Lorena Petani Suggests Easy and Fun Still Life Photography Ideas You Should Try

When it comes to photography, Chicago, Illinois’ Lorena Petani knows a thing or two. As someone who also enjoys baking and cooking, she has used her photography skills to up her game in food photography.

Learning how to master the art of stills in the kitchen can help if you’re looking to launch a food or recipe blog. People may even want to license your images for use if they’re the quality for marketing materials.

Still photos of food take about as much consideration as preparing the meal itself. That means creative planning, proper lighting to really show off the dish, as well as including other elements in the image for context. Good food photography gives you an idea of the texture of the food and makes you want to taste it or at least hang the picture on the wall.

Consider the Angle

If you’re trying to highlight one element of your dish, you’re going to want to get in close and use the aperture in your favor to isolate it. A wider aperture will effectively blur the background to narrow the viewer’s attention.

Lorena Petani has used this close-up technique for some of her own food shots, including a close-up of Easter eggs to show off the shell designs. Another close-up photo of grape tomatoes was made more impactful by putting it in a colorful bowl and cropping the edges out of the image.

Meanwhile, you can also try an overhead view of the food if you want to present a wider context. In fact, Lorena Petani used this technique for a photo of oysters, complete with fork and cocktail sauce to make the mouth water. It’s also a great way to show multiple dishes on a table using a wider angle.

Add Elements For More Impact

While the food itself is usually the star in kitchen photography, it doesn’t mean you can’t add other things from the kitchen to add interest, explains Lorena Petani. For example, she says, you can do something as simple as adding utensils in the image (make sure they’re clean and presentable and not after you’ve already cut into the meal). The utensils can be placed off to the side, either to show off some ingredients that were just neatly chopped or as part of a table setting.

Lorena Petani has used other elements many times to add some visual flavor to her photos. Some other examples include adding a rustic-looking nutcracker in a basket of nuts, to build a feeling of anticipation.

Another idea is to include a recipe book in the photo, open to the page that you’re working from. Take the ingredients you have and arrange them in a pleasing way to suggest you’re about to start creating something delicious.

Using Fun Table Settings

Not all food photography has to be against a plain background. In fact, the table settings can become the star of the photo, as shown in an example by Lorena Petani that contains a variety of colorful and patterned elements that complement the overall composition.

Find a tablecloth or place settings that you’ve had in storage for a while because they might be too “loud” for low-key dinner parties. Let them shine as part of the still photo and don’t be afraid to mix and match tones and patterns.

Create a Feeling of Warmth

If there’s one thing most people can agree on, it’s that food is comforting and warming. However, there are ways that you can convey the actual temperature of food through photographic techniques, explains Lorena Petani.

The key is using a slow shutter speed. When there’s steam rising off a bowl of soup or a cup of coffee, you can add more interest to the image by slowing down your camera’s shutter speed in either manual or shutter priority modes. The slower shutter will create a trail of steam/smoke that suggests movement within the still frame.

However, one key is to remember that a slow shutter is subject to camera shake, which can make an image appear blurry. To combat this, you can place the camera on a flat surface and use the built-in timer or you can use a tripod for stabilizing.

Kitchen Photography Doesn’t Always Require Food

There are instances where food doesn’t need to be in the image to convey the feeling you’re trying to get across, explains Lorena Petani. For example, you can take an artistic picture like she did showing stacked plates in a sink, which gives the impression that a meal had just been enjoyed. The plates and bowls as well as spoons in the image are arranged in such a way to maximize composition.

Perhaps you have collectables including glasses in a cupboard. There’s no need to pull them out of their setting to get a good photo (although that can also work as an alternative). Use the edges of the cupboard as a natural way to frame the objects inside, including any trinkets already there that can add charm.

On the flipside, you don’t always need kitchenware to make a food photo work. One of Petani’s own favorite images shows tomatoes still on the vine in various states of ripeness, which reminds the viewer of the fact that food takes time and effort to nurture. And by taking some time to nurture your still life photography, you’ll be proud to show off the results.

Lorena Petani is an expert site finder who works in the filming industry.