The 14th annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival kicks off today, which means your social media feeds are about to be flooded with more images of mouth-watering, irresistibly plated, and generally more-photogenic-than-you-could-ever-hope-to-be meals than usual.
But, as anyone who’s scrolled through Instagram’s Explore feed will tell you, it takes more than a decent camera to take a great—and shareable—food pic.
“The thing about food is that you really want it to look appealing,” says professional photographer, Suzanne Rushton, by phone. “And maybe that’s true with everything, but you don’t often see food photography that’s dark and moody.”
Rushton is the founder of Vancouver Photowalks, a local tour company that also offers casual photography lessons, and, for the third year, she’s partnering with culinary food excursion biz, Off the Eaten Track, to offer a series of “food-tography” tours as part of the Dine Out Vancouver Festival.
What’s the key to snapping a drool-worthy photograph? Three words: lighting, lighting, lighting. Or, more specifically, natural lighting.
“Lighting is the most important thing,” stresses Rushton. “The closer you can get to the window, the better.”
The photographer prefers to keep her back to a restaurant’s window when shooting, letting the natural light from behind her spill onto the food. But if you’re dining in the evening or with minimal lighting, there are some tricks to get around that, too.
“If your dining partner has a phone, then you can use that to shed additional light on the food,” she says, adding that she typically uses a napkin to help diffuse the light from the phone.
When placed in front of a light source—a cell phone’s flashlight function in this case—the napkin helps to distribute and add more light to your dish.
It’s also worth considering the backdrop of your photograph. “I pay a lot of attention to what’s behind the food,” says Rushton. “I’m always aiming strategically to eliminate anything distracting in the background, so that we can really focus on the dish.”
When it comes to angles, Rushton advises shooting your subject from two different directions. The aerial, aka the standing-on-a-chair shot, is a popular angle for capturing a dish's presentation, but the photographer is a big fan of the close-up in particular.
“The up-close shot really brings alive the ingredients and the colours and the textures of the food,” she says.
Rushton will be sharing more creative tips on Vancouver Photowalks and Off the Eaten Track's food-tography tours, which run from January 16 to 31. Each tour will take attendees through three food establishments in Yaletown, where you can learn about the history of the space and its dishes before diving into a crash-course on food photography with a professional photographer.
For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, click here.