As the farmers’ market bursts with fresh fruits and veggies in dazzling jewel tones, now’s the perfect time to eat fresh. The yummiest (and, conveniently, most photogenic) way to get your veggies? Put together an at-home salad bar! (No crummy Sad Desk Lunch salad—or lame-looking picture—for you, thanks.) Just follow these easy tips for setting up a healthy, good-looking spread like a professional food photographer, perfect for your Chatbooks. And unlike the pros, you get to eat your creation afterward!
PUT OUT A HEALTHY MIX.
You’ll need a salad base or two (think kale, arugula, spinach, or whatever looks good at the grocery store), tons of chopped up fruits and veggies to serve as crunchy toppings, and protein: Grilled chicken, chopped turkey or ham, cooked shrimp, tuna, nuts, quinoa, or beans are all smart ideas. (After all, this salad should be filling in addition to beautiful!) Include dressings, homemade or bottled, that pack plenty of healthy fat and few added sugars.
LIGHT YOUR SHOTS RIGHT.
Whether you’re stealing a snap of your finished lunch or the spread-out salad bar, you shouldn’t use flash. “The effect can be too harsh,” says Lisa Maxbauer, the author and photographer of the fun veggie book Squash Boom Beet . “Instead, natural sunlight is the goal.” Try to set everything up near windows to get a natural glow. If your photos are still too dark, have a helper hold up the flashlight app on another phone to cast a steady glow.
MAKE THOSE VEGGIES POP.
Complementary colors (like placing a dark green salad on a purple placemat, or sprinkling dried cranberries on blue-green leaves) instantly elevate a food shot. Maxbauer likes to think about complementary texture, too. “When I’m shooting complex, ruffled arugula leaves, I add something smooth or shiny to the scene—like the edge of a chrome platter or a silver serving spoon,” she says. “Or if I’m shooting the glossy skin of an eggplant or sleek slices of tomato, I layer the look with something textured, like a woven straw placemat.” These tactile, jutting-off-the-screen elements help your shot stand out (so it’s not another boring salad on a plain, boring plate).
FRAME YOUR LUNCH.
You’ve probably seen someone at a restaurant stand up—or even climb up on her seat!—to shoot her plate from above. (Hopefully, this hasn’t happened in a super fancy restaurant!) Yes, the overhead shot can look cool and magazine-y, but it’s hard to master with just a smartphone’s camera. “The farther away you are, and the more you have to zoom in, the more you reduce the resolution,” meaning the final shot will be a little grainy or fuzzy, Maxbauer says. “My advice is to get as close to the salad as possible, whether holding the camera straight above the plate in a bird’s eye view, or shooting low for a candid, intimate perspective.” Rather than centering your salad in the frame, move a little off-center…or better yet, play around with cropping afterward!
DIAL UP THE FRESHNESS!
Believe it or not, if you add filters to photos of your loved ones on the regular, you’re already more than qualified to filter your food photos and make ‘em look fab. “For me, filters are most tricky when they are applied to people and skin tones, because a tone that looks altered or skewed is an immediate red flag,” Maxbauer says. Luckily, that’s not an issue with food still lifes. To highlight the veggies’ vivid hues, play around with filters, and try bumping up the brightness and saturation. “That hyper-color makes food look fresh and good enough to reach out and bite,” she adds. And—lucky you!—your next step is to grab a fork and do just that. Bon appetit!
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