Do you have trouble figuring out what camera angle to use for your food shots? I find that, with the students I teach, this is a common problem. 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 shot. A student asked me, “How do you know where to put your camera?” I had to think for a few moments. 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 the camera.
This was never taught to me in school that I can remember. I have two degrees from two different schools, and neither of these schools talked about food photography when I was there. So how did I know where to put my camera? The answer is 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’s really true with photography. The more you do it, the easier it will get. I promise!
So, while you’re learning how to improve your food photography, experiment with different angles and see which ones you like the best. In time, you’ll start to get a sense of what looks best for your shots.
Where To Put Your Camera
To begin, I always shoot on a tripod. If you’re not shooting on a tripod, you’re really limiting yourself and how you can work on your shot. Let’s say I’m working on the opening image, a rustic peach tart. I know I want 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 this particular image, the camera was at about a 45º angle looking down into the tart. I took this with a 100mm macro lens so I could get nice and close to it.
Following are the most common camera angles for food photography.
1. The 45-Degree Angle
For all my commercial jobs, this is probably the most common angle I use. 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’re shooting on—there’s no background. (“Surface” is the wood here; “background” would be what you’d see beyond the surface, like a wall.)
If you use a wider-angle lens, such as a 50mm, to get your shots, you’ll 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.
Sinar 4×5 camera, Phase One P45+ digital back, 135mm lens, Speedotron strobes