How to shoot amazing food photography while travelling – and without a plan!
Take great pictures of food on the move, with no preparation.
I’ve created these mouthwatering images in just 20 minutes, with no planning and minimal equipment!
No worries, I’ll guide you through my creative process and explain how you can create stunning food photography while you’re travelling.
From anywhere, without a plan and without props 🙂
I’ll share tips on how you can overcome some of the challenges that come with following your inspiration to create content on the move!
Ready? Here’s what we’re going to talk about:
1. Why would you shoot food photography without a plan and without props?
2. What are the challenges of photographing food anywhere, on the fly and without preparation?
2.1. Challenge number 1: how do you shoot food photography without knowing your environment and the light situation?
2.2. Challenge number 2: how do you take food photos without much equipment?
2.3. Challenge number 3: how do you style food photography without props?
2.4. Challenge number 4: is your perfectionism sabotaging your inspiration and creativity?
3. How to overcome these challenges to create amazing images?
3.1. Solution number 1: assess the environment and pick the best spot for light.
3.2. Solution number 2: know your photography equipment well and how to maximise its full potential.
3.3. Solution number 3: focus on the food and look around you for unusual textures.
3.4. Solution number 4: shut your OCD up and just create content for fun!
4. Wanna practise these tips?
Why would you shoot food photography without a plan and without props?
The last week of my life has been a mess!
Well, more than usual at least. Being a nomad is exciting, but sometimes chaotic.
I’ve just moved into a new flat in London.
Half my life is in boxes in my room, and all my photography props and equipment are in safe storage space.
That’s a challenge in itself and should have been enough to keep me busy but… you know me.
If you don’t, a quick intro: you will find me hanging out of my comfort zone, wearing green, and eating.
Despite the chaos, I got inspired and decided to have a spontaneous and totally unplanned photoshoot!
Many food photographers (including ME!!) make drawings of their frames, plan the composition, the subject, the food, the props and backgrounds…for days.
And some believe that food photography needs to be staged to be good…
Well, while I am guilty of that myself, I also looove the challenge to improvise, think on my feet and just follow my inspiration.
Without planning every. single. detail.
This is HARD if you, like me, are a perfectionist freak.
Long story short – I baked some muffins, they looked delicious, I got inspired, forgot about the mess in my life, decided they deserved to be photographed, forgot that all my equipment is in boxes, decided to go for it anyway.
So if you need to create stunning food content on the move and while travelling, you need to know how to shoot food photography anywhere, without a plan and often without props or equipment.
Let’s see how!
What are the challenges of photographing food anywhere, on the fly and without preparation?
And how to overcome them to create amazing images??
While travelling, you don’t have all your equipment with you at all times.
And one of the great things about exploring is that you venture into the unknown.
Let see what these challenges are and how we can overcome them!
Challenge number 1: how do you shoot food photography without knowing your environment and the light situation?
And with having little control over it!
Maybe you are travelling, staying in an Airbnb, at a friend’s house, going to a new restaurant, or just moved into your new kitchen.
You never know when you’re gonna get inspired and you shouldn’t let the unfamiliarity of your location stop you!
Solution: assess the environment and pick the best spot for light.
Focus on how the light interacts in the ambient and search for a spot with natural light.
What you’re looking for is diffused and soft light, which is usually ideal for food photos.
If you’re indoors, find a spot by the window.
Or create a spot by the window! Move tables, use chairs, get on the floor – needs must 🙂
If the room is still dark despite window light, look outside! The pavement, the garden, a wall, a bench… you get the point.
Try to avoid direct sunlight if it’s a sunny day – unless you want to go for a summery vibe with dark shadows and high contrasts!
I set up this muffin shot on a coffee table in my back garden. It was sunny but the garden is North facing so I got that beautiful diffused and soft light.
Challenge number 2: how do you take food photos without much equipment?
Maybe you just have your phone!
Or if you always have your camera with you but still want to travel light, you won’t have all the fancy stuff used in staged food photography.
No tripods, no reflectors, no black cards, no diffusers. Nothing. Just you and your camera.
Fighting with camera shake? Need to brighten shadows? Getting a weird colour cast on your subject?
With a few tricks and a sprinkle of creativity, you can turn the odds in your favour.
Solution: know your photography equipment well and how to maximise its full potential.
The main challenge of shooting without a tripod is camera shake.
