Welcome to part two of our Improve Your Food Photography series: BBQ Burgers and Photo Styling Tips, with food styling and photography expert, Kita Roberts. Today she gives us tips on the best angles for shooting food using her delicious BBQ burgers as the focus.
Whew! I am recovering from a crazy few weeks and still getting over that awesome conference session with Denise Vivaldo! She’s amazing! I loved getting to know her and talking photography with so many of the Sunday Supper family. It feels like we just touched the tip of that iceberg and could do a whole weekend just on cameras and pics!
Last month, we chatted about setting up a scene using a few smart props to really build on your storytelling as you create an image with some delicious lemon curd. This will help you – even if you don’t quite have an “eye” for great photos. It takes a stark surface and makes it lived in and real.
This month, I wanted to embrace my love of burgers – because it’s BURGER MONTH and share with you a similar set up – really basic with only a few details – and the must-have shots that I use on every food shoot (go back and check last month’s – it’s the same angles!). Going into any shoot with a few shots in mind helps to speed things up and create a successful formula. Even on my bridal shoots and lifestyle headshots, I have formulas for the “three” shots I am going to get! These rules aren’t just for food; you keep working that camera and you will become a better photographer all around! Mastering these three basic angles for your food set ups will prepare you for the core shots you need every time.
The Best Angles for Shooting Food
Overhead – Who doesn’t love this shot? The overhead gives a wide view of everything in the scene and lets the viewer take it all in. The overhead shot has become widely popular on social media. You can go far out so that multiple dishes and ingredients are featured, or close up to highlight one singular detail. These are hard if you do not have a tripod with a swing arm, however, with the ISO bumped up a bit, F-stop at 2.8 to 5.6 and the shutter speed fast, it can be done on a bright day. I wouldn’t try in dim light.
PRO TIP – For burgers and sandwiches, visualize your overhead shot before plating the dish. If you put the bun on these too soon – you may lose a lot of the “story” (ingredients, depth, and so on) and will only see a few buns instead of the unique burger you are showing off.
Three Quarters – not exactly straight on – but not quite above either. This shot is the one where you are slightly above the dish with the camera angled down at it. Think about 45 degrees above, or where the camera would naturally be at your eye if you were standing, aiming down at the dish. It is probably the most common food shot because it’s easy, and because it’s natural to the eye. When we sit to eat, our eyes are above the food angled down at it, not directly over it. This image just looks real to the viewer and creates a desirable appeal.
PRO TIP – If you are just starting to get comfy with your tripod, this is the easiest angle to play with and master! Set everything up ahead of time with the camera in the tripod on Liveview or tethered so that you can see exactly what your shot will look like before you plate your meal. Then the pics will roll quickly and you will still be able to enjoy a hot meal with your family!
Straight on – The straight on shot is by far one of the hardest. If in a bowl or a cup, the recipe may be altogether lost! But, the straight on shot can also be used to build volume and depth in the scene. Placing objects in their order for the story and showing the surrounding items builds the full scene. I love this shot for cocktails in the summer to show just what’s in the drink, sandwiches, burgers, and even desserts! Stacking cookies and brownies is a great way to build a fun pic with volume!
PRO TIP – For burgers and sandwiches, I don’t shoot straight on, but rather from a little below. I angle my camera lens on the table or surface so that it is slightly pointed up, very tight to the main object. This creates a great volume to the burger, making it bigger and therefore more appealing.
All images shot with 35MM lens at 2.8 ISO Auto. 1 tile from Home Depot, 3 1 X 4’s glued and stained for background, 1 paper lunch bag – cut and wrinkled for the placemat.
- 1 lb ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup bbq sauce, plus 2 tbs divided
- 4 slices cheese
- 4 buns
- Onion, sliced
- Tomato, sliced
- Preheat your grill and clean and oil the grates.
- Mix the beef with a little pepper and 2 tbs BBQ sauce.
- Form the beef into 4 burger patties about ½” thick and the size of your palm. Press a dimple in the center of each.
- Season the outside liberally with salt.
- Grill the burgers until desired doneness, flipping once halfway through cook time.
- When flipped, brush a little BBQ sauce over the cooked tops of the burgers and close the lid.
- When just about finished, lay the cheese on top and close the lid to melt.
- Meanwhile, toast the buns.
- To serve, slather the bun bottoms in mayo.
- Top with lettuce and then the cheesy bbq burger patty.
- Spoon a heaping portion of the remaining BBQ sauce onto each and top with desired burger toppings.
- Pop the bun top in place and enjoy.
Show me your burger (and sandwich) photos! Tag me on Instagram for feedback and let’s work on perfecting these photos together!
Did you miss Improve Your Food Photography:
Part 1: Lemon curd and using your ingredients to build a story