Nutrition Communication through Food Photography

Nutrition Communication through Food Photography

October 31, 2018
Shari Steinbach

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

Our Facebook and Instagram feeds are flooded with food images and real meals that can convey how to use a new ingredient, put together a healthful dinner, or pack a nutritious lunch. Retail dietitians can use food photography to engage with customers, convey delicious ways to serve healthy food and drive sales for specific ingredients. At PBH’s recent Education2Action Retail Dietitian Summit, Kristina La Rue, RDN, CSSD shared these food photography tips:

- To create dynamic food images and strong composition consider:

  • The rule of thirds for a well-balanced and interesting shot.
  • Creating balance and symmetry with your background.
  • Use similar shapes and patterns. 
  • Frame your food by using a cookie sheet, bowl, dish or cutting board, etc.
  • Create implied movement - use a 45-degree angle shot, place a cloth with a fold under the plate or add a drizzle of sauce to the food.

- Shoot photos with perspective by:

  • Using an overhead shot. 
  • Experiment with a straight on shot when stacking food, capturing movement, or with a blurred background.
  • Shooting at a 45-degree angle can show depth and may be appropriate for detail shots and small bites.
  • Use layers and texture to tell your story and add contrast with light and dark. For example, a dark surface with a light napkin. Smooth and rough, or soft and rich can convey a farmhouse, or entertaining for example and set the mood in your photo.
  • Create community by having your photo show bounty. Think about including multiples such as a grouping of plates/bowls/cups, or utensils or show human elements such as hands.

- Create the best light and color:

  • Use natural light by a window and turn off the flash. If using direct light you may need to manipulate how close you as the brightness can create harsh shadows. A cloudy day works well. For indirect light you can use a diffuser, parchment paper or even a bed sheet. A simple bounce board (white board) can soften shadows. The best appearance is often seen 0-3 feet away with light coming from the side or back.

- Kristina often views the color wheel and uses:

  • Complementary colors- opposite on the color wheel (i.e.: blue and yellow)
  • Analogous colors - next to each other (yellow, orange, red)
  • Triad colors - three colors that are equal distance to each other (yellow, blue, red)

- Props and styling considerations:

  • Use small plates, bowls or glasses with matte finishes and neutral colors.
  • Choose an interesting background - marble pastry slab, stone, or wooden boards.
  • Kristina’s favorite props include, cutting boards, napkins (no need to iron!), parchment paper, baking sheets, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, drizzles and dusts and slightly tarnished silverware that has a bit of detail. (Make sure the utensil placement is facing up to image).
  • Let props help convey your story. Layout items first, pick the “hero” ingredient you want to highlight, add layers, play up fresh ingredients, add garnishes, and have fun!

- Smartphone-ography – getting started:

  • Obtain the grid from your camera settings to help you with the rule of thirds.
  • When in doubt shoot photo from overhead
  • Editing apps to try include: lightroom; Snapseed, VSCO
  • Turn brightness up
  • Clean off phone camera lens
  • Consider S-curve and play with the white balance, exposure, brightness, shadows, saturation and clarity

For more food photography inspiration, follow Kristina @loveandzest