Shooting Challenge: Food, Glorious Food

By Martin Snelling on at

One of my many loves, aside from photography, is my love for food and cooking. You only have to look at my Instagram feed to see some of my culinary efforts in the kitchen. The original challenge for this week was rather different; but as I didn’t fancy breaking copyright laws due to an un-replied email (more on that another week!), I opted for one that’s just as much fun.


The Challenge:

A local food outlet/restaurant has asked you to photograph one of their dishes for their new menu.

What you choose to shoot is entirely up to you. You can take an existing product and improve upon it, or present your favourite home-cooked meal like it is the best dish in the world (if you made it, surely it is?!) The world is your oyster, so to speak.


The Technique:

Food photography is actually more difficult than you may think, and depending on where your photograph is being used, it will require a different approach to shooting. Because of an absence of smell and taste, food photography for menus requires the food to look as ‘om nom’ as possible, while food photography for advertising allows you to be more creative.

You need to ensure that your food is presented in the best way possible; slopping it down on a plate isn’t going to cut the mustard. You’ll want the food to stand out from the background, so ensure you use contrasting colours e.g. use a light plate when photographing dark coloured foods.

Lighting is VERY important as this can dramatically change how your food looks. If you are using external lights, use small ones that can be moved easily. Take lots of images with lights in different places to see what works best for your food. You want to make the food leap out from the menu.

Use a tripod for stability; this also allows you to shoot at different angles easily, and take lots of images at different angles to get the best shot; a lower angle will make the food appear taller.

It may be a good idea to use a low ISO, and setting your aperture to f4 or 5.6 will give you a blurred background while keeping the subject in focus.

The use of props is also recommended -- depending on what you’re photographing, use a suitable prop such as a beer with a burger; chopsticks with chinese food. That sort of thing!

If you're still struggling with your shot, it may be an idea to take a look at Giz UK's recent article on the photographic tricks used by McDonalds for some tips from the experts. If Maccy D's can be called that...


The Rules:

- Submissions MUST be your own work.
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no portfolio shots please.
- Explain, briefly in your submission email, the equipment, settings, technique used and more importantly for this challenge, the story behind the shot. Please ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to, not me.
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameFood.jpg
- Don’t forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photo (only one submission per person) by Monday, July 2nd at 6pm UK time with “Food Glorious Food” in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
- The most important rule — HAVE FUN!

Martin Snelling is a Hampshire-based man about town who works in the videogame industry. A keen photographer, Martin shoots on film and digital; he blogs here, and tweets here.

Image Credit: Sausages via Shutterstock