When it comes to editing Food Photography, you want your images to look as clean and unedited as possible. The objective being, we want the food to look fresh, appetising and real. There is no right way to process an image, we all have different ways that we work with best, and there are many different editing programmes that you can use. However, throughout my journey with food photography and editing, I have learnt some key core tips and tricks that I’ve found essential to creating a mouth-watering image.
Shoot in RAW
Always make sure you shoot in RAW rather than in a Jpeg format. This setting can be changed on your camera’s menu. The reason being, you can produce higher quality images and have more control over what you can edit. For example, you can easily correct over/underexposed images and adjust white balance and colours without touching the original file. This means you can always reset your adjustments and start over.
The first thing I do with my images before I start any processing is to use the crop tool. The crop tool allows me to see the overall composition of my photo fit to the size that I require; for example, a 4×5 or a square for Instagram. I also use the straightening tool to make sure the horizon line on the image is straight. This gives you the perfect canvas to start your processing. Play around with lots of different crop sizes, even if they are different to the image composition you had in mind!
Having an understanding of the histogram is essential to making the right exposure and tone adjustments in your image. The histogram is a graphical representation of your image showing the pixels exposed. The height of each peak represents the number of pixels in that tone. For example, if your histogram is very heavy on the right-hand side, your areas of pure white lack detail and the highlights are blown out. Alternatively, if your histogram is heavy on the left-hand side, the pure black will lack detail and your shadows are blown out. Another example is gaps on either side means you can safely increase the exposure without losing any detail.
Sometimes your images will need minor white balance adjustments, even if your camera did it automatically. Rather than change the white balance setting on my editing software, i.e. Adobe Lightroom, I manually adjust the levels through the temperature and tint options. This allows me to really create the scene that I am going for; essentially a cooler, warmer or neutral photograph. I find in food photography, these adjustments have to be so minor so make sure not to overdo it!
This tool allows you to make selective edits to the colours in your image. The hue will change and alter, the saturation will intensify, and the luminance will light or darken particular colours. In Food Photography, I rarely change the hue of a colour as I believe the food should be true to its colour but I work a lot with decreasing and increasing the saturation and luminance which are very helpful tools in making your image pop.
Certain lens types can cause distortion in your image whether this may be darkening in the corners of the frame, straight lines appearing curved or colour fringes. Adobe Lightroom has the ability to automatically remove chromatic aberration and enable profile correction through your lens profile. Even though these distortions are most of the time minor, the benefits of their removal are always noticeable.
One of the tools I use in nearly every photograph is the radial filter. It can be used to make an area of your image pop; say for example you felt that bowl of soup blended too much into the background and you wanted to make the image more striking. The radial filter can, for example, brighten or darken or add clarity to specific areas. It can also add a vignette to darken or lighten elements on the edge of the frame as well as change its exposure, white balance, saturation and also allows you to take control of select areas. It is definitely my number one tool to use in Food Photography!
Do not underestimate the difference that editing can make to your food photography! It can enhance the colour and texture as well as help to create the mood you are looking for – it is a powerful part of the food photography process. Be experimental and remember to shoot in RAW for those higher quality images.