Saturday, January 9, 2010

3 Essential Camera Angles And When To Use Them

Camera angles are one of the most essential aspects of food photography.  Shoot with the wrong camera angle and a perfectly good dish can look simply terrible as an image.  There are three basic angles that I use when shooting food---each angle reserved for particular types of food.  Master these three angles and you'll be shooting like a pro in no time!

Camera Angle #1 - Frontal

This camera angle is reserved specifically for vertical types of food. Whenever the food is going to be stacked, like in the image of the brownies, I tend to use this angle.

To pull this camera angle off you must position the camera at the exact height of the food and completely level with the table.
A tripod is essential for this angle. This camera angle tends to work best with flat and square type of food...baked goods for instance work especially well.

Camera Angle #2 - Overhead

This is one of my favorite camera angles because it is usually my fall-back angle if nothing else works. But not just that, this angle works really well for loose, messy type food like salads, rice, or essence, any food that doesn't have a strong solid structure.

Position the plate of food on a low table or on the seat of a chair and hover directly above the plate. Try to get directly on top and not at a slight angle.
For this angle I also tend to style the food knowing that I'll be viewing it from above, so for this image of Succotash I piled the Succotash in the center but also made sure to spread it out in a pleasing pattern.

Camera Angle #3 - 3 Quarter Angle

This angle is probably the one most often used for food that is solid and structured. I like this angle because it could be slightly adjusted to create vastly different results, making it an incredibly versatile camera angle.

Position the camera one foot above the food and angle the camera down so that the plate fills the frame. Position the plate of food so that the side of the food is slightly facing the camera.
In this image of a Spanish tortilla notice how the "point" of the slice is pointing toward the corner.  Positioning the slice this way gives me a broader side view without it being flat.  This positioning is borrowed from portrait photography where the subject turns slightly and face slightly to the right of the camera.

The great thing about all three of these angles is that they can be varied slightly to produce an incredible amount of diversity. 

The most important thing to remember is to chose an angle that will best display the food. Analyze the type of structure the food has, and then choose an angle.

Do any of you have a favorite type of camera angle you like to shoot with? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.


  1. mmmm!! Yum-oh!! I spent a year studying and practising food photography techniques - my explorations and the recipes are on my food-blog:

  2. Helpful post! Thanks :) I like Camera angles #1 and #3 the most. I like to really get in there at a low angle but lift it ever so slightly to get a blurred background for context. Occasionally, I find it interesting to lift a piece of the food (assuming that it's coming out of a dish with other stuff) up close to the camera and letting the background blur into a subtle context. For example, like this:

  3. At the food blogger camp today, we were told we should also consider building the food for the angle we are going to shoot at. I had always build plates by trying to make them pretty rather than building food for my camera angle.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Julie, very interesting technique..would love to see more.

    Stephanie, excellent point! very very true.

  5. I cannot believe that I hadn't stumbled upon this blog till now. I use the angle #3 most commonly.

    Could you give tips on taking pics in low light (read:night), especially now during winter in the northwest, theres very little light available. I recently, just about a week ago, purchased an SLR, so getting used to that as well.

    Thanks for the tips..will be reading the rest of your posts as well :)

  6. Hi, I'm glad i stumbled upon this blog. Found your blog via foodgawker. I'm a foodie and a wannabe food photographer. No experience at all, i have no idea about the different angles. The only thing very important that i learned is to use macro and sufficient lighting w/c i'm lucky to have a big window. Thank you very much for sharing this. What i learned here, i'll try to put them to use on my next food blog. Thanks again.

  7. I prefer the quarter angle and then angle #1. Having a tripod really helps, like you said. I use it for all the positions, and I use all the positions for all my dishes, just to see how they turn out. I also like to move the tripod from the left to the right due to light angles. Great post.

  8. Thanks for the great comments everyone...angle 1 and 3 seem to be the most popular..who knew?

  9. Great tutorial, and beautiful photos! Your lighting is especially nice.

    I use #3 the most and #2 next. Something I like to do for #2 is to crop the picture so that the most in-focus bit is at an intersection of the thirds. This works well for food in a sauce especially. I've been making a lot of soup and stews lately (who hasn't) and one trick I've been using with #3 is to have the serving dish go from corner-to-diagonal-corner. Anything to make lentil and spinach soup look as good as it tastes!

  10. I cook more like my grandmother than my mother, but Gramma would never have even thought of taking pictures of her food. Of course, neither would my mother. I'm a relative newcomer to food blogging. Interestingly, we were given a camera for Christmas that has a "food" mode. A sign of just how big a movement food blogging has become.

  11. Beautiful pictures. Thankyou..very helpful. I am a novice but love to bake and blog. I will definitely use your techniques. Thanks