Cover A flat lay of a LI Restaurant dinner dish

We chat with Noah Zain, a Malaysian food photographer who has shot for LI Restaurant, Provisions and more, to find out how you can bring out the best in your food photos

Taking photos of food is more than just pointing you camera at the plate and clicking. Food photography is in a league of its own. At AllCaps Creative, Noah Zain has been photographing burgers, granola, cakes, and more, and making them look even more tantalising than they already are.

While Noah dabbles in photographing other realms of life like real estate and automobiles, food holds a special place in his heart. "For me, food is such an interesting subject because there’s so many different ways food can be photographed," explains the self-confessed foodie. "Whether it's a lifestyle shot of people enjoying dishes or perfectly plated works of art, the multitude of colours, textures, and stories on a plate is why I love it so much."

Here are his top five tips to getting the perfect shot of your plate.

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1. Look for the right angle

We’ve all heard the question: Which side is your good side? Believe it or not, food has its good sides too.

“The three common angles for food photography are 90-degree, 45-degree, and top-down, more commonly known as flat lay,” states Noah. “Each of these angles tends to showcase different dishes better. You wouldn’t shoot a burger top-down because that causes it to lose layers and height in the photo. One extra pro tip: I love using a macro lens to get nice and close, so I can showcase the different textures of ingredients or individual elements of the dish.”

See also: Why Film Photography is Experiencing a Revival

2. Plate to impress

First impression of a dish is heavily dependent on the plating so photographers have the extra task of ensuring the dish is looking its best before capturing it on camera.

“My job sometimes forces me to get the chef to re-plate the dishes in a way that best showcases the food in photograph. I sometimes suggest different types of plates and maybe how the sauce can be presented just so the viewer may have a clearer sense of what they can expect—though that’s not always the case.”

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3. Surface, texture and colours

When developing a new recipe, taste isn’t the only thing chefs have to consider. Texture and appearance are also important during recipe development. Similarly, food photographers also have to play around with surface, texture and colours.

“Don’t be afraid to play with textures of backdrops and colours,” advises Noah. “Depending on the restaurant and mood the client is going for, I tend to suggest different props and plating just to better achieve an overall aesthetic.”

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4. Lighting is your best friend

Sitting by the window or choosing a table by the warm lights of a restaurants—some of us are guilty of doing that just to get the right food shot for Instagram. But when it comes to serious food photography, your lighting set up requires more than just sunlight and lamps.

“Always try to modify your lighting set up to get different looks of the dish. Personally, I favour bold contrasts that play on the shadows and highlights. One way of achieving this would be to use strobe lights—or flash in layman’s terms—to create a very defined shadow that’s very much in trend with high fashion or that high-end look.”

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5. Storytelling with subtlety

Every dish is different. Therefore finding something unique to focus on is paramount to making your shot stand out.

“Always look for something unique in each dish, whether it's the crispy texture on a nicely fried piece of chicken or the glossiness of a glaze or jus,” recommends Noah. “I love taking macro shots to complement a large image.”

There is also a story to be told in the process of preparing a dish and your photographs can be a part of that. “I aim to get interesting action shots of the chefs plating and preparing the dish. There’s nothing like a good shot of the sauce being poured to make you want to order the dish.”


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  • ImagesCourtesy of Noah Zain/AllCaps Creative
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