{photography} Easy Tips For Better Food Photography!

Food photography is one of the hardest things to master- I constantly feel like I doing an “I’m not worthy” chant when I look at fabulous food blogs- but there are a few easy tips I have found lately that I can’t wait to share with you! For this post I used my DSLR camera (I shoot with a Canon t2i, and am using a 50mm lens at 2.0 aperture on a/v mode for this shoot).

If you don’t have a DSLR, you can still get great macro effects with your point-and-shoot camera- but you need to turn on it’s macro mode. On a canon powershot, you will see a small picture of a tulip on one of the settings. This will switch to macro.

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First, start off with lighting. You want as much natural light as possible coming in through your windows- which can be tricky in kitchens. Time the shot if you need to so that you can get the most sun shining in! For my west facing kitchen, this just so happens to correspond with dinnertime.

Next, you will want to set up a story for your shots. If you are familiar with your recipe, you will have a little more flexibility in taking pictures. If you are unsure of a recipe, you’ll likely forget to take pictures while assembling your dish.
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When taking the “ingredients/mixture” picture, be careful of your mixing bowl. I actually have a beautiful set of bright red mixing bowls that I primarily use for baking- but they photograph TERRIBLY. They make everything have a weird red hue, and it looks off. Use a stainless steel bowl if you have one. If you don’t, go buy one. You can get one for under $5 at IKEA. Get in close, and at an angle that isn’t directly above, if possible.
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Set up some interesting shots by using your ingredients as props. These sprinkles are so fun, and showing off how you store them (like in this cute mini-mason) adds a whole other story to your post, without adding extra clutter. Keep it simple and relevant. This also helps convey size- the cookies are roughly the same diameter as the mason.

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Also, make sure your picture doesn’t have clutter in it! This picture is totally distracting, and I don’t want to pretend my kitchen is ever clean enough for a shot that isn’t pulled in tight.

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Now to one of my biggest pet peeves, and my nemesis- uneven lighting. Whether you are taking a picture of a person, a craft, or food- you need to watch your lighting. See how this cookie is unevenly lit and the shadows look really harsh? It’s totally distracting and can lead to fake looking photos. Bring your subject into full light, or preferably, full shade right next to the light.

By just moving my baking sheet to another counter I got this light:

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To get this bokeh (essentially the blurry background), I simply took this picture as close as my lens tolerated at a 2.0 aperture. Smaller numbers actually mean a larger lens opening which brings more light into your lens, and also creates a shallow depth of field (distance you can see in the background).

For a point and shoot camera, adjust your angles and get in really close. It won’t blur the background this much, but you will still get some good blurring.
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This picture is taken straight above the cookie. It is a good picture, but it is pretty darn boring. Straight on angles don’t draw readers in. Sometimes you just can’t get a different angle, and in those cases, go ahead and take something straight on- but otherwise, I’d suggest moving a bit closer, and off to the side a bit, like this:
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Note- I also added more cookies to make the shot more dynamic. One, off to the side was better than just the straight on- but when stacked, the cookies looked so much more inviting and whimsical! Obviously if you are making a roast, you won’t stack it- but you could add a sprig of rosemary, or a fork, to give it height and more angles to work with.
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If you can get a model to eat your food, take a picture! I think it adds a fun, personal touch to your photographs and pulls readers into your blog. Unfortunately, I can’t usually get little man to stand still for more than one second, especially when feeding him sugar!

Here’s one last shot to show why angles are so important- with a slightly different food (my dinner while I was taking shots):

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The best tip I can give you is to invest in good editing software. I use Adobe Lightroom, and I am a HUGE fan of Lightroom. It is easy to learn, offers great organization for your photos, and makes your photos look professional. It is a bit pricey, but it is worth every penny. Please “like” Sweet C’s on Facebook and be sure to follow my updates- I’ll let you know anytime it is on sale! (It was recently 1/2 off).

If you are here from a link party, please take a look around and enter one of my fabulous giveaways!


