Expert Tips for ,Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go

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Part of the joy of traveling is tasting new foods, but capturing a great photograph in a bustling marketplace or hole-in-the-wall restaurant is easier said than done. On the street, you can’t control the light, and people are moving all around you. There’s no hitting “pause” and there are no “do-overs.” You either get your photo, or you don’t. In other words, it’s one thing to photograph your favorite dish inside a studio, but it’s quite another to snap a dynamic food picture when you’re on-the-go.

For this article, we wanted to get their best tips for photographing food outside of the studio, whether it’s in a street stall or a small local restaurant. Read on to learn how you too can create mouth-watering images that pay homage to diverse cultures and traditions around the globe.

1. “My primary advice to other photographers is not to stand out from the crowd.”

Curioso

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Blend In

Image by Curioso. Gear: Canon 5d Mark IV camera, E70-300 f/4-5,6 L lens. Settings: Exposure 1/100 sec; f4; ISO 8000.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I’ve been traveling for fifteen years and have had the opportunity to be in over 90 countries. In my opinion, if you want to get to know a country, you should start by visiting the local bazaar. The variety of goods in bazaars gives us all an idea of how diverse the diets of people around the world are.

By photographing local markets, I always find small restaurants. They are very charming places—absolutely not touristy and without a menu. As soon as I have the opportunity, I try to eat a traditional dish in such places. This picture shows the national Moroccan dish “tajine.” The composition of this dish depends on the chef, which means that in every place, it tastes completely different. I took this picture in Agadir in Morocco.

Pro Tip

My primary advice to other photographers is not to stand out from the crowd. Remain unnoticed. It is often worth using a telephoto lens, and you should try to take pictures quickly. Once you are noticed, the authenticity of the moment is already much lower.

2. “Just walk and take pictures; try to be invisible, and work quickly. Go with the flow.”

Vitalii Karas

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Work Quickly

Image by Vitalii Karas. Gear: Nikon d3100 camera, Nikon 35mm f1.8 C lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f7.1; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this photo in Pushkar in India as I stopped for breakfast during my walk. Poha (flattened rice with spices and vegetables) is a popular breakfast here. In India, the vendors are professionals and they know how to make street food look so beautiful that you’ll want to eat it as soon as you see it. Everything was colorful and bright, and there was this stunning morning light hitting the hot and steaming food, so I couldn’t help but take a picture while waiting. And yes, it was as tasty as it looks in the photo.

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Go with the Flow

Image by Vitalii Karas.

Pro Tip

When you go out to take pictures of street food, you need to have less equipment. It’ll be hard to carry too many things on your shoulders, and you’ll have to walk a lot. Additionally, you’ll need to draw less attention to yourself. A mirrorless camera with a fixed focal length works great, or you can even bring a small compact camera. Keep an eye on your shutter speed to prevent blurry pics. The light can be different and unpredictable in these spots, so it’s better to shoot in RAW in case you want to fix something in post-processing.

There’s no need to spent too much time choosing the right angle, composition, etc. Of course, it is important for a good shot, but people’s feelings are more important. Be respectful of other people, and don’t disturb them. Don’t feel sad if you missed a great scene; you will have another opportunity. Just walk and take pictures; try to be invisible, and work quickly. Go with the flow.

You also need to be ready for some people who might not like that you’re taking shots of their stuff. Just apologize and go onto the next thing. The best time for shooting street markets is early morning because there are lots of things happening, and you’ll find the best light, temperature, and concentration of people.

3. “The most important factor for a good picture is the light, so always look for natural light, and position your subject accordingly.”

Sabino Parente

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Look for Natural Light

Image by Sabino Parente. Gear: Leica SL camera, Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90 mm f/2.8–4 ASPH lens. Settings: Focal length 37mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f6.3; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

It was 36 degrees in the middle of an August day in the south of Italy. In the countryside, a complete family, from the grandpa to the nephew, was working hard on the traditional preparation of tomato sauce. Is a long and exhausting process, all done manually: first, they wash the tomatoes in big blue pans, then boil them in metal tanks, and finally pass them through an old manual blender that separates the peel from the pulp.

I took several pictures to document the whole process, but the most challenging one was the one from the top of the boiling tank. I wanted to get this picture at any cost since I loved the pattern that the red tomatoes created. To make this picture, I had to be very, very close to the subject and therefore to the fire. I was holding the camera manually, trying to be still and position myself perfectly above the tank. You can see the full set of images from the shoot here.

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Try Different Lenses

Image by Sabino Parente.

Pro Tip

A good food-related shot can happen anywhere, so I suggest that you always bring a medium range lens, like a classic 50mm, wherever you go. Of course, when you are outside and not in the studio, you’ll have a lot of distracting elements, so the best way to isolate your subject—whether it’s a nice meal at a restaurant or a piece of fruit from a vendor at a street market— is to use a wide aperture—f2.8, or even f2, if the lens allows it. This will also help you to avoid having recognizable faces or brands visible in your photo.