To avoid it, you need to set a fast shutter speed – check out the hack that works every time
Nowadays, technology is gifting us with incredible tools, let’s take full advantage of them!
Most modern DSLRs have a great tolerance for higher ISO so don’t be afraid to take it up a notch!
Here’s where you need to know your equipment and how well it can perform.
My Nikon d750 is a beast, she can shoot at ISO 1000 with virtually no downsides. I know I can push her and she won’t budge.
Try and experiment with your camera at different ISO settings to understand how far you can take it, comfortably.
Here’s an easy exercise for you to follow!
As for manipulating light, generally what you need can easily be found around you.
Need more light to brighten those shadows?
Look for white objects! It could be a sheet of paper, the menu in a restaurant, a napkin, even a plastic bag.
Place it in the opposite direction as your light source and use it to reflect that light onto the subject.
A weird colour is coming from an uncontrollable light source, like an orange light bulb above your head?
Use the same menu, napkin or paper to block it from reaching your subject.
Challenge number 3: how do you style food photography without props?
Not everywhere you go you’re lucky to find beautiful photogenic plates and cutlery.
Those dreamy linen napkins are too fancy for a flatshare.
And often Airbnb owners don’t understand basic kitchen design – all you’ll find in their cupboards are boring white plates.
So how do you make food photos interesting without using props?
If you get creative, you can make the most of what’s available around you.
And there are tricks to make your own props almost anywhere from almost anything!
Solution: Focus on the food and look around you for unusual textures.
You’d be surprised at how many textures can work as food photography backdrops!
Even the most surprising ones!
A floor with interesting concrete, a marble staircase, a brick wall, an old coffee table in your garden…
Looking at these images you’ll notice how I have used no props! My subject is directly placed on my background.
The only clever thing I’ve done here is choosing a background that makes my subject stand out.
That’s because it has a subtle texture and a colour that complements my food.
It also had this cute little leg detail which I included in my composition.
Why? Again, to add interest and layers of texture to an otherwise empty frame.
When you have no props, focus on the food and add interest by using food styling in a fun way.
Use ingredients, garnish and mess as your props!
Here, I added layers of texture and colours using elements from my recipe.
Compare the two images below and see how much difference these tips make!
Challenge number 4: is your perfectionism sabotaging your inspiration and creativity?
That little OCD voice in your head going:
“You have NOT planned for this and it is going to be an epic disaster and a total waste of time”.
Too often we let the voice win and we end up missing opportunities for creativity because we don’t have the “perfect” conditions to work with.
Solution: shut it up and just create content for fun!
“Dear OCD, thanks for your concerns.
Maybe you’re right, but I am going to smash it and have a ton of fun while doing it.
Turns out that we are most creative when we’re inspired to play and have fun outside of restrictions and external pressure.
Get out of your comfort zone and take those photos anyway!
If they really suck in the end, no one has to see them!
You still get to have fun, nourish your creativity and eat yummy food.
Sounds like a win-win-win to me.
It might be intimidating to improvise a food photography shoot anywhere you are in the world.
I get it, there are lots of things to take into consideration to create awesome, mouth-watering images.
Good news is that you just need a bit of practice and some tricks up your sleeve to become a content creation machine on the move!
If you practice these tips, soon you’ll be able to shoot amazing food photography from anywhere, without preparation and with no props.
Wanna practise these tips?
Follow these simple steps to practise improvising a food photography shoot while you travel, anywhere you are!
- Find some beautiful food.
Cook something yummy. Order take out if you’re feeling lazy. Or maybe you’re in a street food market and OMG don’t those biscuits look lovely? Grab them now.
- Look around you for that special light spot.
Remember, we want soft and diffused light so hide from that bright sunshine
- Find/create a surface for your food to sit on.
Move your kitchen table in the light spot, put a chopping board on the floor, use the paper wrapping of your street food on a brick wall.
- Create interest using food styling.
After you place your main subject, play with ingredients, make some mess on your surface with crumbs, garnish, spills etc.
- Snap that photo!
Experiment with shooting your food at different angles and different crops.
- Do follow basic rules of composition and lighting – but mainly follow your inspiration and have fun!
- Eat all the things and enjoy!
After all, this is the main perk of a food photoshoot – isn’t it?
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What are the other challenges that you face when you need to create stunning food photography content on the move and without a plan?
Let me know in the comments and I’ll share more tips with you and answer your questions!