The Art of Overhead Food Photography

In my opinion, some of the most beautiful and well composed food photos are shot from an overhead angle. It’s an angle that’s shot from a more interesting perspective because it requires more effort than snapping a photo from your comfort zone of the angle you’re at when you’re sitting in your seat at a restaurant. I mentioned in my last post that I felt really “in my element” when almost everyone in the restaurant stood up to take overhead shots of the dishes that were served. Personally, I get weirded out by standing out from everyone in the restaurant if I want to take an overhead shot, so when I see photos from that angle, I’m really impressed because it takes effort and a certain tolerance threshold for feeling awkward.

I try to attempt overhead photography while remaining inconspicuous, but it’s hard. Most of the time, the lighting is not in my favour and there are horrible shadows that ruin the image. Sometimes, when the lighting is perfect, the certain arrangement of the plates aren’t perfect. So many things go wrong when I try to attempt this.

Below, are my attempts to overhead food photography. When looking back at my photos, I realize there are a few factors that are needed in order to achieve the perfect overhead food shots.

  1. Lighting, one of the essentials to great photos is lighting, and in this case, natural lighting is key. Most of the time, restaurants have weird lighting setups where the lights are too strong, it causes dramatic shadows. Or, on the other hand, sometimes restaurants are really dimly lit, which is also bad for photos. Sitting beside windows are really helpful when taking food photos because the lighting it provides is perfect. All of the shots below were taken with a natural lighting source, which was basically my great luck at getting tables beside big windows.
  2. Another thing to think about is the height of the table. This only applies if you’re not the kind of person that would stand up as high as you can (maybe even on a chair, i’ve seen it happen!). I would never stand on a chair to get a good shot, so a good alternative that you unfortunately have no control over is finding a place with lower tables. The places with lower tables that I’ve found are cafes. The two photos in the middle are at cafes and they had really low tables (one’s really a trunk/coffee table and the other is a wooden plank…) and I think that they’re a perfect height for overhead shots. When the tables are really low, all you have to do is be brave enough to stand up for 10 seconds, quickly snap a few shots and sit back down!
  3. Placement of dishes is another important factor. I’m still very conflicted with this point because I never know how I should place my dishes to get the best shot possible. Most of the time, I don’t bother and just go with how things were placed in front of me. However, the dish placements in the photo on the bottom left and bottom middle were strategically placed to get the most out of the photo but still remain a dynamic enough shot. For the photo of the salads, I could have arranged the dishes so that the two edges were touching instead of the two points, but that would have not used the framing of the photo wisely and would have made the photo harder to take. For the creme brûlée photo, I could have placed each dish directly in front of each person, but there would be a feeling of disconnect between the two people and the two dishes. Grouping the dishes and people together gives the photo a specific focal point which is where you want the viewer to look at.

I’m still learning to improve my overhead food shots, and I will link/show a couple of my inspirations when it comes to overhead food shots.

Symmetry Breakfast

Tara Milk Tea

ZEUS STREET GREEK! ⚡️?????????

A photo posted by Tara Milk Tea ? (@taramilktea) on

Candy Complex

I want abs, but not as much as I want dessert from Miku @aburirestaurants ?❤️

A photo posted by @candycomplex on

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