To start 2021, I wanted to explain my process when photographing food as a hero shot or flat lay photograph.
Firstly, let me explain what both of these terms mean:
Hero shot means the photo that shows the benefits & context of use, but for food photography, this is referred to as a picture-perfect version of the food, taken from above.
Flat lay refers to a type photograph that is, simply a photo of objects arranged on a flat surface, captured from directly above.
After understanding both these terms, you will start to realise that they both refer to the same camera position and angle when taking a photo of a product or food dishes. You can see this in the example below.
You may ask, how do I set up this type of photograph?
PROCESS OF A FLAT LAY/HERO SHOT
The first task is to decide which type of lighting you will use, either natural or artificial.
Using Natural Lighting
Natural light refers to any light shining through a window or if you decide to set up outside and use direct sunlight. When inside your home, place your flat lay/hero shot near a window.
Key tip: when shooting, use a reflector or use white foam boards that can be placed opposite to the light source.
See image example below
When you use this lighting, the white card/board will reflect light back onto the object that you are photographing. This is an excellent way to even out shadows or brighten up the dish that you are photographing.
Using Artificial Light
When shooting with artificial lighting, most photographers will diffuse this so that its like natural light. One way to set up this light is to use two lights so that the object or dish has even shadows. If you were photographing more high-end products, then this lighting set-up would be perfect.
For food products, you need a form of shadow and tone, so if you decide to shoot food with artificial lighting, then learn about how to bounce and reflect your lighting, with the use of reflectors, card, mirrors and foam boards, take a look at these image examples.
Setting Up Your Tripod
The next stage for setting up this type of photograph is the camera's position to the objects or dishes you photograph.
Here is how to position your camera.
One issue you may have when setting up this camera position is keeping your tripod supported, as gravity may force the tripod to fall over. So use weighted bags to prevent this from happening.
One other issue is to make sure that you can see the back of the camera, so use a chair or ladder to stand on, so that you are high and have a better view.
If you can't do this, arrange your food items on the floor, allowing you to get more distance. If you plan to shot a lot of flat-lay food photography, I recommend getting a tripod with a 90-degree arm.
Now you have set up the lighting, the camera position and set your camera settings, and are about to get started. You can also use the same process and set-up for mobile phones.
Here are a few other options that will make your images look amazing and pop.
Consider the background; make sure that this flatters the dishes that you have.
Include props to help tell a story
Build depth and play with composition and positioning of your dishes or objects.
After reading this, I want you to remember two main things, the position of the camera is relevant and this needs to be parallel and at a 90-degree angle.
Before you take your final photo, make sure that you manage the lighting, as you need to provide realistic colours and subtle shadows. The shadows will add different depths or unique effects, but they can also be annoying and appear at weird places.
After reading my thoughts, processes and points, I hope that this has given you a small insight into a photographer's mind when shooting at this type of angled photography.
Chatting Food Contributor: Sam Peel
I am a commercial photographer in Northamptonshire and I always strive to share my passion with others, either via 1:1 tutorials, workshops or professional photography sessions. At present, I am living my dream, while consistently developing my own practice, with each client that I work with. I specialize in food, fitness, property and headshots-personal branding. I gain and keep paid clients as I can guarantee that my love of photography will bring their brand to life with a selection of carefully taken images that can be used for company adverting or marketing.