Couleur secondaire et complémentaire-how to take good photos of your bento and food-


Today I try to talk about taking good photos of your bento and food. Well, this is rather a big topic to talk about, specially because I am not a professional photographer or graphic designer. I can only talk about it from my experiences from these last 4 years I have been taking photos for my other blog (it is only in Japanese but you are welcome to go and see my photos at, and I hope you allow me to do so. I update my blog almost everyday and I usually take about 20-30 photos for each day’s blog. In summer it is beautiful in Oslo. It is so bright and light and everywhere is so scenic. But in winter the sun finally comes up at around 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and it is already dark after 15:00. This is my problem in winter time as I feel the light is very essential and an important factor to take good photos. I am not so fond of using flash light… specially when taking photos of bento and food because I think flash light flatens the color. See these photos:

I took this photo of a rose without flash light.

And the same rose with flash light.

Florintines from today.

Can you see the difference?

It of course depends on what kind of camera you are using, but it is very easy to distinguish photos for which flash light was used from the ones that did not use flash light.
(My camera is SLR Nikon D60 with fixed focal length lense 35mm F1.8G)

You may have a taste of liking flash lighted photos but my recommendation is not to use flash light for taking bento and food photos. Take photos of your bento and food in the morning or afternoon where you have enough sunlight. If you can not do it, invest some money on a good ceiling light and a camera. We reformed my kitchen 3 years ago and I installed good spotlights on the ceiling. These work fine and very helpful when it is dark outside but I still think it can not beat photos taken with adequate sun light.

Under the adequate light, we need to place our food correctly on a table or on a counter. There are some samples I want to show you. See these two photos.

You see the red bento box of mine on these two photos. You can see my bad habit to place the bento box very close to the end of the kitchen counter. I do that as it gets most light from the kitchen window. Therefore the both photos show the edge of the counter and it is slightly bothering.

However, the placement of the two boxes on the second photo is centered correctly in the frame. I think it is best and easiest to put your bento in the middle of large table or counter and you have a smooth flat background in one color. That way the focus goes to your food and the photo looks clean.

Color! Color! Color! And we talk about color theme!

How can we make our bento and food look more tasty? Usually the appeal to our eyes is determined by color, light and tempting presentation. The taste may differ from person to person, but colorful bento is both very appealing and inviting. In Japan we have more brown colored food than any other color. Because we use soy sauce a lot it tends to be of brown color. And deep fried food is also in brown color. Other colors like red, green, yellow and white can help brighten up your bento box.

Red… tomato, red pepper, salmon, raddish, Ikura(salmon egg), ketchup, carrots
Green… Leaf vegetables and herbs, green pepper, cucumber, broccoli, asparagus
Yellow… Egg, Young corn, Yellow pepper, Cheese, Mayonnaise, lemon
White… Rice, White asparagus, Egg white

And many more!

This is my bento photo I sent to Bento&Co’s contest. If I could take another photo of this bento once again, I will do some changes. I did have a color theme, orange and green, but by mistake I had a red chopstick box and a pink sauce bottle. I should have used orange chopstick box and sauce bottle instead. It is useful to have a color theme and it will make it easy for you to decide what you want to put in the bento box. If you are going to participate in the contest next time, think about the color theme!

The color theme for Kitty Bento was pink. See the background colors? It is a pop bento and so I used many pop colors. I should have placed the bento box straight so that I could have avoided showing the edges of the mat… But if you have a karaben, I recommend to use a pop color as background, it will make your karaben more kawaii!!

About Complementary Colors

Do you know what complementary colors are? In french it is called “Couleur secondaire et complémentaire”. You can read more about it in french here!

There is a rule of complementary colors that they complement each other and make each other
look brighter when the two complementary colors are placed next to each other.
Typical complementary colors are red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange. We may
use this rule in our bento box, it will certainly help us decorate and pack our bento.

Look at this photo. See the color of my silicon cups and the food inside?

Use complementary and contrast colors to make food brighter and focus on the food you like to present most!

So far I am fond of this photo best of all my bento photos.
No edges, focus on the different food in my bento container.
The theme was “Round”. See the pattern on my furoshiki, it is called
karakusa pattern and compare with the food in my bento box. Tomato is round,
leek is round, shiitake mushroom is round, ham is round. That day I tried
to create something to match with the pattern on the furoshiki cloth. Then it will
add the wholeness on your photo and is very appealing!

Good luck everyone!



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