Food Photography Tips for Beginners

Food Photography Tip

[Update!!: I’ve published a new post Manual Mode for Beginners that is something you should definitely check out. Shooting in manual mode will drastically improve your food photography!! Find the post HERE.]

It’s been just over a year now since I posted my first recipe on B.Britnell. I’ve learned SO so much in that time and sometimes can’t believe how far my photography has come. That being said, I’m still learning a lot and am always looking for ways to improve and learn more.

I want to offer some tips that I have learned along the way that have vastly improved my food photography. Additionally, I re-photographed my Kale and Quinoa Patty recipe which was the first recipe that I ever posted and the pictures were very….beginner.

Tips to Improve Your Food Photography:

1) Shoot with proper lighting: I know this probably isn’t anything new to you but it’s at the top of the list because lighting can totally make or break a picture. A HUGE part of this is shooting your pictures during the day in natural light. This is hard for many bloggers because, like me, you probably have a day job. So, your only options for photographing recipes during the day is on the weekends. As someone who has a recipe specific blog, this is difficult but it’s also something that I’ve made a priority.

When you’re shooting a recipe, open up as many windows (and doors if possible) around the area that you are taking the pictures. I really like to take pictures of the whole process when photographing a recipe. So, I make sure that I’m letting as much light into my kitchen as possible.

When photographing the final product, ie the image that people will want to share with others on facebook and pinterest etc, set everything up in front of a large window. I have a huge double window in my home office. I set everything up in front of that window and take a lot of my pictures in my office.

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. I wrote a post about all of my gear HERE.

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The 2 pictures above were, believe it or not, taken with the same DSLR camera. The main difference in the 2 pictures is that I learned how to shoot in proper lighting AND I learned how to adjust the manual settings on my camera.

2) Be Organized: photographing recipes used to be a hugely stressful thing for me when I first started. Now I’ve learned to have a plan! Aside from making sure that I know how the recipe will work and making sure that I have all the ingredients, I also map out a plan for how I envision the pictures will look. I always first decide what colors and style I want for the pictures. If it’s a summer recipe then I will likely set up a white backdrop/ table setting with pastel napkins. Right now, with it being fall, I’ve been using a lot more darker colors in my pictures. I go ahead and decide what dishes I might use and what silverware. If I’m going to have any kind of props (drinking glasses, silverware, extra scraps of food around the dish) then I go ahead and have that ready.

Essentially, I try and get the whole scene set up before I even start cooking and even snap a few pictures to make sure it all looks right. Otherwise, I’ll be overly stressed out trying to cook and take pictures and set up the perfect shot all at the same time.

3) Tell a story: Maybe this is just me but I LOVE recipe posts that kind of tell a story with the pictures. Even just one picture can tell a whole story and I love that.

Table 2

If it’s a breakfast recipe (my favorite kind of recipe!) then I’ll almost always have a cup of coffee or tea in my shots. I want it to look like my recipes are recipes that the average person would cook on a leisurely Saturday morning while they’re chatting with family and sipping on coffee.

Another way to tell a story is by dishes and utensils. I often leave empty/ dirty dishes in a picture because I think it helps tell the story and it adds a charming touch of imperfection to the shot.

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4) Garnish!: You will not believe the difference a little garnish makes. This is similar to the last tip; garnishing your food really helps tell a good story. This doesn’t even have to be green herbs. Take this pie for example. I took this picture and realized it needed a little something. I grabbed a graham cracker and with no real rhyme or reason, I crumbled it on top of both the pie and the surrounding area. I love what a difference that made in the picture.

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It helps a food picture a lot, I think, to place the ingredients around the final product. For example, if you use a recipe with cinnamon. You obviously can’t see the cinnamon in the food but by placing some cinnamon sticks in the picture, or dusting the food with a bit of ground cinnamon, the picture tells a different story.

