Composition & angle
Once you have figured out how to improve on your lighting skills there is another element that will have a major impact on how your final photo looks and that is the composition and the angle in which you take your photo.
In all photography and especially in foodphotography the angle is of great importance as you can enhance certain aspects of your dish or you can neglect them. Let’s first look at an example of the lovely blue mouse again (in case anyone is wondering; I made those cupcakes myself and they were the first cupcakes I did ever, so don’t be too harsh in your judgement of my cupcakes skills… 🙂 )
As you can see in the example above the photo is taken at eyelevel with the mouse. This is a technique that also works really well with little children or with pets. Try and take a photo of you child, dog, cat or other small creature and first take a photo standing at your normal height and then take the same photo going down on your knees (or lying flat on your belly). You will see that the difference is quite dramatic!
In the particular case of the cupcake you can clearly see that it is a cupcake and the mouse is in good view, which is – in this case – the most important feature of the cupcake, so this angle works really well.
On the second example you can see that the angle is slightly more from above but still quite pleasing to the eye for this cupcake. Be aware though, that this will be different in every single dish or cake you photograph. Something that works for one thing, will not necessarily work for another! Although I have to say that this particular angle works well in a lot of the cases. It tends to show all levels of a dish (if you’re working with stacked items for instance) and it gives a good overview of the total picture.
Now here you can see that the angle starts to feel slightly uncomfortable. It’s still relatively acceptable, but the mouse starts to look a little weird from this angle. Again; changing the dish will change the variables!
Now this last one definitely does not work with this cupcake as it turns the whole thing into a two-dimensial photo instead of a three dimensional photo. This would work well if the top of your cake is flat and very important. In that case taking a photo from above makes sense.
What I tend to do when shooting a cake or any other subject; I try and look around the item to see which angle would work and bring out the best in the dish. At some of the angles you can also see that the background will play a bigger part then – for instance – in the angle straight from above. I will spend a separate article on backgrounds, so more to follow on that, but as you can see from this cupcake example; small changes do make a large impact and a large change to your overall photo. What I see a lot looking around on the net, is that people are in a hurry, so the photos is taken as something that needs to happen, but not a lot of thought goes into the picture.
That is understandable as you or your family is hungry so you want to eat and can’t wait to start! It doesn’t have to take long though; especially not when you have sufficient daylight and are already a bit familiar with the way the light behaves. In the end it all comes down to practice, practice and more practice.
And don’t start practizing when you’re in a hurry, but try it out first with something simple that doesn’t perish and sits still for a long, long time. For every subject I choose, I always shoot from various angles, sometimes with different background so I have an idea of what would work and what would not work.
I will also go deeper into the options you have when there is no daylight left and all you have is that terrible yellow bulb… 🙂