The straight-on angle is great for food photography because it gives your subject a sense of grandeur and can make it jump out of the picture. This angle is well suited to foods that are tall or layered as from this angle you can get a better idea of its scale or better reveal those layers.
I am sure you’ve seen many amazing food photos on Instagram taken from the straight-on angle. If you’ve been trying to create images like those and are looking for some tips, I have put together some of my favorites in the video above. There are no hard or fast rules to photography, but what I discuss are some of the things I think about that allow me to create great images.
The first tip I can give anyone looking to create food photography from a straight-on angle is knowing when to use it — not everything will suit this angle, so choose your subject wisely. In this particular example, I chose pancakes and because they are stacked tall, this angle is a great way to show the height and see all those lovely pancake layers.
My next tip is all about the backgrounds you choose for your photograph. Unlike what I call “flatlays” — which refer to shooting straight down — and some other angles, when shooting from a straight-on angle you are going to need to consider the background behind your food, not just what the food will be seated on.
There are a few ways of doing this: you can select a background that is the same color as your table surface, use different colors for each, or sometimes maybe even add a scene in the background such as a restaurant or kitchen. Whichever you choose, do so from the perspective that different background combinations are going to create different feelings for your images.
One thing to make sure of when selecting a background is to make sure that whatever it is, it is not too distracting. It may be tempting to use a whacky background to make an image stand out, but the most important thing to remember is that the background isn’t supposed to be the focus, the food is: the subject is what should be really standing out.
Another tip I have for food photos taken at this angle is all about your lens focal length. Now, this one definitely isn’t set in stone as each image you take will need to have its focal length determined each time, but for these straight-on shots I usually shoot between 70mm to 120mm.
As a note, these focal lengths refer to lenses as they are on a full-frame camera. If you are using a crop sensor, that would be roughly 50mm to 85mm, depending on your specific crop factor.
This focal length helps compress your scene and add depth. A wider focal length can make your image feel flatter, which you want to avoid. Additionally, these longer focal lengths also make it much easier to integrate bokeh, which can look great. Another good thing about these focal lengths is that they’re best for avoiding lens distortion which can make your photos look as though your subjects are about to fall over. While you can usually fix this kind of thing in post-processing, it doesn’t hurt to get it fixed in-camera.
The video above has even more tips on how to make great food photos using the straight-on perspective, and for other videos about food photography make sure to check out my YouTube channel!
About the author: Amie Prescott is a professional photographer, and food photography combines two of her favorite things: food and photography. Prescott put a good spin on lockdown by using the bad situation to create YouTube videos in an effort to help people looking to learn food photography.