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Dana from Minimalist Baker does this SO well. (In fact, I find all of her food photography ridiculously inspiring.) She has a Food Photography E-book that I bought when I first started and I definitely learned a lot from it. That e-book has since been replaced by their Food Photography School which I haven’t actually checked out yet but I REALLY want to.

5) Be Inspired: I often look online for inspiration. I’m not saying to copy what other people do but, for example, if I’m going to photograph a popcorn recipe, I’ll often first look at how other people have photographed popcorn recipes. Again, I’m not copying these but you might find some great inspiration for how to style it.

As a new photographer, I feel as if I’m still trying to settle into my own style. Are there certain photographers who you find really inspiring? (no really, I want to know!)

6) Invest in some backdrops: I think food photography is so much simpler with a couple good backdrops. This doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy a chic new rustic kitchen table (although, I REALLY still want to do that). A good chunk of my food photographs are taken on foam boards and scrapbook paper (all of which is SUPER cheap). Here are some pictures that I’m proud of which I took on either $2 foam boards, white printer paper, or 30¢ pieces of scrapbook paper.

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Cutting boards or pastry boards also offer a great background for pictures. Something about a marble pastry board always looks good in my opinion.

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Another backdrop that I really love is a good rustic looking table. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy a new table! I built a small table prop for ~$20 that’s 3 foot x 3 foot and double sided so that I have a white table option and a dark wood table option. I also love this prop because it’s easy to move, store, and I can put it anywhere in the house that I want. The lighting is better in different parts of my house at different times during the day so being able to move this “table” around is very convenient.

Here are a few pictures that I am proud of taken on my faux-table top:

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Something else that I have been meaning to do, but haven’t yet, is paint some large poster boards various colors so that I have even more backdrops to choose from. Again, this would be super cheap, fun, and provide a bigger space to work with than I’m allowed with the scrapbook paper.

7) Napkins. This kind of goes along with backdrops but I wanted it to be its own point. I LOVE a good napkin in a food photo. I think it can make ALL the difference in a picture.

Take the Pumpkin Spice Nuts recipe that I posted earlier this week. I really struggled with how to photograph these almonds and pecans. I actually tried 3 different setups before deciding on a super simple setup on my counter-top. I used a little dish that I got from Goodwill for $.99 and a simple napkin that I got on sale at World Market for $2. (Speaking of which, World Market is a GREAT place to get dishes and props for food photography. I’d say that at least 75% of the dishes and props you see in my pictures are from either Worlds Market or Goodwill.)

I often use napkins when I need a simple pop of color in a photo.

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8) If you’re using a DSLR, LEARN MANUAL!! This is another tip that I’m sure you’ve heard 100 times. That’s because shooting in manual mode really is  vastly superior to shooting in auto. The trick to manual mode is simply practice. I would say it took me about 4 months of constantly shooting in manual mode before I really got comfortable with it. And even now, I’m still figuring some things out ~14 months later. However, it’s SO worth it and you’ll love all of the things that you are able to do once you learn manual mode better.

There are a lot of great resources out there to help with manual mode. I recommend THIS ONE.

9) Invest in a good lens! If you’re using the kit lens that came with your camera then you need to buy a new lens ASAP. What almost everyone will tell you  is that the nifty fifty 50mm lens is a wonderful place to start. This is the lens that I took a TON of my food photography pictures on. I borrowed a 50mm 1.8 lens from a friend and ended up using it for a very long time before finally buying my own (except I splurged and got the 50mm 1.4). This lens is awesome and not only good for food photography but also great for everyday pictures and portraits.

If you’re in the market for a new lens, read THIS POST that I wrote for advice on camera gear.

10) Show mid-meal shots: This is probably part of “tell a story” but whatever. I love mid-meal pictures where the food is half eaten or at least has a bite or 2 taken out of it. Not only are these fun but it also gives the viewer a different perspective/ view of the food that they (hopefully) are now dying to make.

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Even better, in my opinion, is a photo of someone actually eating the food. However, even on my blog, those rarely happen :) I got brave HERE and HERE though.