The most important factor for a good picture is the light, so always look for natural light, and position your subject accordingly. Last but not least, I’d suggest trying a wider lens sometimes, like the 28mm, and capturing some activity around the food, like hands or blurred people in the background. This will give your final pictures a real-life mood, and that’s a style that does well in magazines.

4. “I believe that the best way to photograph food in markets is to convey the context in which it is sold.”

Mario Troiani

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Convey Context

Image by Mario Troiani. Gear: Nikon D810 camera, Tamron 24-70 f.2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 34mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f11; ISO 1600.

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Use Existing Colors and Composition

Image by Mario Troiani. Gear: Nikon D810 camera, Tamron 24-70 f.2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 48mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f11; ISO 800.

What are the stories behind these photos?

The first picture was taken at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Here, I photographed from above to give greater prominence to the colors of the spices in the metal bowls. In the case of the second photo from Tel Aviv, I used a lens that would allow me to slightly crush the image. I used the colors and the composition already present in the scene.

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Look for Vibrant Color

Image by Mario Troiani.

Pro Tip

I always use wide-angle lenses in markets, keeping the subject in the foreground. In my compositions, I also try to mix different colors. My advice is not to dwell only on the main object. Instead, try to compose a photograph that speaks to the place itself. I believe that the best way to photograph food in markets is to convey the context in which it is sold.

5. “In the midst of a market, it is important to remain inconspicuous in order to take natural photos.”

Grisha Bruev

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Communicate with Sellers

Image by Grisha Bruev. Gear: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II camera, Canon EF50 f/1.4 USM lens. Settings: Focal length 50mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f2.0; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this simple photograph of ripe pears on a tray at the main market in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. I like the color contrast here. It was already late evening, so although the background of the photo was lit by natural light, the pears were lit by the warm light of the lamps.

Pro Tip

Before you go to a street market, take high-aperture lenses with you, as they will allow you to take high-quality photos without resorting to high ISO. Stay mobile, and leave the tripod at home. In the midst of a market, it is important to remain inconspicuous in order to take natural photos. Communicate with the sellers; many people will willingly show you their goods and allow you to shoot them if you ask for permission. Take duplicate photos with high-speed continuous shooting so you can select a sharper frame later, but do not interfere with other customers.

6. “In new countries, take photos of interesting and unusual traditional foods.”

Breslavtsev Oleg

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Seek Traditional Foods

Image by Breslavtsev Oleg. Gear: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f3,2; ISO 200.

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Traditional Cooking Methods

Image by Breslavtsev Oleg. Gear: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens. Settings: Focal length 16mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f2,8; ISO 640.

What are the stories behind these photos?

The first photo I took of my wide holding traditional Turkish simit. I took the second photo in a small village in Armenia. This is a traditional way of baking bread there. All the people gather in one place and bake bread, all while speaking, smiling, and laughing together. I think it’s a great tradition, and we don’t have enough of those in the modern world.

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Highlight Community

Image by Breslavtsev Oleg.

Pro Tip

My main tip is to bring your camera everywhere. If you don’t have a camera, take photos anyway using your phone. Shoot doing the golden hour before sunset or after sunrise for outdoor photos, and use bright daylight when you’re shooting food inside. In new countries, take photos of interesting and unusual traditional foods. Try new things, and use a long lens if you are shy about approaching people on the street.

7. “I like to take create tight compositions in outdoor settings because it is easier for me to control the lighting that way.”

Lano Lan

Expert Tips for Capturing Great Food Shots On-the-Go — Try a Tight Composition

Image by Lano Lan. Gear: Sony A6000 camera, 55-210 F4.5 – 6.3 OSS lens. Settings: Focal length 73mm; exposure 1/125 sec; f5; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this photo from above the Pasar Malam Segama, a market in Kota Kinabalu Sabah, Malaysia, one afternoon. The vendors had just finished arranging their trays of home-cooked dishes, and the visitors were just arriving. The Segama street market offers many kinds of food at affordable prices, so it’s always crowded with customers looking for takeaway dinners.

In my head, I imagined the view that could be seen from the overhead bridge above the market. I knew that soon the vendors would be putting up their umbrellas, so I quickly positioned myself and scanned the area to see which vendor was selling the most colorful dishes. I wanted a picture that would feel relatable for people around the world, so I waited for customers to come into the frame and buy their food from that vendor while I took my shots.

Pro Tip

Normally, when I am on-the-go, I always bring my mirrorless Sony A6000 camera because it is small and handy. To get the best photos possible, timing is important. In markets, I will stroll around the street when the vendors are busy preparing the food prior to opening. For a restaurant, I’ll be there just before lunchtime, when the food is still untouched. Also, in Asian countries, lunchtime is normally the time when you can find the most delicacies being prepared and served in restaurants.

I like to take create tight compositions in outdoor settings because it is easier for me to control the lighting that way. In the street, I will set my camera at Aperture Priority Mode with ISO 400 so I can have a fast enough shutter speed to counteract my any shaking of my hand. Later, I will adjust to a lower ISO if I have a chance to take a second shot.

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