Food photography tips

Food photography – Tips for beginners

I often get asked photography questions: what camera I use, how to take good photos without a professional camera, etc. Everything  in this post comes after a few years of taking photos and making lots of mistakes, but learning from most all of them (Sometimes you repeat the same mistake).

  • Lighting – For a good photography you will need good lighting. Start with natural light at your window sill; turn off all artificial light and don’t use your flash. Just see how beautifully the sunlight comes in. If the light is too strong, add a diffuser, such as a white curtain, to soften the light. If taking pictures during the day doesn’t work for your schedule (as it often doesn’t with mine) then I’d suggest investing in some lighting gear. Do not use your built-in flash. Ever!  Don’t feel confined to taking photos in your kitchen. Move around to see where the light is better. setup1
  • White balance – One of the biggest things that can make a food picture look unappetizing is a picture that is not white balanced.   When you’re editing your photos, if your plate of food looks very blue, yellow, pink or green, use your software’s white balance tools to fix it! Colors come alive when the white balance is set properly. GAB_8849_res_wb
  • Be Organized – Decide what colors and style you want for the pictures. Map out a plan for how you envision the pictures will look. Decide what dishes you might use and what silverware, any kind of props (drinking glasses, silverware, and extra scraps of food around the dish) then go ahead and have that ready.
  • Sharp photos – Your photos should always be sharp.  If they are blurry is because there isn’t enough light getting to the sensor of your camera. A few potential solutions: move to an area with more light, hold your camera steadier, increase your ISO and/or increase your shutter speed (you may need to open your aperture to make up for the difference).
  • Angles – Zooming in very close on your subject can help show detail and create interest, and most modern point-and-shoots have a decent “macro” mode, right out of the box. Try to create interesting angles, either by getting very close to your subject, in a three-quarter angle, or by shooting from the absolute top-down.  Some plates of food look better from above, or from the side, or at a 45-degree angle. Try to move around the plate and take photos at various angles so you can pick your favorite later.  cover2
  • Tell a story – Even just one photo can tell a whole story and you need to find that story. You are the only one who can tell it. One way to tell a story is by dishes and utensils, backgrounds or even props.
  • Be Inspired – Look online for inspiration. If you are a beginner, try and replicate a photo you like, so you can learn how to use the light and the camera settings. If you like the composition from a photo, use it with your own dish. After you have your style you can start making your own beautiful photos. I’m still trying to settle into my own style. It’s a long process.
  • Backgrounds – Keep it simple: it’s still the food that’s the hero. Try to avoid colors or patterns that clash with your food. You can use a chalkboard, a baking pan, or fancy linens or paper that you can put under your scene. Cutting boards or pastry boards also offer a great background for photos. Something about a marble pastry board always looks good in my opinion. For a rustic look you can build your own small wooden table. It’s easy to move, store and put it anywhere in the house. GAB_6831_res
  • Props – Before you go prop shopping, think about what you want your style to be so you don’t waste your money on props that aren’t “you. You don’t need a closet full of props for interesting food photos. You probably already have items at home that will look great in photos. Get creative! Vintage handkerchiefs can make fun napkins and well-worn baking sheets can make an interesting background. I often use napkins when I need a simple pop of color in a photo. Lining plates with parchment or baking paper helps to add visual interest and soften the lines of your plates. Getting a bit messy really helps to add movement and life to your photographs, rather than having everything confined to plates and bowls. You can always clean your napkins and backdrops. While highly decorative China and napery are beautiful on their own, they can detract from the visual impact of the food. Plain plates, especially classic white allow the food to be the star. GAB_5863_res
  • Use reflectors and diffusers – I mostly use cheap white foam boards to bounce light back onto the plate and reduce shadows. You can also bring out more shadows by using a black foam board. Sometimes I hang sheer white fabric over the window to soften the lighting source, too. Some photographers prefer to work with tripods, but I’d rather shoot with my camera in my hands. When light is running low, though, my Manfrotto tripod is sure handy. I always want to have the lowest ISO possible.

 

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362 thoughts on “Food photography – Tips for beginners”

  1. thanks for sharing. It is very useful as i am a beginner in food photography. Sometimes, i found it was difficult to make a best shot. Hopefully your article would help me to improve my next photos.

  2. Thank you so much for liking my still life photo, Coffee beans and green apple! There are great tips here, and I look forward to seeing more of your work!

  3. All i can say is wow!!! Such an informative, well written article that really nails all the important aspects of food photography. A lot of these tips can also easily be transferred to any other ‘still life’ photography also. As a lover of hand-held, natural light photography you have me completely sold on everything else you suggest. And the strength of your images is truly that you have never lost sight of food as the ‘hero’. Simplicity, punchy colours and story-telling. I love your successful combination of the three.

  4. These tips are amazing and so helpful, Can’t wait to have a professional camera so i can take pretty photos 😁 thanks

  5. The wife and I noticed your blog and appreciate the creative incite you provide. We would like to encourage you to keep writing and never abandon this blog. If you ever decide you’d like a mobile app version of your blog, we would love to help. I appreciate the hard work you have put into this blog and wish you all future success in business and in life.
    Thank you for your time, it is the most precious thing we all possess.
    -Jacque’

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