If you plan on creating recipes, writing about food, or even reviewing restaurants on your blog, you need to know the basics of food photography. Sadie from Slapdashmom.com shares some of her favorite food photography tips and resources.
Food photography has changed so much over the years! I love scrolling Instagram and looking at all of the beautiful photos. Because of the advancement of SmartPhones, pretty much anyone can do food photography – and be amazing at it!
Food Photography for Bloggers
Know the basics. Knowing the basics of photography (lighting, angles, etc) will help you with food photography. Though shooting food is quite different than shooting portraits or landscape, the principles are similar.
- The rule of thirds: Especially in food photography, I’m a firm believer in “rules are meant to be broken,” but keeping your photo composed nicely is important. Learn more about the rule of thirds from Digital Photography School.
- Shutter speed: Shutter speed is used to freeze the frame. If something is moving, you may want a fast shutter speed to catch an exact moment. With food photography, not much is moving, so a slower shutter speed is going to allow more light into your photo. The faster the shutter speed, the less light that can get in. However, if you’re doing a pour shot, you may want to play around with the shutter speed to see which look you prefer. Do you want to freeze the frame, or do you want to show movement?
- Aperture: Aperture is measured in f-stops. The smaller the number, the wider the opening (meaning more light can get in). A wide aperture is going to show a shallow depth of field, meaning only your subject will be in focus and you’ll have a blurred background. While this can work (see the shot of the macaroons with milk in the background), you’ll want a narrow aperture if you’re doing an overhead shot or trying to capture all of the ingredients in your recipe clearly.
- Lighting: If your subject is backlit, the entire photo will look different than if the light is coming from the sides or front.
Note: If you’re shooting with a SmartPhone, some of these will be irrelevant. Keep them in mind for future use, though. Learn more about photography basics and how to take sharper photos.
Shoot with the camera you’re most comfortable using. Whether that’s a DSLR or a SmartPhone, being comfortable is important. If you haven’t purchased a camera yet, I highly recommend starting with your SmartPhone. You don’t have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on a camera and lenses to have amazing food photography. I have seen stunning photos shot with a phone, and not so great photos shot with a DSLR. A good camera does not make a good photographer.
When you’re ready to get serious about your food photography, you may decide to upgrade to a better camera. In my opinion, mirrorless cameras are the best cameras for food photography. I highly recommend the Sony a6000 or Sony ar7 iii.
Food photography lighting is key! If there’s just one thing you should focus on to make your food photography that much better, it’s lighting. If you have the option of shooting in natural light, take it! However, sometimes life (or a small, dark kitchen in a rental house) gets in the way and we have to use artificial lighting.
I really like this artificial lighting kit for food photography.
When lighting your photos, avoid lighting from the front. Use soft, diffused light when possible. Try to avoid casting harsh shadows. Food photography lighting skill is a hard skill to master but you’ll be amazed at how much better your photos will look once you figure this piece out.
Frame the shot. Close-up shots of food can definitely be appetizing, but if you’re doing food photography as a blogger you’re probably going to find that your shots where the food has some “breathing room” are going to perform better.
Take several shots from different angles until you learn your favorites. A smoothie will probably be shot at a different angle than a burger will; and a pie may be shot over-head whereas a casserole will be shot from the side after a scoop has been taken from it. I’d rather have too many photos than not enough! Don’t be afraid to keep shooting until you get the perfect angle.
Tell a story. Props will help you tell a story, but your lighting, framing, and overall temperature of the shot will as well. From your cutting board to your silverware and bun choices, each photograph will tell a story. What “feel” are you going for? If you want your photos to have a more rustic feel, consider using a wooden cutting board and worn silverware. Tell the story through your food photos.
Tip: Visit your local thrift stores to find items that will help you tell different stories via your food photography! You’ll be able to find things like tablecloths, table settings, silverware, glassware, vases, and so much more for a fraction of the original price!
Add some color. One of my favorite things about food photography is the bold colors and contrasts each food brings to the table. Start in the middle of your plate (or board), and work out (or up – if you’re stacking something like a burger). Don’t add too much – just enough to make your dish stand out. Garnishes can also add a nice pop of color without adding clutter.
Make it pop. Whichever photo editor you’re used to, keep using that one! If you don’t have one yet, I recommend using PicMonkey. As a beginner, it’s great and super user-friendly. It’s also much more affordable than other options. If you’re using your cell phone to take food photos, check out A Color Story.
Practice makes perfect. You knew this was coming, I’m sure, but practice really is the best thing you can do to improve your food photography.
Don’t use too many props. It can be tempting to use all the pretty things when you’re just getting started, but resist! Less is more with food photography. You can always add more if the shot feels empty, but chances are, it’s fine with minimal prop usage.
Don’t forget the light! I can’t stress this enough. The absolute best way to make your food photos amazing is to make sure your lighting is on point. Dark photos can be adjusted during the editing process, but nothing beats a well-lit photo right off the bat.
Don’t over-edit. I’ve seen some food photos that don’t look appetizing at all because they’re way over-edited. Don’t make that mistake!
Food Photography Resources
Pinch of Yum is one of my favorite blogs ever – both for recipes and for blogging and photography tips.
They have an ebook about food photography that I 110% recommend. Lindsey and Bjork are experts when it comes to food photography, so they’re worth listening to! They’re also the duo behind Food Blogger Pro, an online course that will teach you tips for growing your food blog.
Digital Photography School is another one of my favorites. Darren Rowse of ProBlogger is behind this masterpiece. Honestly, you could learn everything you ever need for photography from his site alone!
Taylor Takes a Taste has an awesome $15 lighting setup that will help you get started with food photography on a budget. She has some other resources on the blog that I found helpful as well.
A Beautiful Plate has a gorgeous Pinterest Board for food styling inspiration. Many times if I’m stuck on how to photograph or style a certain dish, I’ll check this board (or Pinterest in general) to get some inspiration. Don’t ever copy someone else’s work, but using their photos for inspiration is totally okay!
Craftsy is home to a fantastic food photography course, taught by Andrew Scrivani. The course includes in-depth lessons on lighting, angles, props, how to best chop foods, and so much more. They’ve got a second course available on photographing liquids, which might be awesome for any of you concocting cocktails!
Do Tell: What other food photography tips for bloggers do you have? Are there any tools or websites you love? Do you have thoughts on the best camera for food photography, or maybe the best tripod for food photography? Let us know!