10 Essential Tips for Sushi Photography

Silvain • updated June 21, 2022 • 4 min read

10 Essential Tips for Sushi Photography

Want to effortlessly improve your raw fish and sushi photography? Here are 10 important tips that make a big difference in the photos. If you follow these three rules, your pictures of food will look much better.

With all the different kinds of sushi and the beautiful way they are made, it makes it a great “model“ in food photography


 

What Is Sushi?

Sushi is a Japanese dish made with vinegar-cooked medium-grain rice, raw or cooked seafood, and a variety of toppings or fillings.

In spite of what most people think, rice, not raw fish, is the main ingredient in sushi.

You’ve probably seen rolled sushi that’s been cut into bite-sized pieces, but not all sushi is rolled.

Sushi Photography,
Sushi plate, @drawsandcooks

1. Find the right sources of light

Some sushi photographers may find it hard to figure out how to light their food. If you are taking pictures of real sushi in restaurants, you might not always have a choice of what you want to use as your main light source.

My most important tip for taking pictures of food is to use natural light. A lot of the time, the artificial light in restaurants makes photos look too warm and not very appetizing.

So, the next time you want to take a picture of your sushi, try to find soft light coming through a window. If you can’t find any natural light, try taking a picture of the food in the restaurant’s brightest area.

2. Don’t make a mess

Sushi chefs spend years getting better at what they do and trying to make sure everything is just right. Make sure you find the flaws and figure out how to hide them.

If you change the sushi yourself, it might not be perfect anymore, but if you take a picture of it from the best angle, you can really keep the image of perfection in the picture.

In the same way, making a photo too busy or using a backgrounds that is hard on the eyes can take away from how clean and simple your sushi is.

You want to make sure that the rest of your photo’s composition and the other things in it really go well with the sushi.

3. Don’t just take a picture of the sushi

The way sushi restaurants are set up is often very specific. There’s a reason why you can watch the chef make sushi, and there’s also a reason why many of the ingredients are out in the open for customers to see.

The atmosphere of a sushi restaurant can be very interesting. Try to take pictures of more than just the food. Even though your main goal may be to take a picture of the sushi, don’t forget to take pictures of the restaurant.

Look also at the lighting, what’s on display, any art that may have been put there, and any other small details about the sushi you’re taking a picture of.

This can help you tell a better story through your pictures and make the people who look at them care more about the story you are telling. If you work at a restaurant, check out Food photography for Restaurants.

Sushi Photography, Sushi rolls, shot from top
Sushi rolls, shot from top, @Mayorga-Photo

4. Mind the details

Not only does sushi taste great, but it’s also beautiful because of the way the ingredients feel and look. Focus on the details when taking pictures of sushi to show what makes that kind of sushi special.

There are 3 main types of sushi dishes, so look for details:

  • Nigiri
    Rice, toppings like slices of fish, seafood, omelet. Served with pickled ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi.
  • Maki
    Rice, seaweed, and fillings like slices of fish, seafood, and vegetables. Served with pickled ginger and soy sauce.
  • Sushi Roll
    Rice, fillings like slices of fish, seafood, and vegetables. Served with pickled ginger, soy sauce, wasabi, and other side dishes of choice.

5. Keep the plating simple

If you see a staggering amount of sauce and garnish on a sushi plate, it might look great in person, but may not translate well to the image you are taking.

Take your time to think about what you want the images you are taking to look like, and see if you can figure out if that garnish or sauce is necessary.

If you are working with the chef to help photograph their restaurant, talk to them about how they can best plate for photos. Learn more about food styling.

When working with a chef, they may want to plate in the same specific ways as they would for customers. Although that might offer the best experience for customers, online customers that are seeing the sushi might want to have a better view of the quality of the sushi underneath the garnishes and may believe that the restaurant is trying to hide something in the images.

Take the time to figure out what images would work best, and how you can keep garnishes and sauces at a minimum while still showcasing their existence.

6. Set up for the best angle

Composition is an important part of food photography. This means finding the best angle for each piece of sushi based on its shape and size. Try taking pictures from different angles to find the best one that shows off what makes the food special.

Get more food photo ideas:

7. Use simple props for your sushi photography

Pick simple, natural props for your sushi photos. Chopsticks, soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi will help you take better pictures of food. You can also put the soy and wasabi in small containers around the sushi.

Add salad and parsley next to the raw fish. Add some sesame on top to finish the setup. Use props that match the style of your sushi photography. Find ou about the important food props for beginners.

8. Capture the sushi creation process

It takes art to turn raw fish into a tasty sushi meal. Why don’t you just take a picture of the whole thing? Take a picture cutting up the fish, and preparing the seaweed with a layer of prepared sushi rice. So, you can turn your sushi pictures into a tasty story.

Adding human touches to your sushi photos also makes them better. The viewer gets a sneak peek at what’s going on in the kitchen.

Sushi Photography, salmon sushi with natural light
Salmon Sushi, daylight, @juangallardosevilla

9. Avoid things that reflect light

And as a quick extra tip, I’d suggest looking for props, plates, and backgrounds that aren’t shiny. Surfaces that are shiny or reflective tend to catch the light in an odd way, which causes glare and makes your job harder as a whole. If you choose surfaces that are matte, you won’t have to deal with this shine.

10. Background

I like darker colors, but that doesn’t mean a white background can’t work and completely change the mood of the shot. Look at the two photos below as an example. One has a light background, and the other has a dark one. Because of this, the mood has changed a lot. See also How to use backgrounds.

One reason I choose darker colors, especially for meat and fish, is that most raw fish look much better against dark backgrounds. White backgrounds can sometimes make them look dull or make flaws stand out more.

A darker look, on the other hand, gives the impression of quality and looks a little bit edgier, which are both good things for a shot of meat, especially raw meat.

So, if you want a more moody look, use for backgrounds that are darker. Make sure to keep it simple so that the meat can be the star of the show. I’d suggest black, gray, slate, or dark brown wood.

Most of the time, you can buy these online or make your own from old wood and stain them.

If you want a brighter, cleaner look, use for backgrounds that are lighter. For these, you can paint a board white, stain it a light gray, or buy a fake marble paper background (the prints are usually surprisingly good, and it’s hard to tell that it’s fake).

Not sure how to make sushi for your photoshoot? Check out some recipes:

Tokyo Tales: $300 of sushi in 30 minutes
Spicy salmon Sushi bowl
How to make sushi temaki handrolls
Bon Bon veggie sushi rolls
Keto baked sushi

 


 

What is your take on sushi photography? Let us know in the comments.

By Furoore team member Silvain

Silvain is a French/German national and has been with the Furoore Team since the beginning. He likes to write about various photography themes, especially food photography. If you leave a comment, he will come back to you to answer any questions you may have.

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