What is the number one rule as a food photographer? That the food is the STAR of your shot. No matter how much we want to play with pretty props and our new fancy photo backdrops, we always need to come back to the fact that the food needs to shine.
#1 Mistake: We choose the wrong background for the food.
As you can see in the image below, the backdrop doesn't really make the food pop. Because it's busy and colorful-- which may be a GREAT choice for another shot-- it detracts from the yogurt bowl, especially because the food itself is also busy and colorful. The two things just end up competing for attention.
#2 Mistake: We make the shot too busy.
Don't get me wrong-- I love putting lots of things in a photo. When you are shooting a recipe, it's suuuuper tempting to show ALL THE INGREDIENTS. Extra ingredients fill out your composition and can help tell the story of your shot. But more is not necessarily better.
Always remember to edit.
#3 Mistake: We use a prop that is distracting.
I don't know about you but, when I get a new prop, I want to use it RIGHT NOW. It doesn't matter if it fits the look of my shoot or not--- I can't wait to see it in my work. Just like choosing our photo backdrops, we need to pick our props carefully. They need to be cohesive and they have to fit the mood of the image, all while not taking the focus off the food.
In the example below, the red checked napkin isn't horrible-- it's actually kind of cute and it matches the red in the fruit. But I find that my eye keeps going back and forth between the napkin and the food when I look at the image, and THAT is the problem. My eye should go right to the star of the shot-- the props are just supporting characters.