The Best Settings For Food Photography

The settings on one camera won’t be the same as another. This is why we can’t tell you exactly what to press for each type of food photoshoot you’re creating. Instead, we will explain the main concepts you need to consider:

The Best Settings For Food Photography
  • Light
  • Motion
  • Blurr
  • Depth of Field

Each of these aspects of your image can be edited and controlled through your settings. This means your lens or built-in software can make the perfect picture without needing to edit anything post-production.

Light Control Settings

The amount of light you have in your image will change the depth, detail, and atmosphere of the end product. Depth and detail are key to creating a clear and objectively good picture, while the atmosphere can be creatively changed to best fit your vision.

Changing The ISO

The ISO refers to the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor. The acronym stands for “International Organization for Standardization”, but that name doesn’t tell you what it actually means. Instead, think of it like shaders on your camera.

The ISO setting will make your image look brighter or darker. The lower the ISO number, the lower the sensitivity which means the darker the image will be. The higher the ISO number, the higher the sensibility the brighter the image will be.

If you want to create a moody image, change your ISO settings to around 1,600. This will tell your camera to capture the darkness in the area around you, and not allow in too much light. If you want to create a bright atmosphere, up the ISO.

Be careful not to allow in too much light though, as it can wash out your photo. Take a few pictures with different ISO settings to see how it affects the brightness.

Depth Of Field

We will discuss more DoF or Depth of Field later, but for now, let’s touch on the basics. The aperture is the hole in your lens. That hole allows in light. The amount of light it allows in will affect your depth of field.

The depth of field is the distance between the nearest point of focus and the furthest element in the image. When you twist the aperture to use a large aperture, you allow in more light. When you allow in more light, the depth of field becomes shallow.

With a shallow depth of field, the background of your image becomes blurry. Also known as the “portrait mode” of your phone’s camera, this setting is arguably the most loved.

It allows the background to seem far away but still part of the ambiance, while the foreground, the focal point of your foodie photoshoot, takes center stage without dominating the picture. Everything else steps back – the focus point doesn’t step forward.

Most amateur photographers don’t realize that this is a light-based setting, which is why they might not get the balance between light and depth of field right.

Because of this lack of knowledge, their photographs aren’t as sharp or dramatic. Now you know how the depth of field works, you can change the light settings to get the best image.

Shutter Speed

The shutter, also called the curtain, is the built-in plastic which covers the lens. It opens and closes to let the light into the camera. Although you change the amount of light through the aperture, the shutters move when you take a photo.

The speed of that movement dictates how much light is allowed into the camera when you press the button. With a slow shutter speed, more light is allowed to pass through, and the image will be brighter.

With a fast shutter speed, less light can come through the camera, and the image will be darker. All this does is change the mood of your image, but in most cases, a dark image of food is less mouthwatering and more ambiance.

Depending on the reason behind your photoshoot, you will probably prefer a slow shutter speed.

Freeze Motion Settings

The Best Settings For Food Photography

If you’re taking images of drinks or want to capture the importance of a sauce, then you’ll need to embrace your freeze-motion settings.

These are settings that allow you to capture movement with clarity – no motion blurs in sight. If the main focus of your image is a sauce or melty cheese, this is the perfect setting for you.

Shutter Speed And ISO

When capturing movement, your shutter speed needs to be fast. This speed allows it to capture the moment faster, and therefore reduce blurs. Ideally, you should change it to 1/800 sec or even higher otherwise you’ll be left with a motion blur.

As we said before, a high shutter speed creates a dark image, so knowing that you’ll need to change the ISO to allow in the light you need. The ISO might be dramatically higher to balance this change.

Play around with the shutter speed and ISO brightness to get the perfect balance between a captured movement and brightness.

Depending on the thickness or speed of movement, you may not need a super-high shutter speed. Be ready to take multiple shots before you get the balance right.

Artificial Light Vs Natural Light

When we are using natural light, we have less control over the brightness. When it comes to freeze motion images, we need to create a fast shutter speed with a balanced ISO in an attempt to bring in more light than nature can provide, while still getting a clear image.

Changing the camera settings to 6400 ISO and 1/80 sec (shutter speed) should be optimal for a natural light slow-release motion image – for example pouring syrup on pancakes. With artificial lighting, you can have more control over your environment.

You can make the room super bright which means your ISO can go back to normal as you increase the shutter speed.

Although this might seem like swings and roundabouts, knowing these options can help you create the best image while keeping your camera’s limits in mind.

Your camera might not be able to increase the ISO any higher. With this knowledge, you’ll understand the need for artificial lighting instead of natural lighting.

Blurr Settings

If you have movement in your images, but don’t want your photo to capture them, then you need to prepare for a blurred setting. Blurred settings are perfect for capturing the wisp of candle smoke, or the shimmer of falling glitter.

Shutter Speed And ISO

Generally speaking, to allow a blurred effect in your imagery, you need a slow shutter speed. We suggest aiming for 1/200 sec and going from there. This will allow your camera to take in all the changes before finally stopping the film.

Because the camera is taking in so much light through the slow shutter speed, your ISO needs to be lower than normal to counteract the effects. With our 1/200 sec example, you should try an ISO rating of 320 and go from there.

Artificial Lighting Vs Natural Lighting

Just like before, using artificial lighting will allow you to bump up the amount of light in the studio. This means you can keep your ISO at its normal level. Because your ISO will be at its normal level, it will take in more details than before.

Artificial light literally gives you the best of both worlds. In natural lighting, you’ll need to take multiple shots before finally settling on a good shutter-to-ISO ratio.

Depth Of Field Settings

We have commented on the depth of field and what it means already, but now we want to explain how to harness it.

As you know the depth of field refers to how much detail goes into the full image – is the focus on the front items while the rest is blurred out, or does the image capture everything. For food photography, you want to utilize your DoF, as it helps draw focus to your plate.

On your camera you’ll notice the term “f-stop”, this is your field of vision. The higher the f-stop number the more depth and larger focus your camera has. With a smaller f-stop, you’ll have a shallower or shorter range of focus.

If you watch to capture the details, like a single drop of juice running down a beef burger, then you need a small f-stop number – something like f/4. However, if you want to capture the 3 tapas plates available in your store you might pick f/16.

Final Thoughts

The most important part of food photography is making your food look delicious. Your single image should inspire someone to pick your recipe or drive them into your restaurant.

To get the best images, you need to understand lighting and freeze motion settings. These are key to creating the right ambiance and mouth-watering images.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Setting For Food Photography?

Fast shutter speeds and low ISO will produce clear and high-resolution images with fewer blurs and minimal “noise” or glitchy effects. Aim for this setting couple first, and then edit the settings to best suit your goals.

Laura McNeill
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