11) Edit. This is really just a bonus to make your pictures look even better. I’m a big advocate for doing everything you can PRE-processing so that very little editing is actually needed. However, I use the Greater Than Gatsby Actions for pretty much all of my editing and I LOVE them. I really couldn’t recommend them enough.

I wrote a full post on my editing process with these actions that you can read HERE.


 

Well, there you have it. I hope these tips were helpful!! If you have any questions or if you have any other tips for food photography, please leave them in the comments!!

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62 comments on “Food Photography Tips for Beginners”

  1. your photos are always gorgeous! i’m intimidated to try and ramp up my photography skills, but i just clicked the link to the manual settings article…

  2. Loving this post! I haven’t done a lot of experimenting with food photography because styling scares me so much (and I just can’t justify investing in a lot of kitchen stuff – I can’t even justify buying a pie pan and ingredients for pie right now…). I’m really curious to read the rest of your photography posts now!

  3. YES TO THIS! I have a big (kind of my first) recipe/halloween post I have to shoot this weekend and I’m so new at shooting food! Thanks so much for sharing these tips, I ENVY your amazing food shots! I’m thinking of getting some lighting gear soon <3

  4. I’m bookmarking this, you always have beautiful photos!

    Lauren,
    http://www.atouchofsoutherngrace.com/

  5. I need to take a lesson on this. So beautiful, and very professional.

  6. I don’t have a DSLR but I have a fancy point ‘n shoot that kinda looks like one. I’ve taken so many photography classes in my life time but I still haven’t perfected manual … at all.

    Love looking at food photos, and I never really thought about making a photo “messier” with garnish, like that slice of pie. I wouldn’t have thought about it at all! But it looks so much nicer than the cleaner pic, right?

  7. These are all such great tips!! :) I really want to up my game with food photography. I think styling for me is the hardest part. It takes me an hour to style something.. and even afterwards I still don’t like it. It’s a different set of skills. I love photos that tell stories.. where it’s a little messy. It takes a really great food stylist to make it look effortless and natural. :) Love these photos btw.

    • YES!! Styling really is difficult. Sometimes I figure it out easily and other times I literally take ~300 pictures for one recipe just so that I can try out a ton of different stylings. I’ve found that looking at a lot of other food blogs has helped me with this as I can see how other people style things and what works for different kinds of food

  8. Your food photography is flawless! I only wish my pictures looked this appetizing and amazing. Thanks for the tips!

  9. Beautiful photos and great tips. I’m still learning manual mode on my camera and my kitchen has terrible lighting, so I’m pinning this for reference! Thanks! :)

  10. Great photos! The food looks incredibly tasty too! ;)

  11. These are some great tips, I gave my work cut out I so need to improve my food photography and like you said I usually take my pictures at night have work so lighting is a big problem and not yet ready to invest in lighting equipment

  12. These are great tips, I’m really really trying to improve my food photographs my biggest problem is we have so little light coming into our apartment :-)

    • ah lighting is probably the hardest thing to master!! I still feel like I’m figuring it out. Even if it means photographing food in your bedroom or whatever, I’d just find the room with the most light in it

  13. These are all amazing tips. I’ll definitely be trying some of them out when I go home this week! Have you read top with Cinnamon blog? She does amazing food photography and has just launched a cook book… she’s 18! Pretty inspirational woman!

    Katie <3

  14. You’ve worked really hard this year and it’s paid off! It really is like telling a story and I’d never thought of it that way before.

  15. Great tips and fabulous photography to give inspiration too!

  16. This is great info! Thank you so much for sharing! I just read your equipment post, but I would LOVE to hear more about your lighting. Unfortunately, I live in an older house that is really dark, even during the day. (It drives me crazy!) I cannot get enough light to make the foodie pics look decent! Keep up the good work dear! :)

  17. Great advice! I’ll be applying these to taking food photos at restaurants too!!

  18. These are great tips. I don’t photograph food but great tips for anything.

    • Is there a way to contact a the Top Score person or the folks who have the top ten scores for a parauclitr level? The reason for the question is that if I wanted to send a note to ask them for their strategy for obtaining their score or to post their strat on your site.

