This article includes nine tips that teach you how to take better macro shots of food. Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will have a basic grasp of macro food photography.
If you are a photographer like me, you probably have captured at least a single shot of food. However, when you reviewed that first photo, you might have felt disappointed with the poor result. I know the feeling all too well as I’ve been taking pictures of food for the longest time and thought that I would not be able to master the craft well.
Fortunately, after years of practice and reading expert tips, I am finally confident with my skills as a casual food photographer. Today, I will be talking about the techniques that I have learned throughout these years. Hopefully, these macro food photography tips will help you take better images that make viewers’ mouths water.
Continue reading to learn more about macro photography!
How to Shoot Macros in Food Photography
Here are nine tips on how to shoot better macros in food photography. You do not necessarily need to follow them all. You can take what you find useful for your needs and leave the rest.
Use A Tripod
In macro food photography, you will be capturing subjects in close up. Although shooting handheld seems like the wisest thing to do, it is not always the case.
I highly recommend using a tripod to enjoy significant benefits. First, it helps reduce camera shake and vibration, which you usually get from handheld shooting. As a result, you get to achieve the correct focus.
Second, a tripod also allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds. Using longer shutter speeds may come in handy in low-light situations as it enables more light to hit the sensor.
Finally, a tripod improves workflow efficiency while still giving you flexibility when shooting. It lets you capture subjects from the same angle or different ones without the need to exert much effort.
In macro food photography, the details of the subject are often magnified. As such, the smallest error in focusing will also be intensified.
Unfortunately, it is hard for the camera or lens to autofocus on the subject when shooting in high magnifications. Plus, most macro lenses do not have the best autofocus technology on the market. So if you often capture close-up subjects in low-light situations, you may find it challenging to keep them in focus.
That is why instead of using autofocus, try switching to manual focus. Doing so gives you more control and flexibility. You might find it easier to lock in the subject, especially when relying on LiveView. Just make sure to zoom into the area within a frame to ensure that everything is tack sharp and in focus.
Select the Center Focus Point
Do you have trouble using manual focus due to vision problems or other factors? If so, you can still stick to using autofocus.
However, I recommend selecting a center focus point as it is more sensitive than focus points located on the outer edge of your frame. Thus, you can achieve more accurate focus when using the built-in autofocus system of your camera or lens.
It may also help if you put the subject in the middle of the frame. Doing so will help the camera or lens do its job and lock on the subject.
Consider the Depth of Field
The depth of field, or DoF, refers to the distance in which the object is in focus. The most important thing to understand is that the DoF becomes smaller or shallow when you get closer to the subject.
So it is best to consider the depth of field in macro food photography because you will often capture subjects at a short distance. If you can, shoot at smaller apertures or larger f-numbers, such as f/16 or f/22. These will give you a wider range of depth of field. Thus, it is easier to nail focus for close-up shots.
However, this is usually easier said than done. That is because smaller apertures also limit the light entering the image sensor. So do check the lighting conditions within an area before using a shallow depth of field.
Capture A Range of Apertures
If you have already tried the previous step, but your shots are still soft, you can take multiple photos using different apertures. After that, review each result individually and take note if something changed.
When nothing changed, it is time to start looking at the lens. Sometimes, macro lenses will have autofocus and back-focus issues. If that is the case, you may need to calibrate your lens. This calibration will help solve back-focus and front-focus problems.
Adjust the Plane of Focus
Another essential tip to ensure sharp and in-focus macro food photos is to adjust the plane of focus.
This refers to the two-dimensional imaginary plane that lies parallel to your image sensor. It dictates the sharpest focus within the depth of field. The plane of focus also stays relative to the sensor, even when you change the angle of the camera.
When capturing close-up shots of food, it is best to keep them on the same plane of focus. Doing so will ensure tack sharp photos.
However, if you cannot do so, you can always take images of the same object with different focus points. Then, you can combine them in Adobe Photoshop or any editing software to get a single image that is sharp across the frame. This technique is known as focus stacking and is usually done in HDR photography.
Reduce Camera Shake
When it comes to all kinds of photography, reducing camera shake is essential to ensure sharp photos. However, this is especially important in macro food photography because the slightest blur or movement is very noticeable.
The best way to reduce camera shake is to use a tripod, which I already discussed before. But if you cannot shoot with a tripod, you can also turn on the Vibration Reduction or VR feature of the lens if it has one. This technology effectively corrects camera shake by a few stops, ideal for handheld shooting.
It is also worth trying to shoot on continuous high-speed mode. This mode lets you capture photos in quick succession by holding down the shutter button.
Shoot With A Fast Shutter Speed
Another effective way to minimize camera shake is to use faster shutter speeds. This is easier said than done, though, especially when shooting in natural light. That is because you may need to slow down the shutter to let more light into the sensor.
However, if you do use artificial light, it is easy to increase your shutter without compromising exposure. If this trick still does not work, try doing my recommendation below.
Choose the Appropriate Focal Length and Minimum Focus Distance
Finally, consider the focal length of the lens as it also affects how sharp the photo is.
One of the first things to check is the sensor size of the camera because the focal length differs depending on this factor. For instance, on a full-frame camera, a 100mm lens has the exact focal length. But on an APS-C model with a cropped sensor, a 100mm lens will be equivalent to around 150mm.
Besides the focal length, it is also best to consider the minimum focusing distance of the lens. This factor will determine how close you can get to your subject and still achieve sharp images. It is especially important in macro food photography because you want to get as close as possible.
That summarizes my top tips on how to take better macro food photography shots! The key is to achieve sharp and in-focus photos to draw the viewer’s attention to the subject. Try applying any of the aforementioned techniques and see if it works for you.