Photographing Food: 5 Tips to Rock Your Food Photos

December 26, 2012

Hello my fellow foodies! How was your holiday season? Did you make some scrumptious dishes for the family? Or most importantly, EAT some scrumptious dishes with the family? I bet you did! I’ve seen your photos on Facebook and Twitter! 🙂

I know a lot of you out there are looking to graduate from iPhone photos to something with a little more pizazz. Especially for you food lovers that want to post recipes on your blogs. However, not everyone has the money to hire a food stylist  or purchase an expensive pro-quality camera.

Well I’m here to give you 5 easy tips to help you turn your food photos from just “good” to “super-awesome-delicious-fabulosity”. <— I’m pretty sure that’s a word.

So let’s get started:

#1. Lighting:

While some of you might already know this, it stands to be repeated: use as much natural light as possible. Some of the best food photos you’ve seen in magazines (including cover shots) are taken right next to a window and not with the elaborate studio set-ups you think they are. Sunlight is the most beautiful light there is, and it should always be your first choice when choosing how to take your photo.

While this probably doesn’t sound convenient because most of us cook dinner at night, you really MUST remake the dish or cook it during the day because nighttime shots really aren’t an option in regards to optimal photography. Every food blogger out there will tell you, hands down, to make the dish during daylight hours to photograph it and simply reheat it for dinner if you’re wanting to save it for later.

#2. Surfaces:tamales

One of the coolest things about photographing food (other than the pleasure of getting to eat it) is to play around with textures and surfaces. A plate alone will sometimes do, but having multiple fabrics or textured place-mats can really give a dish that extra kick for the story of the meal (ie. an organic, micro-green salad looks beautiful in simple bowl on a distressed wood table top with a burlap napkin). As a matter of fact, a lot of food photography workshops will have you find and paint pieces of wood purchased from Lowe’s or Home Depot and cut large pieces of fabric in order to help you establish an arsenal of “food props”. This will help you have a variety of colors and textures without spending a ton of money on multiple table clothes (or tables) that you’ll never use.

#3. Color:

Be mindful of your colors. The focal point of the photo should be the food and not the bright red plate. You want to use complimentary colors if you’re using props. Otherwise the main event is your amazing dish that you slaved away at cooking. In my personal opinion, food looks best on white or neutral dishes. The table-cloth or surface you place it on should be a supplement to the food. Not a distraction. This is also why white plates are used so frequently in fine restaurants. It’s the perfect canvas to display the work of art known as your dinner.

#4. The camera:

While I really can’t give you solid suggestions on cameras because everyone’s budget would be different, you want to invest in a camera that would allow you to swap lenses. This could be Canon, Nikon or even a Sony. While a camera alone does not make or break a photo, it would certainly allow you play with the depth of field (which an iPhone doesn’t do) and give you the option to use different lenses for different styles. It will also give a clearer, less grainy photo.

#5. Perfect is not always perfect:

Sometimes the perfect food set-up isn’t always the most well coiffed. Depending on your dish, if it looks TOO perfect then it sometimes doesn’t entice the viewer.

Let’s use a cake as an example: You have this amazing cake, right? You baked it. It’s beautiful. It’s perfectly shaped. Perfectly frosted. Perfectly decorated. Have you ever heard someone say “It’s so pretty I don’t want to mess it up?” Me too! I’ve actually been one of those people.

Sometimes in a shot you need to show the viewer just how delicious something is by messing it up for them. That way they’ll feel comfortable just jumping right in. You want the shot to say EAT ME and not necessarily LOOK AT ME.

For a cake, this means maybe cutting out a slice. It could also mean not photographing the entire cake but taking a shot of a slice while someone is digging their fork into it and frosting is all over the place in its messy, sugary gooeyness.

Not only will the action entice the viewer but it also allows you to showcase the layers within and the moisture of the cake. That is definitely something that could not have been captured by photographing the cake as a whole.

And that’s it! Play around with your food and props until you find the perfect combination of what works for you! Remember that your food tells a story! I look forward to seeing your photos!

Tasty Vino
Welcome to! I'm your hostess for all things wine and everything that pairs with it! Share your appetite with me here as I drink tons of wine, eat food, post photos and vacation around the world! Cheers!

1 Comment

  • Neha
    November 22, 2013 8:04 pm

    Hi Genesis! Loved you on the RW and reading about you on the web brought back a lot of memories of that time in my life… and now to find out you are a photographer….so cool!! I am too! And one of my dreams is to be able to photograph food! Love your work! Congratulations to you on your accomplishments!

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