  19. These are absolutely amazing tips. I’ve wanted to do a few recipes on my blog, but end up getting frustrating with the lighting, with the mess I’m making, and give it up. I can’t wait to try shooting some Christmas ones in the coming months! And I’ll definitely be bookmarking these tips.

    -Katherine
    http://thegreenbows.blogspot.ca

  20. Great tips! I especially love your tell a story tip, I love photos that take me on a journey.

  21. Amazing food photography and tips. Thanks for writing this up!

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  25. Great tips and beautiful work! Very helpful! Thank you so much!!

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  27. Brita, this is all so amazingly helpful. I absolutely adore Minimalist Baker’s photography as well and am really interested in their food photography class too (although right now I’m just working on getting the blog set up and sticking with getting all the photography videos on FBP). I especially love your pics using scrapbook paper! I’m going to have to experiment with that soon because that is such a great idea!

  28. In a sentence I just love food photography and I am totally trying my best to be good on it as well. My main purpose always remain to make the food shot looks real and delicious! Thank you for mentioning some important tips here on this.

  29. I need to get in the habit of using manual mode more myself. I got a 50mm lens a few months ago and LOVE it. I usually just stick to AP but it’s probably time to bite the bullet and start playing with manual. great post!

  30. Its been a while since i bought my dslr and its just sitting inside my cabinet i love photography and i always love to learn but i dont have any knowledge on how to use “manual” and im tired of experimenting but now that i read your blog my mind change instantly like..wow i can be as amazing as you.. to be honest you inspired me a lot..thank you pinterest and most of all thanks to this blog ms.b.britnell..It’ll help me on my food photography..

  31. Hi! I might be getting to the party late, but thanks so much for your post! I am a travel blogger who does recipes inspired by travel so my kitchen pictures need some serious sprucing up! I love how you take household items *and budget friendly* into backdrops. I know I have a creative mind, but sometimes it’s hard to put that to work in terrible lighting. Thanks for the great post and check out my site if you want! xo

  32. Glad to know that. Nice post. Very useful for me. Thanks a lot……need to know more about that.

  33. I read This post. Very nice post. Very useful for me. Thank you a lot. Please keep posting.

  34. This is a very useful post. We need to read this type of post. Because, we need to learn. Thank you for this post.

  35. Thanks you so much for your helpful article.

  36. This article had been very helpful. thanks to you!! <3

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  38. GREAT post!! I’m new to photography in general and LOVE taking pictures of food so this was incredibly helpful!! Thank you for the inspiration! I can’t wait for the weekend to try some of these tips out!

  39. Brita, I am not a professional photographer but would like to do it in my leisure times
    this you introduce here is all so incredibly supportive. Particularly adore your pics utilizing scrapbook paper! Much obliged to you for your experience you shared here !!

  40. the article really amazing , I love photography and want to be an professional photographer so that it will be very helpful post for me .thanks a lot for sharing ,Please keep up regularly….

  41. Your sustenance photography is immaculate! I just wish my photos looked this mouth-watering and astonishing. A debt of gratitude is in order for the tips!

  42. Special food item. Actually i wondered to see the cake & i like it.

  43. For food photography this is really nice suggestion and tips. This kind of photography needed for newbie restaurant, for promotion here need to take photos of foods. But food need to be look so delicious otherwise consumer wont coming for it. By this way human psychology & eye satisfaction are kind of a big fact. So these are really nice tips about food photography, need more post like this so that i can continue with it.

  44. I think I’m a little slow on the uptake for this article but I really found it super helpful! I’m starting out with my food blog and know pretty much nothing about food photography. This should be a fun journey! Check it out sometime if you like!