Here at the DFB we love a good food photo — and we know you do, too.
We clearly never listened to our moms telling us to stop playing with our food! You eat with your eyes first, so we’ve always strived to give you the best pictures of foods around Disney World. Want to get in on the action? Follow along as we share 6 tips to snapping better food photography in Disney World!
We’ve been taking pictures of our food since WAY before it was cool! Now we’re sharing our hot tips with YOU!
Long before everyone with a smartphone and an Instagram account was posting food pics for the world to admire, weirdos like us were hovering our cameras over our plates, adjusting angles, and getting the shots juuuuust right. We got LOTS of stares from confused guests and some even wondered aloud if we were ever going actually EAT that food. (Spoiler alert — yup, we ate it. It was delicious.)
These days we’re not nearly as much of a spectacle. Everyone and their Aunt Susan is taking food photos of their Disney eats, and so are we! But because we had to develop a completely NEW kind of food photography before it even existed, we had to figure out the rules for ourselves. There were many messy arms covered in drippy ice cream and cupcakes falling on the floor unexpectedly. It’s a hard life, but we gotta do what we gotta do!
Whether the conditions are in your favor for a PERFECT food photo (bright lighting and beautifully plated eats), or not so in your favor (rainy/cloudy day, shadows, or RAPIDLY melting food), we can help! Trust us…we’ve been there! Here are SIX of the most important rules that we’ve learned over the last 15 years while re-inventing the concept of theme park food photography.
Location, Location, Location
It’s not just true in real estate! Food photos are at their best when their location is idyllic and provides some context for the treat, too. Park icons like Cinderella Castle and the Tree of Life are ready-made backdrops, but if the restaurant isn’t near these go-to spots, you’ll need to get creative.
Find some foliage or flowers as a backdrop to pose your food, or include the restaurant’s sign. Wherever your location, though, be sure to avoid having any moving figures (humans, hungry ducks, etc.) in the background as they’ll make getting a clear shot much trickier.
Most phones now have the nifty ability to shift focus, meaning your background can be nice and blurry while your food is nice and crisp (more on that in a bit!). This is a great option to draw focus to your food, especially if you don’t want to have everyone staring at the background instead!
And finally, scope out your background BEFORE you grab your snack. If you don’t, you may find yourself wandering around while your ice cream melts or your plastic cheese gets a funky skin! People want to see a frosty cup of Dole Whip (in our experience) not a sticky bowl of Dole Whip soup. 🙂
Find your light!
This rule is a must-follow because lighting is EV-E-RY-THING when you’re trying to capture the details of your favorite snack. If you’re planning a table service photo session, request a table by the window during the day (otherwise, get ready to do some hefty post-processing later on!). For quick service, select a window seat yourself, which is slightly easier during off meal times! If you’re desperate for some decent lighting, take your food outside.
If you do find yourself in a dark restaurant (we’re looking at you, Le Cellier and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant!), request a table under a brighter light source. If this request can’t be accommodated, play with angles to find the best lighting you possibly can! Again, when in doubt, thank goodness for post-processing. You’d be amazed how a couple of seconds adjusting a photo after the fact can save it!
As for those outside shots, indirect bounce light is your BFF foreva. We don’t mean gray, cloudy, yucky looking days (those work too in a pinch). We mean hunt for a covered area with the sun bouncing around on the walls. Think of the light bouncing around in a corner of a patio like a mini studio for your photos — it kills hard shadows and makes food look fabulous! And if you’re grabbing an outside shot in direct light, keep the sun at your back (but watch for shadows!). Hard shadows cutting across your snack are usually distracting to the eye.
Get a move on!
Central Florida is not the ideal place for food photos of things that MELT. We have BEEN THERE. Seriously, picture chocolate running down our arms, frosting sliding off a cupcake…you name it, it has probably happened to us! Chocolate, buttercream, ice cream — these all make a run for it as soon as you leave the AC!! You’ll have to move quickly to grab a good shot before things start to slide downhill, ESPECIALLY in the heat (which is like…95% of the year at Disney World 😉). (Another reason to scope out your backdrop BEFORE you buy!)
Another tip: have napkins and utensils ready to go if you want a good cross-section shot. But move fast because the integrity of food items degrades the longer you wait for your photos. Every second counts! Oh yea…pack wipes too. It’s sure to still be a hot mess (literally!). Wipes are your other BFF foreva.
Put that big camera away!
Okay, this one isn’t a hard and fast rule under all circumstances, but know that a smartphone is often your best equipment. When time is of the essence, it just makes more sense to snap a shot with your phone rather than trying to juggle a heavy camera while posing the food, especially if YOU are holding the food item! You often don’t have time to fiddle with F-stops and apertures when your Dole Whip is dribbling down your arm!
As we mentioned before, many phones now even simulate depth of field, meaning the stuff behind your object can be out of focus, letting your food really shine.
We still love our big ‘ole DSLR camera though. If you’ve got a plated dish and can find a great place to set it down, pull out that formal camera, and click away! (Just remember to grab a smartphone pic, too — for the ‘gram, of course!) DSLRs are especially good for low light situations where your phone (try as it might) just won’t cut the mustard — just don’t forget a teensy portable tripod!
You’ve got great lighting, your pretzel isn’t going to melt, the conditions are perfect. Except that it’s SO bright you can’t check your screen on your phone clearly to see if you nailed it. Take extras, playing with the focus if you have time, to be sure you get what you need. More is certainly better than less here — you don’t want to find out the one photo you took was blurry after the food is gone!
Rotate, snap. Turn the food, snap. Turn your camera, snap. You get it. Once you retreat from the sun, you can pick and choose the shots you love and trash the rest of them. No harm — just a great food photo! You might be surprised even in dim conditions, and especially if you’re playing with depth of field, that all the photos you thought were perfect are actually blurry once you look at them closely. Take more than you think you need! You’ll thank yourself later. 😉
Be a picky eater!
While Disney World chefs strive for uniformity in decorated treats like cupcakes and candy apples, sometimes there’s one in the case that just looks better than the rest.
Of course, if they’re all a little lopsided, remember: a leaning cupcake at Disney is still better than a perfect cupcake anywhere else! We’ve had our share of not-so-cute foods. You do the best you can with what you have.
BUT, if there’s a prettier snack BB hiding in the back of the case, don’t be shy asking the Cast Member to get the one you want! Cast Members will usually happily oblige, and you’ll have the perfectly-frosted cupcake of your social media dreams!
Who knew taking awesome food photos was so complicated? We couldn’t leave you hanging at six rules, so remember these two optional rules, too. First, if your hands are going to be in the shot, be sure they’re in good shape. Take care of your nails, and think about what color nail polish (if any!) will work for your shots. Accessories like rings, scrunchies, and watches are fun to wear but can distract from a photo.
And finally, if you can rope some friends or family into your food photo fun, have them help you set up the shot. They can hold the food, aim a little extra light if it’s needed, and, of course, help you eat it after you’re done! (What? Who can just snap a photo without taking a bite or ten? Not us!) We hope these tips help you out for your next Disney food photoshoot!
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Which is your favorite food photo tip? Let us know in the comments!