3 tips for photographing brown (and boring) food

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You're a food photographer and you've just landed a dream gig with an awesome client, only to discover the recipes you will be shooting-- while amazingly delicious-- are just not photogenic. We're talking lots of grains, root veggies, beans and legumes...in other words, lots of BROWN. 

What do you do? How do you make brown food shine? 


Below are my go-to tips for shooting brown food:

Pick a monochromatic color palette for your scene.
In my last post, I talked about color and how I typically gravitate towards complementary and analogous color stories rather than monochromatic ones. HOWEVER, when I am shooting brown food I often choose a monochromatic (ie: single color) palette. Why? Because a monochromatic palette draws your eye to what's different in the composition-- namely, the brown food-- and lets the color (dull as it may be) SHINE. 

I start with my food photography backdrop and move on to my supporting props, usually sticking with cool neutrals (grays or light blue) so that the warm brown tones really pop and look beautiful. Some of my go-to backgrounds for food images that feature brown dishes are Simon, Titus, Claude, Finn, Isla, Aria, Caspian, Eloise and Lark.

Pull forward any ingredients in the dish that have color. For example, in the shot below, I separated out the (super tiny) carrots in the soup and strategically placed them so they were visible.


Introduce fresh, green ingredients (usually as a garnish) and salt, pepper and spices (if appropriate) to add texture. Don't get too heavy handed with this part (it's easy to go overboard and take focus away from the dish) and choose ingredients that make sense. For example, don't garnish with ingredients that aren't in the recipe.

I hope that was helpful and please, as always, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions!

What are YOUR tips for shooting brown food?

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