These 10 food photography tips are a MUST if you are a food blogger!
I can’t even believe I’m writing this post– if you look back at some of my very first food pictures, you’d honestly be shocked. I’ve grown A LOT.
I mean… here’s one of my first food photos ever…
Right? There is so much wrong with this I mean wow . . the lighting, the styling… everything.
Anddd here is one of my newer pictures:
SO much better, right?! I mean, still not perfect, I’m still growing. But considering how much I’ve grown, I figured I’d write a post about what I’ve learned so far.
AND, these food photography tips are really great if you are on a budget. The muffin picture I just showed you? Literally used my iphone, laid down a white towel with parchment paper for the surface, and found that bowl at a thrift store for like $2.
I hope you guys find these food photography tips helpful, they have obviously helped me a ton.
10 Food Photography Tips
Just so you know, these tips are really more for beginners, not for advanced food bloggers or those trying to shoot for restaurants or magazines (although isn’t that just the dream?!). These tips are going to be the most helpful for beginners and those trying to create beautiful pictures for their food blogs or social media!
Okay here are the food photography tips:
1) LIGHTING IS CRAZY IMPORTANT
Especially if you are using your smart phone, you neeeeeed good lighting. No amount of editing or expensive lightroom presets is going to make up for bad lighting.
So what kind of lighting should you use? Natural light of course! Diffused light is going to work best, so try your best to shoot your photos either earlier in the morning or just before sunset. It’s also best to try and shoot using northern facing light because it’s softer, while southern facing light is harsher. If you don’t have that option because of the way your house or apartment is facing try and get lots of pictures on overcast days or take you photos early in the morning.
To summarize, make sure you are shooting in natural light (turn off all overhead light), the best times of the day are early in the morning or just before sunset, and if you can, shoot using northern facing light!
2. Take a TON of pictures
I feel like the best way to explain this to you guys is by showing you my process. Here is one of the first pictures I took of the muffins previously pictured:
Nothing at all the like the final product, right? You just have to mess around with it a ton. I took EIGHTY-SEVEN PHOTOS in that photo shoot. They just get better and better as you continue to take them.
Here’s another photo of where the muffin shoot ended up . . .
HUGE improvement, right? And I honestly thought that that first photo was going to be good when I took it. I figured out the picture needed props (like the whisk and the oats) and then I felt like the picture needed more action, so I added the drizzle of icing.
Honestly, even when I’m super determined only to take a couple photos and to really make the first couple count, I never follow though because the pictures just get so much better as you take them. You’re able to see what’s working and what’s not- often what you thought you might really like you end up hating. Just be patient and enjoy the process.
To summarize, be prepared to take a lot of photos when you start taking pictures. Don’t be afraid to totally change up what you’re doing, trying a million different things in a million different ways. Keep in mind that this is a process and your first photo probably isn’t going to be your best one.
3. Props take you to the next level
Props can really change the whole game. So I obviously had a lot of growth in between the first photo I showed at the beginning of this article and the ones I’ve shown you since. Here is one of my in between photos:
So this photo obviously isn’t horrible, but it also doesn’t belong in a magazine.
When you want to take really high quality pictures of food, you need to keep in mind that most of the time the picture will include more than just that food.
One thing I will say is that this might not be necessary for everyone. If you are more of a casual social media food photographer, you may actually want your pictures to look more like the one I have here. It has good lighting and it looks yummy, but it’s not as intimidating as some spectacular food photo that’s super complicated.
But, if you do want to have a more professional look, props are a must.
Here’s an example:
So, clearly the star of the show here is the skillet, but I’m using the other stuff shown here to make it look more inviting. You want your pictures to look like they almost happened by accident.. like you were in middle of sitting down for dinner and someone happened to snap a picture. Or, like you had just finished making the dish and everything you used was still out.
I also like adding a few of the ingredients sprinkled around the dish/ food item to help the viewer really pin down what it is.
First off, this picture really does look like I was just finishing up making these muffins and someone snapped a picture of the process. Even though that is far from the truth and the picture is super staged, there is something inviting about it. It’s as if the viewer gets the inside scoop of the process.
