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Adding Interest with Patterns and Shapes in Food Photography

Graphic components, such as shapes and patterns, can make your food photography more interesting. Consider using shapes and patterns when composing your photographs. The following sections discuss how shapes and patterns can add interest to your photos.

Patterns in food images

Patterns on props are good graphic elements when used in moderation. One (or maybe two) complementary pattern is probably enough for any image. The following figure illustrates a good use of a patterned cloth to complement the colors of the fresh blueberries on the table. The blue pattern is softly out of focus and fits the rustic feel of the image.

Bad things can happen when too many or conflicting patterns are used in an image! You want to carefully consider the subject of the photo and make sure any patterns you use complement the food, not contrast with it.

A blue pattern complements the colors of the blueberries. [Credit: Focal length: 46mm, Shutter spee
Credit: Focal length: 46mm, Shutter speed: 1/25 sec., Aperture: f/5.3, ISO value: 640
A blue pattern complements the colors of the blueberries.

Shapes in food images

When shooting foods, round shapes or shapes with a lot of curves lend themselves fairly easily to the composition of great images. Some square foods, like bread, can be handled with ease as well.

Of course, not all food shapes are so easy to deal with. When working with thin straight foods, such as string beans, composition can get tricky. You can bend the beans into a somewhat curved composition. Or you can use these types of angled foods as leading lines into a focal point, which may be as simple as a topping on the far end of the food.

Someday, you may find yourself struggling to shoot a mixture of shapes that don’t appear to go together at all. Maybe you’re tasked with shooting skinny asparagus spears alongside whole giant eggplants with a glass of merlot on the side.

When shooting several different types of shapes for an image, take your time to physically position the foods and props into a pleasing group first, and then take a few test shots to check your work. Use distance, tilt, angle, and skew until you see an appealing image showing through your viewfinder.

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