Technique Lab: Expert Photography for Everyday Cooks

Chelsea Colby, MBA Class of 2015

Last weekend, I volunteered to help out at Taste Talks, a food festival in Brooklyn hosted by Northside Media that explores the food industry through panel discussions, film viewings, and themed meals. One of the panels I visited featured a talk given by Daniel Krieger (Instagram @DanielKrieger), a Brooklyn-based food photographer who has shot for Eater, the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Food + Wine, and multiple cookbooks. With the proliferation of self-taken food shots appearing on Instagram, I thought some of Krieger’s tips might appeal to all of us at Stern—some of the key takeaways follow.

Lighting

  • Good lighting is what separates the great photos from the bad
  • Natural light is the best source of light, even when it’s overcast outside. Bring your dish to the window
  • Another bonus of natural light is that it’s free—good artificial light can be very costly
  • Try to turn off any ambient or artificial light when you have access to natural light
  • If you’re in a restaurant at night, try having your dining partner use the flashlight app on their phone to light up your shot

Shooting Technique

  • The easiest way to get a good shot us to use a straight down, bird’s-eye view
  • Experiment; try different angles
  • Try shooting with your phone directly perpendicular to the table—straight angles work well
  • If you’re using your phone, don’t get too close to the food
  • Since a phone can’t capture depth of field, use negative space to compose your shot
  • Find interesting textures
  • Use the Rule of Thirds: divide an image into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and place important compositional elements along the lines or their intersections.
  • Hold your phone with two hands when shooting
  • Pay attention to the whole frame, not just the dish (for instance, if there’s an ugly stain on the table, cover it with the plate)
  • At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to skip the photo if the circumstances aren’t right
  • Try not to take photos of people while they’re eating

Hashtagging for More Followers

  • You can grow your audience by hashtagging your photos so that when people search for that hashtag, they’ll find and follow you
  • The most popular hashtags in he food world seem to be coffee, pizza, burgers, and ramen—things lots of people relate to
  • Try to hang out with people who have more followers than you do (there are even Instagram meetups!)
  • Only post photos that you think are great
  • Don’t post 20 images from one thing, like your lunch or one restaurant
  • Space your posts out, timing-wise
  • Try to post at least once per day or two
  • Narrow down your hashtags to a few specific ones, as no one wants to see 30 in a row

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