I met Matt Armendariz on a trip to Costa Rica a few years back and to say that I was a bit star struck is a major understatement. I'd long admired his food photography on his site, Matt Bites, where you can practically taste the stunning pictures he takes for cookbooks, magazines, and advertisements. With the holidays just around the bend and the deluge of celebratory photos flooding social media, I asked Matt to share his pro tips on how to orchestrate the best food photograph.
Style matters: "Never underestimate style when it comes to your photos. It's not just as quick and simple as throwing a plate down on the ground and snapping a shot of it overhead. It's careful planning, selection of plates, and tables that can elevate a basic food photo to something more aspirational. When it comes to food photography, it's all in the details."
Use less light: "Don't be afraid of shadows and less light, in fact it can create striking images that you may not be able to see immediately with your eye. Remember, the camera sees things differently and sometimes it's ok to let it do its job. Also, you might need a tripod or another way to secure your smart phone if you go this route."
Or, use more light: "Again, sometimes flooding an area with light might be necessary, just be aware that things may be too contrast-y. You'll need to work on your exposure, i.e. the actual camera or your phone’s settings."
It takes a village: "Not only do I rely on a team of people to execute the perfect food shoot, but I really appreciate and enjoy the team effort. Food stylists, prop stylists, art directors, it's a collaborative effort that results in a perfect food shot."
Use the absolute best and freshest ingredients you can: "Starting with a pristine, fresh subject (herbs, cake, holiday dishes, etc.) gets you that much closer to a perfect food shot. The food hasn't oxidized, wilted, deflated, congealed, changed colors around the edges, and looks like it's just come from the oven and ready to eat. You can get to this step much easier if you use a stand-in or have your camera and set or table completely ready to go while the food is cooking. It's all about being prepared and letting the food be the hero!"