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  • Writer's pictureAmy L Smith Photography

5 Composition Guidelines for Food Photography

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

Just like any other genre’ of photography, food photography has composition guidelines, or “rules”, that universally appeal to how the human eye sees and interprets what it is looking at and allows us to enjoy the image that much more. Food is a powerful force and can be a very personal thing – it's not just a's an experience. For many, it evokes a memory of a person or place in your past. For some, it is communal and very comforting. Why not do all you can to portray those emotions, thoughts and feelings in your food images?

There are 5 composition principles that I am going to touch on to help you be more conscious and intentional in the placement of your subjects in your food photography practices: Geometry; The Rule of Thirds (ROT) principle; Balance; Patterns; and lastly, Framing.

1. Geometry – The lines and shapes that are formed by how the background elements, props, containers, utensils, or food itself are arranged.

2. Rule of Thirds (ROT) – The main elements/subjects of the image are placed on the ROT lines or at the intersections of those lines.

3. Balance – Keeping the visual weight of the frame distributed somewhat evenly. It may just take a spoon or a linen on the edge of the frame, or it may take something as large as a cake to achieve this and make the elements within the frame “feel” better and be more pleasing to the eye. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have any negative space images in your collection. Negative space is a very desirable and high impact use of the frame to really accentuate the subject – just be mindful of when something feels “off” you may just need a little sumthin-sumthin to get it balanced out!

4. Patterns – Repetition or symmetry of the items/subjects of your image.

5. Framing – Using containers, backgrounds, cutting boards, linens, the lines of various items, etc. to create a frame within the frame.

Keeping these concepts and elements/ideas in mind will help to make your images instantly more attractive and appealing. Just remember that you don’t necessarily need to try to execute every concept in every frame. You may only use one or two to fulfill your vision for your shoot, or you may employ 3 or 4! Whatever works for you and what you are wanting to achieve and show the viewer in the image!

At first, implementing these principles may seem laborious and tedious, but like anything, with mindful practice and repetition, they become second nature, and a regular part of your set up and shooting routine.

I really hope that you have found this to be helpful and perhaps given you some ideas on how to direct your next food shoot! Please be sure to share here on the forum or on IG -be sure to please tag me! @alsmith on the CM forum or @foodplayandflatlay on IG!

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