Food Photography Tips for Food Bloggers

Food Photography Tips for Food Bloggers

While I’m not a professional food photographer, my photos have improved with practice (lots and lots of it). Here are the best tips and tricks I can offer about food photography and equipment.

Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I only link to products I trust and recommend. Thank you for your support.

 

Tips for taking great food photos

It’s all about the light! My best tip for beginners is to become aware of the intensity of the light and how it hits the food, and learn to adjust accordingly. Here are some tips for getting started.

  • Take photos under natural light. Do not use your built-in flash. Ever!
  • Move around to find the best light source. Don’t feel confined to taking photos in your kitchen.
  • Try taking photos from multiple angles. Some plates of food look better from above, or from the side, or at a 45-degree angle. Try moving around the plate and taking photos at various angles so you can pick your favorite later.
  • Minimize clutter. If that spoon, napkin or busy background doesn’t add to the photo, it detracts from the photo. Focus on what is most important but don’t zoom in so much that viewers can’t tell what the food is.

 

Troubleshooting common food photography issues

Frustrated by how your food photos are turning out? Read on for potential solutions.

  • Your colors aren’t true to life. When you’re editing your photos, if your plate of food looks very blue, yellow, pink or green, use your software’s white balance tools to fix it! Colors come alive when the white balance is set properly.
  • Your photos are blurry. The root of the problem here is that there isn’t enough light getting to the sensor of your camera. A few potential solutions: move to an area with more light, hold your camera steadier (easier said than done) and/or increase your shutter speed (you may need to open your aperture to make up for the difference).
  • Your photos just don’t “pop” like professional food photos. Experienced food photographers use lenses that allow them to narrow their depth of field to highlight the subject of the photo. Then they use photography software to tweak the contrast, levels and sharpness of their photos.

Read on for relatively inexpensive lens and software recommendations that can help you solve these problems and take amazing food photos.

 

Cameras for food photography

Nikon dSLR cameraYou don’t necessarily need a super fancy camera to take appealing food photos. You can probably get by with a point-and-shoot camera for a while if you use it well. Consult the user manual, use the macro setting and practice!

When you are ready to have full control over your exposure and focal length, save up for a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) camera. It’s an investment, truly! I finally retired my trusty eight-year-old Nikon D80 camera and upgraded to the Nikon D750 in April 2015.

If you can’t decide between a Nikon DSLR or Canon DSLR, know that the differences between the two are pretty minimal. Comparable models will produce photos of comparable quality, so choose the best camera available in your price range.

Before you buy, read reviews and go to a local photography store to try them out in person. If one brand’s cameras seem more user-friendly and feel more comfortable in your hand, go for that one. Once you’ve bought your camera body, you’re ready to buy lens(es) that suit your needs and fit on your camera.


 

Lenses for food photography

35mm f1.8 fixed lensThe lens you use for food photos will have more of an impact than the dSLR itself, so you may want to buy the camera body and lens separately.

I prefer to use compact fixed lenses. Fixed means that the lenses do not zoom in or out, so I have to physically move myself closer or farther away from the subject. I love fixed lenses because they are inexpensive, small and lightweight.

I used Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 on my old cropped format camera and loved it. It produces sharper photos and is easy enough to use for overhead photos of food on my table. Now that I’m using an expensive full format camera, I use Nikon’s 50mm f1.8G lens.

Why did I move to a longer focal length when I upgraded? Because a 35mm lens on a cropped format camera effectively acts as a 50mm lens on a full format camera. Confusing, right? Unless you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a camera, your camera is probably a cropped format, but you might want to check to be sure.