Adobe Lightroom 3

Comments

  1. says

    I struggle with food pictures — not good when you love doing recipe blogging! I had a DUH! moment reading this. Now I’m going to try my 50mm lens — DUH! — instead of my workhorse “standard” lens. Thanks! (and PINNING!!)

  2. says

    Great tips. Every time I’m making one of my favorite meals I think, “Sheesh … I should have been photographing it for my blog.” Then I forget again next time. Ah, well. Recipe posts never seem to get comments on my blog, so maybe my readers are telling me they’re not interested!

    Anyway, my favorite tip of yours was about shooting the food from an angle and using props. Using props, or stacking the cookies for effect, is styling, and I’m not so good at that. But I need to keep trying!

  3. says

    Thank you for help! Sometimes I get great photos and lucky! Sometimes I noticed that if I take pictures outside at night or during the day, I get a clearer more professional shot. I have very poor lightning in my kitchen even during the day! Any suggestions for poor lit rooms?

    Thank You!
    Annamaria

    • says

      A few ideas:

      Are you using a DSLR? If so, you could upgrade your lens to one with a lower f-stop (1.4 or 1.2)– though this is the most expensive route;

      If not a DSLR or you want to spend under $100…

      you could invest in some in-home lighting (you can get a few stand lights for a great price on amazon)

      you can use reflectors (these are the cheapest way- a set runs under $15, or you could make your own at home. I have a tutorial here on how to make them with tinoil and cardboard…)

      or you could buy a lightbox. They are under $50 and are brilliant- but they are really only for smaller items.

      Hope that helps!

  4. says

    Great post as usual :) Pics are the hardest part for me. I take a bunch, try to find the best ones, and play with them from there, but it doesn’t always work out well. That’s a pretty good price for a photoshop. I’ve been checking some out and they are way out of my price range. I’ll definitely have to watch for their next 1/2 off sale. Thanks for all the great tips and keep them coming!

  5. says

    Thanks! This was helpful to read through. I am having a hard time with my food photos. Is lightroom a good all around product? My laptop just died last week and took my photo editing software with it so I am going to be in the market for something new soon.

  6. Lorrie says

    I just got my Canon and 50mm lens for Christmas and I am trying to learn as much as possible before I start a new blog. Thank you.

    • Broncos18 says

      Thanks so much and thanks for sharing! I am too- photography was tricky while learning it but I am always looking for ways to improve- and I love sharing new tips!

  7. says

    This is really helpful–thank you! I have been working on my food photography and really fight with the lighting in my kitchen and dining room. If only I cooked dinner at 11 in the morning when the natural light is perfect…

    • Broncos18 says

      Wouldn’t it be great if lighting was always perfect? I am showing a relatively inexpensive light kit I got for Christmas tomorrow… you might want to look into one if your blog is making money! I think it is really going to help me a lot- food photography and having a toddler don’t always equal perfect timing for light!

  8. says

    Courtney,

    Found your blog via a pin / Pinterest …. I’m now your newest follower so I can continue to explore your blog! I received a NIKON D5100 for Christmas and have no idea of how to use it (yet) but I realize photo success is both technical and creative and know I’ll find both types of info here. Love your comment about “sticking a fork in a pot roast” to create height / dimension / more interesting photo.

    Happy New Year’s,
    Robin @ happilyhomeafter.blogspot.com

    • says

      Thanks Robin!!

      Go out and buy Scott Kelby’s “digital photography” series, books 1&2. He will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know to get started and really advance your pics! He shows how to use both Nikons and Canons, utilize lighting, and use your camera! I have no affiliation with him but his book is THE BEST to get you going!

      I post photo tips on mondays… Please let me know if there is something you’d like mebto cover!

  9. says

    Courtney,
    Found your blog via a pin / Pinterest and I really enjoyed this post; bookmarking your site so I can continue to explore :) I received a NIKON D5100 for Christmas and have no idea of how to use it yet so this post is both inspirational and timely. Your creative suggestion re: creating height / dimension in photos, and your example about “sticking a fork in the pot roast” has my creative wheels rolling … thanks!

    Have a safe and happy New Year.
    Robin @ happilyhomeafter.blogspot.com

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