On The Record: This Food Photographer Tells Us How to Take Better Brunch Pics

how to take better food photos
Image courtesy of Yuya Parker
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* It’s time to upgrade your food photos for social media
* Expert advice from an LA-based food stylist and photographer
* Easy tips and items to improve the quality of your pics

yuya parker

Yuya Parker is a LA-based food stylist and photographer who specializes in shooting artistic portraits of everyday food items. His goal is to capture something beautiful in the mundane, encouraging viewers to see familiar fruits and vegetables in a whole new way.

Parker, who was born in Japan and studied at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, has had his work featured in numerous magazines, websites and galleries, and he’s been a sought-after collaborator for many brands — both in food and hospitality and elsewhere — as well.

While everyone is obsessed with taking pictures of their food these days (#BrunchPorn anyone?), it’s important to make sure your shots stand out — and are hashtag-worthy.

Even if we can’t all shoot artistic portraits of our food like Parker, we can still learn a few things or two. Here’s what Parker had to say about his work, and the products he suggests for taking better food pics.

How would you describe the work you do?
I describe my work as quirky, fresh, colorful, and cheerful. I think my photography has an aesthetic between artificial and natural, and I enjoy creating this in-between look. Capturing an element of joy is also a core element of my photography.

yuya parker

How did you get into photography?
I always liked taking photographs since I was a little kid, but I never thought I would become a photographer. When I moved to Los Angeles from Japan, I would often photograph my surroundings. At one point I started going to different cupcake stores in L.A. and taking photographs of my purchases. The repetitive nature of it led me to focus more on the quality of my work. I began to experiment with different concepts and began to create a style that looked more like painting, through the use of lighting and hand-painted surfaces. At some point, a friend of mine saw my photos and recommended that I study photography at the college she was attending. That is when I knew for sure that I wanted to make painting my career.

Why did you get into photographing food?
I was always fascinated with food. I grew vegetables in a garden while living in Tokyo. I even worked at a organic tea plantation for a while in Japan. I like interacting with food — it’s conversational for me. Each ingredient has unique personality and I appreciate the beauty of it.

yuya parker All images courtesy of artist

What do you think of people taking photos of their food for Instagram?
I think that’s fantastic. I get lots of inspiration on Instagram too. I like how there are so many different ways of capturing food on camera. Since I’m not a great cook, it’s satisfying to see how the beautiful dishes people make. I never felt like the social media photography was at odds with what I was trying to do with my art. Being able to share ideas and vision is exciting. We all have different styles, perspectives, and stories.

Why do you think people are so obsessed with documenting their food?
I think it’s because it’s simply a fun moment — and one that we all like. For me it’s also like a journal.

For amateur photographers, what are some products to get that can help improve their photos?
You don’t need a lot of professional equipment to upgrade your food photos. Here’s what I would suggest:

1. A Sturdy Tripod

When you want to take a nice photo of food you made at home, using a tripod is a good idea. Not only does it prevent your camera from shaking, it also allows you to make fine adjustments since the framing doesn’t change between shots. This tripod is super portable and works with cameras and phones, allowing you to take it with you for great shots when dining out, too. It comes with a Bluetooth remote that lets you take the picture without having to stand behind the camera.

best portable tripod Image courtesy of Amazon


2. A Solid Cell Phone Grip

If you’re in a restaurant and can’t use a tripod, try one of these phone grips to help support your phone. You can concentrate on taking a good photo without worrying about dropping your phone in your food. This one is available in more than 25 colors and patterns. It also comes with a 100% Money-Back Guarantee.

best cell phone grips Image courtesy of Amazon


3. Photography Reflector

If there isn’t enough light on the food, you could use a small collapsible reflector. Good lighting is essential to food photography. One reflector can solve a lot of lighting issues. This one comes with multiple finishes: gold helps to warm up the picture; silver will brighten the picture; white to bounce light into shadows; black to block out unwanted light. The reflectors fold down into a portable pouch, just slightly larger than the palm of your hand. Makes it easy to bring with you to brunch.

best bounce board photography reflectors Image courtesy of Amazon

4. Fun Accessories

Look for unique accessories to make your photo stand out from the rest. Parker’s favorite suggestion: “If you make a drink at home,  try upgrading your ice cube tray,” he says. “Good ice cubes make drinks look much nicer.”

glacio ice cube tray Image courtesy of Amazon

5. A Film Camera

Sometimes the best pics come from going old school. “Try a cheap film camera,” Parker says. “It’s fascinating what this can create. Since you can’t see the results right away, the process can create delightfully unexpected images. I bring a small film camera with me whenever I can.”

fujifilm instant camera quick snap Image courtesy of Amazon



6. Comfy Sneakers

This may seem like an afterthought but if you’re going to be running around all day taking pictures, “You will need comfy sneakers,” Parker says, “seriously.” Just walk around and play with your camera to set up different shots. You’ll want to position your body to get different angles too. “When I’m working on set, I move around all the time,” Parker says. These are the sneakers he likes to wear.

onitsuka tiger sneakers sale Image courtesy of Zappos

See more of Yuya Parker's work and order his prints