 

Other photography equipment

foam boardsReflectors and diffusers: I mostly use cheap white foam boards to bounce light back onto the plate and reduce shadows. You can also bring out more shadows by using a black foam board. I buy my foam boards at craft stores or Target. Sometimes I hang sheer white fabric over the window to soften the lighting source, too.


tripodQuality tripod: Some photographers prefer to work with tripods, but I’d rather shoot with my camera in my hands. When light is running low, though, my Manfrotto tripod is sure handy. I own the Manfrotto 055XPROB, which has been replaced by the Manfrotto MT055XPRO3. I’ve been frustrated by super cheap tripods in the past, but this one was a solid investment. I love the horizontal arm option, which helps me capture overhead shots.

You’ll probably need to get a tripod head for your tripod, too—I opted for the Manfrotto Ball Head with Quick Release, because it was the least expensive option from Manfrotto.


card readerCard reader: If your computer doesn’t offer a built-in card reader port (my MacBook does), I recommend buying one of these guys. You could hook up your camera directly to the computer, but that will waste your camera’s battery power.

 

Recommended photography software

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5I use Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit my digital photos. I don’t know what I would do without it! I prefer it to Photoshop because it helps me keep my files organized and easy to find, and provides exceptional control over exposure adjustments. It is also significantly less expensive than Photoshop.


 

Recommended photography books

Pinch of Yum Food Photography eBookPinch of Yum Tasty Food Photography eBook: A solid eBook about food photography (with videos!) by food blogger Lindsey of Pinch of Yum. She provides technical camera setting advice, composition tips, lighting tips, props and setup details, and photo editing and workflow tips.

The best part? You can watch videos of Lindsey shooting and editing photos, which are really helpful. Click here to purchase and download the Pinch of Yum Tasty Food Photography eBook for $29.


Plate to Pixel by Helene DujardinPlate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin of Tartelette: The best food photography book I’ve found so far. She covers exposure basics before diving into food photo composition, lighting and so forth.


Understanding Exposure by Bryan PetersonUnderstanding Exposure by Brian Peterson: If you really want to understand the fundamentals of photography, I recommend this book! The principles taught in this book can be applied to all photography situations.


 

Where to buy food photo props

Before you go prop shopping, think about what you want your style to be so you don’t waste your money on props that aren’t “you”. If you’re not sure what your photography style is yet, look to your wardrobe, décor and Pinterest boards for clues. Are you drawn to bright and colorful patterns, or clean lines and muted tones? Shop accordingly.

You don’t need a closet full of props for interesting food photos. You probably already have items at home that will look great in photos. Get creative! Vintage handkerchiefs can make fun napkins and well-worn baking sheets can make an interesting background.

Thrift stores and my parents’ kitchen have yielded some of my favorite finds. Etsy and eBay are treasure troves for unique, handmade or vintage food photo props. My favorite shops for new props and useful cooking tools are Crate and Barrel, West Elm, CB2, Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, Anthropologie, Target and Amazon.

 

More resources for food bloggers on Cookie and Kate

 

My food photography guides on eBay

 

Additional food photography resources

 
Questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow I just stumbled on this post and it is so thorough & wonderful! I have just started blogging in the past few months, bought a used dslr from my sis in law and started learning about food photography, thank you so so much for doing this & for the wonderful resources I appreciate it so much! I’m excited to follow along on your blog :)

  2. says

    Wow thank you so much for sharing all this information. I always chat with people who have cameras asking them what do they use and how and you have given a lot for me to digest more even than I thought of. Thank you so much and by the way I love your blog! I have a cheap point and click camera and it takes okay pictures but I am intimidated by the prospect of buying another camera. I purchased a camera with removable lenses and it was okay but not good enough so I gave it to my son and daughter in law and now have to buy another one. After finding your blog I think I could have made the one I gave away work but I will not ask for it back I will get another now! Thank you so much!

    • says

      Thank you for commenting, Eva! I’m so glad you found my thoughts on food photography helpful. Glad you enjoy my blog, too!

  3. Liz says

    After seeing YET ANOTHER post about food photography flogging Canon, I googled “food photography with a Nikon” and you were the 3rd or 4th link down. THANK YOU.

