When it comes to food styling, the angle of your camera is just as important as everything else in your scene. Knowing how to choose the right angle (LOL angle jokes 📐) for the situation can help you create a powerful image.
If you want to stop guessing which angle is best for your food photography, and start taking pictures you can’t wait to show off to the world right now, then this post is for you.
As I mentioned in my previous post about using the rule of thirds in food photography, there’s really more science behind all this stuff than you might think.
What really helped me transform my food photography, was starting to plan out my pictures before I started my photoshoot. It allowed me to think through the composition and the camera angles so I wasn’t ad-libbing on the fly.
Planning your pictures on paper before you start doesn’t mean shutting off your creativity or not going with the flow in the moment, it means understanding and using this information to help you be more creative EFFECTIVELY.
So before you go any further, download and print off your free photo composition kit!
Let’s start by jumping right in and taking a look at the 3 Main Camera Angles for your food photography
Good for: burgers, sandwiches, pancake stacks etc, or any food where there’s more detail on the side/inside than the top.
25° – 75°
I like to think of this one as a fluid angle. It’s hard to know at exactly what point your photo will look best in this range, as it depends how much detail there is on top of your subject.
Typically, a good starting point is to shoot flatter subjects somewhere between 90° and 45° and taller subject from straight on – 45°.
The ultimate Instagram angle. Also known as a flat lay, the top down angle is perfect for capturing a table scene, or plates/bowls of food like soup where all the detail is on top. I normally include at least one top down shot in most of my food shoots.
Planning the angles and composition of your photos
When you’re planning your food photos and thinking about what angles you’re going to use, you should ask yourself these questions
- What am I shooting?
- How am I styling it?
The answer to the first question will sometimes tell you the angles you should be using, as certain foods lend themselves much better to a particular angle better than others. The classic burger shot from straight on will allow you to see all the different layers inside your burger. And that pizza will look great from top down where you can really see all the toppings.
But what about foods that don’t have an obvious “most flattering” angle? This is where the answer to your second question becomes really important. Let’s take something liquid as an example. The best angle will really depend on how you’re styling the shot: if your food is in an opaque bowl, with lots of detail on top, then a top down or 75° – 45° angle would probably work best, but if you’re layering something like overnight oats or a smoothie in a tall glass, then a 45° – straight on angle would work better.
To help you plan your pics like a pro, you can download this free photo composition planning kit by clicking on the image below!
Now you’ve got the basics, let’s take a look at some examples:
In these two examples, you’ll see how the food itself is the most visible and powerful from the straight on angle. You can clearly see the layers of fruit in the overnight oats, which is what we really want to highlight.
This angle also allows you to utilise the background to add additional props and objects. In the overnight oats I added a green plant and some extra jars of oats to make the scene look more casual and stumbled upon, and less posed.
In the shot of the pancakes, I used a straight on angle plus a long-focus lens to make the pancake stack look heroic and powerful. When working with stacks of food in the straight on angle, a great tip is to lower your camera just a little bit and tilt upwards towards your subject, giving an even more impressive and compelling shot.
My favourite way to take shots at these angles is with a focal length of anything from 60mm upwards. If you use too wide of an angled lens for these shots, you’ll end up with some weirdly stretched lines because of your wider field of view.
25° – 75°
In these shots, you’ll see how the different angles have been used depending on the shape and placement of the food.
In the risotto on the left, I’ve used a pretty standard 45° angle. This allows you to see what’s in the bowl with the detail on top, as well as the depth of the bowl. The background is visible but nicely blurred, allowing me to create more interest.
For the smoothies, this ever so slight tilt from top down (75°) allows you to mostly focus on the decoration on top, but still see the shape of the glass, rather than just four floating circles. This angle is really effective for drinks where you still want some depth, but you don’t have any layers or particular interest to highlight in the side of the glass.
The focal length of the lens you use is also flexible on this shot. For example the risotto was taken on a lens with an equivalent focal length of 96mm, which gives it a nice, tight view, whereas the 25° was taken on a 58mm equivalent focal length, where some perspective distortion makes the picture look like it’s bulging outwards a little. This perspective effect, however, works well in this photo.
This is probably the most flexible angle. Unless your food is “closed” when looking at it from above, like a sandwich, or a burger with the bun on, nearly everything can work with a top down angle.
For me, it’s one of the best “storytelling” angles (although you can of course tell your food story at any angle). It’s perfect for dishes where ALL the detail is on top (like this smoothie bowl) or when you want to show a full table scene.
A wider angle lens with a more narrow aperture (f/4 upwards) is best for creating these shots.
So now we’ve talked about which angles work great in food photography, let’s take a moment to talk about which angles to avoid.
Camera angles to avoid
Keep your horizons straight. Those diagonal shots and Dutch angles might work well in selfies, but if your food looks like it’s about to slide off the photo, your viewer will probably want to tilt their head to look at the photo properly… don’t make them do that!
The tooooooo close up
Ok, so this isn’t really a camera angle, but I think it fits in here quite nicely.
There’s nothing wrong with a close up of your food, or even a nice macro shot of some berries, but if you’re so close to your subject that the viewer will have to guess what it is, pull back a little bit 😉
The odd-looking focal length
Again, not strictly an angle in itself, more about how to use the right angles for the lens you’re using. For more information on the best camera lenses for certain food photography camera angles, check out our lenses post series!
- The camera angles you use will have just as much impact on your photo as the rest of your food styling.
- The 3 main angles that work well in food photography are straight on, 25° – 75° and top down.
- Tall subjects with detail on the sides work better straight on to 45°, flatter subjects with more detail on top work better top down to 45°
- Download your free photo composition kit to start putting this all in action right now!
What are your favourite camera angles to shoot with? Post your favourite picture in the comments and let me know what you love about it!