this will become.
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