It doesn't matter how long you have been doing food photography and working on composition-- there are always times when you get stuck. I can think of countless times-- during professional shoots where the client was standing right next to me-- and I was PARALYZED. My mind was blank, I had run out of ideas, I felt creatively FLAT. Does any of this sound familiar?
When this happens to you, the first thing to do is stop and BREATHE. (Personally, this is the hardest part for me because, I'll admit it, I am a freaker-outer. 🙋🏻♀️😩)
Once you get past the panic, the next step is to reach for some tried and true techniques that are guaranteed to help your composition and the overall impact of your food photography.
1. Include Diagonals.
I know, I know, you've heard it a million times already. Diagonals, blah, blah, blah, diagonals. But there's a reason you keep hearing it-- because placing objects on the diagonal in your food photography composition MAKES IT BETTER. It feels more balanced and instantly makes it more interesting.
2. Get Close.
So, this won't work for every single shot, but it's one of the things I try when I am stuck. Why? Because I have a tendency, like most people, to keep doing what I am comfortable with which, in my case, is wider flat lays with plenty of negative space. I know how to do those and am generally happy with them. However, there are times where I am just not feeling any of the shots I am creating and I need to shake things up and get out of my comfort zone. In the case with this image, I took off my beloved 24-70 2.8L lens and put on my 100mm macro. And guess what? I loved the results! In this situation, taking a close up of the subject really highlighted the light and color and deliciousness of the roasted tomatoes.
3. Make a Grid.
Again, this won't always work because it depends on what you are shooting. But I find that sometimes I need to take away all the props and shift gears from creating a lifestyle "scene" to doing something really simple and graphic. And, for me, this means a grid. Grids can be really compelling because they are all about shape, pattern, light and color. All you need is a great photo backdrop and your subject. BOOM.
Adding a human element to your photos really elevates the story-telling aspect of your images. It makes your photos more relatable and often improves the composition at the same time. Win win!
5. Take a bite out of it.
Take a bite, break it open, take a scoop out, sprinkle some crumbs...just CHANGE the food itself in some way. Whenever I shoot a cookbook, there is always an unspoken understanding with the client that I will photograph the recipe in it's perfect, untouched glory and then I will mess it up in some way--- remove a slice of pie, take a bite out of a cookie, show a sandwich whole and also deconstructed, etc- and then photograph it again. The point is to interact with the food. Sometimes it fails and looks horrible and, if this happens, then you always have your original "perfect" first version to fall back on. But usually it ends up making the image more interesting and engaging and, 9 times out of 10, it's the version that the client ends up choosing.