Once you become a food photographer (whether as a hobby or career), you start realizing things. Like how important good photography is in the food industry. Or just how much work it takes to create those beautiful images you see in restaurant menus. You start to find food photography inspiration practically everywhere you go.
Or is that just me? Oh well.
The point is, as creators, inspiration is crucial. You know what they say: there is nothing new under the sun. And in order to grow and be successful, we have to learn from one another.
I promise this isn’t turning into a strictly food photography blog! This is just a topic that’s been on my brain for a while, and I figured any fellow photographer who stumbles upon this will find it useful.
1. Food photography inspiration tip #1: Get OFF Instagram!
The other day, I was telling one of my food blogger buddies, Matthew (find his amazing blog here) that I’ve been spending less and less time on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, he said he was doing the same, and that he found it refreshing to just log out sometimes.
Now don’t get me wrong.
Instagram is a fantastic platform for creators to show off their work and build connections. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes, it just feels like one big popularity contest. Especially in the food photography niche. Getting caught up in the social media numbers game can be extremely time consuming and unproductive.
Another little problem I have with Instagram is something that I can only call creative conformity. I’m really hoping this doesn’t come off as pretentious, and it’s never my intent to insult anyone’s work. But you only need to spend a few minutes on the explore page to see that there is a certain style of food photography that’s insanely popular on the app. And because it’s insanely popular, a lot of creators (including myself at one point) try to emulate it. And because a lot of creators try to emulate it, your feed ends up looking…same-y. This can get really old really quick, so it’s super important to not rely solely on Insta as a source of inspiration.
2. Look to magazines for food photography inspiration
Did you know that your routine trip to the grocery store can really get those creative juices flowing?
That conformity problem I have with Instagram is completely the opposite with magazines! They are great for food photography inspiration because you’ll often a find a wide variety of styles in these publications, from dark and moody to minimalist to bright and vibrant.
You can tell the photographers behind these images haven’t created their content just to please social media algorithms. Their photos are often very sharp, beautifully styled, and unique. Wouldn’t you love your work to be described as all those things?
3. Do some portfolio scrolling
Ok, this one might be a little creepy, but it’s something I do on an almost daily basis and it always gets me inspired.
Basically, I’ll go on my favorite bloggers’ websites and just look at their stuff. If they have a portfolio linked on their website, even better! I look through their images and study their work. What’s their signature style? What color stories do they use? How do they compose their photos?
This is especially helpful if I’m struggling with ideas on how to compose a certain subject.
4. Check out stock websites
Stock websites are another great source for inspiration. Be sure to visit one that’s dedicated wholly to food photos, as they tend to have the highest quality images. Like magazines, you’ll often find photos with a wide variety of styles. Of course, you don’t have to purchase anything, just look through their galleries!
I recommend the Picture Pantry. Their gallery is fantastic because they only accept a few photographers a year. Some of my favorite bloggers have contributed!
5. Brush up on psychology
No, I’m not talking Sigmund Freud. That guy was a weirdo…
What I mean is: we have to figure out the “why” behind a photo. Why is one image of angel food cake more striking than another? Why do we find a photo more interesting when it’s composed with odd numbers, rather than even ones?
It’s one thing to know about composition techniques, it’s another thing to know why we find these techniques so intriguing. I’ve recently been challenging myself to learn more about the psychology behind photography, and how our eyes respond to images.
For example, did you know humans find symmetry pleasing because it represents order and makes us feel calm? And symmetry is actually a very good technique to use in food photography.
Use that kind of thinking and curiosity to not only find inspiration, but to level up your photography.
6. Take a break!
Pay attention now because this just might be the most important tip. Why?
Because a burnt out brain is never creative. I always find it hard to think of new ideas when I’m actually, you know, thinking of them. My best ones always come when I’m in the shower, or driving, or something mundane like that.
If you are feeling fed up or uninspired with your work, it doesn’t hurt to take a break. Trust me, your camera will not spontaneously combust if you don’t touch it for a few days. Rest nurtures creativity.
Want more food photography content?
Follow Samara from Scratch on Instagram for video content, or check out my top ten tips for beginner food photographers. Thanks for reading, everyone!