Focus, Plating, Garnish – A Food Photography Tutorial

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Lubna Karim of Yummy Food blog asked me to do a guest post on any photography topic and I decided to go with one of the simplest but most important aspects in food photography – Focus, Plating, Garnish!

Thank you Lubna for asking me to do the guest post and sharing your space with me.

Focus, Plating, Garnish – are the 3 most important aspects in food photography. Food photography is arguably one of the most challenging types of photography.

Lighting, plating, styling, props to support the hero dish all play a very vital role in food photography. Each topic is so vast that a book can be written.

3 topics in brief– Focus, Plating and Garnish.

  • Focus – Focus is that aspect of photography that draws the attention of your viewer into your photo. You the creator of photo decide where you want the audience to look at in your photo, where his attention has to be drawn. Accordingly you set the focal point of your camera (please go through your camera manual to know how to set focal point in case you are not aware of it).

In the Chia Seed Vanilla Pudding photo I decided to show the jar behind and so I set my focus on it and also I made sure the focal point was set apt to blur out the jar in the front.

Focus, Plating, Garnish

Whereas in Rainbow Lassi photo the focus is simple and plain on the jar that is in the front.

Focus, Plating, Garnish

  • Plating is a very personal thing and every person like to plate food in a way that he finds it aesthetic. What appeals to one’s eyes may not be give the same impression to the other – which by the way is completely okay. So plating there is no fixed rules to plating and it all comes from your heart. When you decide to plate, just think what you want to show to your audience and how should it be plated. Do sketches on the paper or in your mind on what plates/bowls you want to use to go with the food, choose appropriate cutleries or napkins to support the frame (but do not go overboard on the props used in frame). Once you have a picture of your food plated, and the entire setup, you are ready. Go ahead and set up your food and shoot. Remember to be flexible to change a few minor things in your set up or change the whole set up when your mind says “this isn’t working” after you see your photo.

In my beetball pasta I decided to plate the pasta in a slightly different way than the usual “twirling” , I actually did 3 small batches of “twirls” – again a personal preference.

Focus, Plating, Garnish

Not all the time you need a gorgeous plate or bowl to plate the food., like this Bagara Baigan photo. I wanted to have a rustic feel to the photo. I decided to leave the curry in the same pan in which it was cooked and just added few fresh coriander leaves for garnish.

Focus, Plating, Garnish

Most of the time, the photo looks really aesthetic when shot in the same pan/pot the dish was cooked. Like this Nadan meen curry. Fish curry cooked in an earthen pot made and shown as it is adds a story to your photo.

Focus, Plating, Garnish

Note – this may not apply/work all the time for all the dishes!

  • Finally – Garnish, garnish, garnish!

Garnish not just adds colors and balances the photo, it also makes a boring food look alive. Remember garnish is not just fresh coriander leaves all the time.

Garnish is anything( any ingredient) that you may have used in the dish, but use it appropriately. In the Vegetable biryani photo I have used few cooked peas along with a star anise that was inside the biryani pot(ofcourse with few mint leaves on side)

Focus, Plating, Garnish

You can even add ingredients that are not used in making the dish, but be careful about what you use and how you use it. In the Strawberry Mango Popsicle photo I went a bit bold and used few flowers (well not exactly as garnish) but to add an extra touch and feel to the photo – here the feel is summer.

Focus, Plating, Garnish

Lastly this Rajma masala photo. The one without garnish looks like glop. Adding layers of garnish to it makes out a whole lot of difference.

Focus, Plating, GarnishThat’s all from me today. Hope you all found the article useful.

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