How to take Sharp Food Photos, 14 Simple Tips
Silvian • updated November 9, 2022 • 4 min read
Silvian • updated November 9, 2022 • 4 min read
Maybe you’ve wondered why other people’s food photos are sharper than yours. You have the same equipment, and yet the pictures of your colleagues look sharper.
I’ll explain why and what you can do to get sharp food photos in the following tips.
The first tip sounds banal, but it’s so important. You want to take a quick photo. You grab the camera, take a few pictures, and later realize that the lens was dirty. You quickly forget about it and get annoyed later.
Because a dirty lens frequently results in blurry images. Therefore, clean all lenses once before each shoot. Make sure that there is no coarse dust or sand on the lens before you start cleaning.
First, blow it off carefully or sweep it off with a brush. The best way to do this is with fine microfiber cloths and, e.g. a Lenspen*. The component is inexpensive and extremely useful. On one side is a brush for the coarser dirt.
On the other hand, a cleaning pad against fingerprints and co. I can absolutely recommend it. It fits in any pocket, and I would not want to miss it.
Besides the lens, you should also pay attention to a clean sensor. This is not so easy because it is inside your camera. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do the cleaning yourself.
A lot of things can get broken. It’s better to go to a dealer you trust or send it in and have it cleaned. To prevent this from happening in the first place, always keep the camera closed. So don’t take off the lens and leave the camera open.
Too quickly, small dust particles collect on the sensor. So-called sensor spots. This can be removed in post-processing, but it is unnecessary work and can have a negative effect on the sharpness of your photos.
When everything is clean, we come to the actual photography. For razor-sharp food photos, I recommend you use the manual focus. This is one item that has improved my photography immensely.
Manual focus may seem inconvenient, but it makes such an incredible difference in terms of sharpness. Even though autofocus is now steadily improving on many cameras, it still doesn’t come close to manual focus.
With autofocus, you determine where the focus should be, but only approximately. In the focus area you specify, the autofocus looks for the place with the highest contrast and sets the focus there. But this is not necessarily the point where you want the focus.
Often there are a few millimeters in between and that often makes the difference. With manual focus, you have absolute control. You determine exactly which point should be the sharpest in your image.
Focusing on food through the viewfinder is often tedious. It’s easier to control the focus via Live View. Either directly via your camera or even more conveniently via your laptop.
The advantage of this is that you can use the display of high-quality cameras to increase the focus by a factor of 5 or 10.
What may appear sharp at first, often turns out to be blurry when magnified. Therefore, always readjust via Live View for even sharper photos.
A tripod allows you to get sharp food photos with manual focus, control via LiveView, and prevents shaking from your movements. If you want to position your camera higher on the tripod, you should extend the legs of your tripod instead of extending the center column.
The center column is the more comfortable option because you only have to turn one screw, but it is also much more unstable. Even small vibrations (e.g. when walking across the floor) can cause your picture to blur.
The vibrations are transmitted to the camera via the tripod. When the center column is extended, this is much more intense than when it is retracted. Therefore, use the center column only in exceptional cases.
As already described, vibrations can occur quickly. Especially with long exposure times, this can cause your image to blur. Therefore, it is advisable to weight your tripod for sharper photos.
Most tripods have a hook for this purpose on one of the legs or below the center column. You can attach a sandbag or a bag with, e.g. a packet of sugar to this hook. This ensures a firm stand and counteracts slight vibrations.
Let’s move on to the camera settings. One of the most important settings is to shoot in RAW format. Some cameras allow you to save both a JPG and a RAW file, if you don’t want to give up the JPG.
The RAW file takes up more memory, but it also contains more data. You can get a lot more out of it in post-processing once you edit your food photos than you can with a JPG.
Of course, you can’t save a blurred image, but you can work out the sharpness of your image really well. Your image will look sharper than the actual shot.
When you use a tripod, you automatically have more latitude when it comes to the exposure time. This also means that you can reduce the ISO value to a minimum. The lower the value the better.
Depending on the camera, the value varies between 50 – 200 ISO. The higher the ISO value, the more your image will start to “noise”. This makes the image look grainy and can be perceived as blurry.
If you are shooting with an DSLR camera, even flipping the mirror can cause your camera to shake. Therefore, it makes sense to pre-trigger the mirror when taking pictures with an exposure time of less than 1/30s. If you have no camera jet, read more about at the DSLR vs mirrorless system Camera article!
To do this, go to your camera menu and activate the “Mirror lock” item.
If you don’t have a tripod handy and want to shoot handheld, make sure you keep a steady body position.
Note the following:
Some lenses or cameras have so-called image stabilizers. The camera compensates for minimal body movements. If you are shooting handheld and your technique allows it, activate the image stabilizer for sharp food photos.
If you are using a tripod, however, you should rather switch off the image stabilizer. The camera tries to compensate for small movements.
If there is no movement and the image stabilizer is turned on, the simulation may cause your image to blur. Therefore, only use the image stabilizer when there is something to stabilize.
Poor lighting conditions in combination with a low ISO number often lead to a high exposure time. With a long exposure time, small movements and vibrations are noticed much more by the camera than by a short exposure time.
Just triggering the camera can then lead to blurred results. In this case, it makes sense to use a remote shutter release. This way you avoid moving your camera minimally when releasing the shutter.
If you don’t have a self-timer, you can also use the delayed self-timer on your camera.
Have you followed all the tips and still have no satisfactory results? Then it might make sense to think about buying a high-quality lens. Often, high-quality fixed focal lengths deliver sharper photos than KIT lenses.
The more glass is built into a lens, the more difficult it is for the camera to focus sharply. That’s why it makes sense to switch to a fixed focal length.
There are inexpensive entry-level models for under $150 that allow you to take crisp, sharp pictures.
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