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How to Frame Images in Food Photography

When framing images in food photography, consider using the common photo guideline called the rule of thirds, which is essentially this: When looking through your viewfinder, divide the visible space into three parts vertically. Then, divide the space into three horizontal parts as well.

The four ideal points to place the most interesting part of your composition are 1/3 over and 1/3 down (where you see the stem in the following figure), 1/3 over and 2/3 down, 2/3 over and 1/3 down, and 2/3 over and 2/3 down, as indicated in the figure.

You can use the rule of thirds as a guideline, but your placement doesn’t have to be exact. Approximate placement works just fine, too.

Use the rule of thirds to place your food subject in the frame.
Use the rule of thirds to place your food subject in the frame.

If you’re not using a sweep (a seamless background) and aren’t shooting extreme close-ups, you may have a line where a table or other surface meets the background. If you’re shooting without any tilt, positioning this meeting line near the 1/3 or 2/3 point up the horizon can provide a pleasing look.

If possible, you can try to keep much of the food placed within a large oval target area somewhat centered in the frame. But you may not want to place the full dish in that center oval area with background surrounding the dish on all sides. Occasionally, that may be a cool look, but more often than not, it looks better to cut off at least one edge or part of the subject in the frame, as shown in the following figure.

Cutting off edges in the frame makes the image look more vital and active. [Credit: Focal length: 5
Credit: Focal length: 55mm, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec., Aperture: f/8.0, ISO value: 640
Cutting off edges in the frame makes the image look more vital and active.

Food subjects with an edge or two (or three) cut off in the frame tend to look a little more vital and more active than those subjects with no edges cut off.

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