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How to Take Great Street Food Photos when Traveling

With the ever-increasing prevalence of smartphones equipped with professional quality cameras, the world of photography has grown to include a variety of amateurs and hobbyists who were once prohibited from enjoying the craft by the cost of camera equipment. With the rise of mobile photography, one of the most popular photo subjects is food. With so many more photographers on the scene today, social media outlets are saturated with shots of mouth watering meals, so how do you make your food photos stand out from the pack?

Simple. Check out these top 5 tips for taking better food photos, and take your food photography to the next level.

HOG NATURAL LIGHT

Nothing beats the natural light you get from sunrise to sunset. In fact, lighting specialists are only able to replicate the intensity and temperature of natural light using expensive lighting equipment – so capturing natural light is key.

The light on a cloudy, sunny, or rainy day can completely change the mood and feel of your shot, but you must know how to best employ natural lighting in your photo setup. Some practical lighting tips you can employ in defining your style and getting the ideal shot include:

  • When in a restaurant, try and get a window seat. You can even book it in advance so as to get best conditions for taking pictures of your food.
  • If there are no windows in the restaurant see if you can get an outdoor area; even a slightly shaded spot can add a touch of personality to your image.
  • Plan some shots an hour before sunset to catch the “golden hour,” for beautiful soft lighting and warm glow.  

TO USE FLASH OR NOT?

Unless absolutely necessary, you shouldn’t use the flash on your camera. It’s better to take shots naturally – just how the human eye would see it. If the lighting in a restaurant is dim, use it to your advantage and capture the natural ambience in your photo. A brightly-lit photo taken with direct flash flattens the subject and distorts the message your photo tells.

If you must employ an external source of lighting, here are some tips you should consider:

  • Besides natural lighting, your next option should be a candle. However shooting with a candle requires a steady hand to ensure the camera stays stable. You should consider using your elbow as an “elbow-pod” formed by resting your elbow on the table with your camera as a natural stabilizing system.
  • If you have no choice but to employ flash, try reflecting the flash off the ceiling, a whiteboard or a bounce card. You can also improvise with a menu printed on white paper as a bounce surface.
  • If the lighting conditions are to poor, just put your phone away and enjoy your meal – there will always be another opportunity to get the perfect shot.

COMPOSITION

When you’re taking food photos while traveling, experiment by taking multiple shots from different angles to see which looks best. Your goal is to engage the viewer and whet their appetite. Some dishes will look better cropped tighter while others won’t. If you are taking a picture with of a multi-dish spread, then an overhead shot may be the best way to incorporate all the colors and textures into the photograph. Some practical composition tips include:

 

  • Fill the frame with what’s available on the table such as wine glasses, cups, moving hands, and utensils when taking overhead shots.
  • If you are dining with someone, get them to interact with the food with their hands or utensils so the shot feels more candid and realistic.

BLENDING IN

When traveling in a foreign country you might encounter food being prepared or served on the street that you want to photograph. In certain circumstances it’s a good idea to remain discreet, as the subject may not be too keen on being photographed with their food.

 

If you need more time to capture the perfect shot of street food, it’s polite to let the cook/vendor know of your intentions. In fact, there’s a good chance that being transparent with your intentions will help you establish trust, and in turn gain you more access and time to get your shot. Complementing the food is always a diplomatic approach. If you don’t speak the language, a friendly gesture like smiling, waving or saying hello gives positive results.

TRAVEL LIGHT

Part of being able to blend in and take shots on the go is traveling light. Fortunately smartphones take up little space and can be accessed quickly, but if you’re shooting with a full body camera it’s very important to be prepared. Pick your most preferred lens and travel with it – having too many lenses in your bag can derail your creative process especially when you’re trying to figure out which lens to use.

When you travel light you have more options as regards where you wish to dine, whether in a bar or a standing table by the window. You can also have smart editing tools on your phone to avoid carrying around your laptop. One great tool you can use is Instasize. It is a great tool for editing photos on the go, and includes amazing features including a wide variety of filters, cropping and resizing tools, border packs, and more. Instasize is available on the Google Play and iOS stores.

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