Also, the whisk and oats really help the viewer to pin down just what these muffins are all about. You know that the muffins are made using oats, and the whisk is a common bakers tool that let’s you know these were homemade.
Here are a few of my favorite (CHEAP) props:
- cooling rack
- parchment paper
- measuring cups
- small whisk
- season decorations (like small pumpkins in the fall)
- simple, neutral colored linens
In summary, props can be a helpful tool in taking your photo to the next level. My favorite ways to use prop is to 1) help make the photo look as natural as possible and 2) help the viewer pin down what the food item really is.
4. Don’t Use Instagram as Your Photo Editor
I made this mistake for whileee let me tell ya. I just didn’t understand how some other apps could really be that much better than just using the instagram filters.
I’m not going to go into too much detail here because I’m honestly not an expert, but I will quickly go over what I do know.
The two apps I use are snapseed and lightroom (both the free versions – snapseed may be like $1 now or something but either way costs little or nothing). Earlier in food photography growth I would often google what apps to use, and I was always confused at how people would say they used multiple different apps to edit their photos. I’ve since learned that different apps do different things, and you don’t always need to use more than one.
I will normally first edit my photo in lightroom to adjust the lighting, and then in snapseed to adjust individual areas of the photo.
That all I’m really going to say because I don’t want to mess anything up- here’s my go to editing food photography tips if you want to learn more. My biggest advice would be to PLAY WITH IT. The first time you try editing a picture you are probably going to be super confused and it’s not going to look that great, and that’s OKAY. The more you practice, the better you will get at it.
5. Get Some Inspo
This can really be one of the most useful food photography tips I remember in college when I was doing research and trying to come up with a research question, my professor told me the goal wasn’t to reinvent the wheel, but to try and expound on and improve what’s already been done. A lot of times looking at what other people have already done can really get the juices flowing. This by no means indicates that you aren’t creative or that you should in any way copy other’s work. You should simply look for themes or ideas in the pictures that have already been done.
What I normally do for this (it’s actually kind of a new process), is I head over pinterest and type in whatever I’m going to be shooting followed by the word “photography”.
So here, if I was going to be photographing some muffins, I would type in “muffin” and then “photography”.
Here I can see the general themes or get some ideas that I can use for my picture.
I then can approach taking my photos with some general themes or prop idea in mind.
6. Create Movement with Diagonals
This is one of those food photography tips that might seem a little more advanced, but I really think it can be helpful for anybody. Diagonals create liveliness and movement, and make the photo generally more dynamic. In the photo above, the props and the plate create a diagonal line, as well as the linen.
In this photo, the spoon and the linen create those diagonals.
If you look at anyoneee who is just starting out, and then look at them a year after they’ve been practicing, you will see insane improvements. It’s just crazy almost how that works. You would think if you gave someone all the right the tools and techniques upfront, that they would just have beautiful photos from the beginning. That’s just not how it works. You really get so much better as go.
8. Find a Good Angle for Your Lighting
This kind of goes alongs with the practice and take a million photos food photography tips. Sometimes you will need to try a bunch of different angles when it comes to light before you can find the perfect one.
9. You Need a Good Smart Phone
I know I said you can totally use your smart phone for great food photography. But, what I meant was, you can totally use your really good camera smart phone for great food photography. Now, this obviously depends on your goals, but if you’re wanting your pictures to look at all professional and super high quality, you need a smart phone with a great camera. It doesn’t even need to be the best – I used my Iphone 8 plus, which doesn’t have the best phone camera out there, but it does have a really good one.
10. Use Portrait Mode (Even Thought It Can Be a Total Pain)
Portrait mode really gives your pictures that professional, taken-with-a-real-camera look. I know that it can be hard to get it to focus, but just be patient with it. I’ve also found that I really like using the “studio light” setting. It can really improve the lighting and make your colors pop.
I have a lot of room to grow and I hope to be keeping you guys updated on the tips and trick I learn as I go. I am by no means a professional but I have really grown to enjoy food photography so much. So, I just wanted to share with the food photography tips I’ve learned so far.