    After 2 P&Ss of the same brand and months of research, I purchased a D5100 and I love it. It’s nice to see that I’m not alone!

  4. says

    Thanks for this post, Kate! I recently purchased a Nikon D90 from a friend, and I am currently poring over its 300-page manual (!). Your recommendation for the 35mm f1.8 seems to be just the fit for me. I didn’t know where to start. The white balance tip is one I need to remember, as well. Cheers!

    • says

      Thank you, Jayme! I’m so glad you found the tips helpful. I absolutely love my 35mm f1.8. It’s all I use these days!

  5. Renee says

    Love this post! Super helpful. I am trying to improve the quality of my pics for my new blog and these tips are great. I don’t have a dSLR camera (yet!), but I just purchased an ultra-zoom olympus to get used to playing around with macro and other settings. The Pinch of Yum eBook is also on my list of things to buy!

    • says

      Thanks, Renee! Glad you’re finding the tips useful. Good idea to play around with your new camera—that’s the best way to learn! I really like Pinch of Yum’s videos that come along with the eBook. It’s so helpful to watch another photographer in action and see how they do things.

  6. says

    Wow, thank you SO very much for all of this wonderful and insightful knowledge. I feel like it’s hard to find great articles regarding food photography as if it’s some secret to those that do not know and are new. >.< Once again, thank you so much; also for your advice about finding your style before even shopping. Smart!

    Hope you have a fabulous day!

  7. says

    Hi Kate,
    thanks for sharing. Simple and clear advise. I’m a beginner, often frustrated but even more often…hungry :) Congratulation on your award! Greetings from Poland. ela

  8. says

    Hi Kate,
    I’m new to the blogosphere and found your tips on starting a food blog extremely helpful – thank-you! I’m now trying to improve photo quality on my blog, and these tips are also very helpful. My question is about the medium you use to display your photos. I have a WordPress blog, and I’m just wondering – is there a certain widget or tool you downloaded to get the big beautiful photo templates you use? Thus far I have just not been able to figure it out. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again!

    • says

      Hey Lindsay! Glad you are finding my tips helpful. Which photo template are you referencing? The width of my photos is determined by my WordPress theme. If you are asking how I display two photos side by side, I created my own little Photoshop template for those. Google “how to make a diptych” and you should find some other ways to do it. If you’re asking about adding text to my photos, I also did that in Photoshop!

      • says

        Hi Kate, thank-you so much for your response! I was talking about the way you display your photos side by side, and am going to google your recommendation pronto. Thanks again!

  9. says

    Hi!

    First, thank you for this post! It really helped me in my thesis research for my coffee table book! (which is hard for me lol). Mentioning that, being a student who loves food photography ,could you give me some tips on how to capture “rustic” (as my professor told me) pictures of bread. Thank you! :)

    • says

      Hey Louise, you’re welcome! Rustic pictures of bread, hmm. First step would be to find a beautiful loaf of artisanal bread. Then I would use well-worn, wooden props in the background—maybe a wood cutting board, vintage bread knife, neutral linen napkins, tea towel or tablecloth. Golden-toned light would be nice, so I’d take the photo while the sun is coming up or going down. Hope that helps! You could probably find some inspiration in my pinterest board.

  10. kb says

    Fantastic article and resources. A different perspective regardless if using a Canon (I am), or Nikon (will forever wonder if I should have). I wish I wouldn’t have been convinced to buy the kit lens, as I would have explored much sooner. I was pretty convinced finally to get the Canon 100mm macro but now I’m going to rent a few different ones and test them out. Thanks.

    • says

      Honestly, if I were to buy a camera now, it would be a Canon because I’ve read about some shutter issues with the new Nikons. Hope you find the perfect lens for your needs.

  11. Al Drennan says

    Hello Kate!…I really loved your thoughts on Food Photography,you are bang on the ball!…I’m a London based food photographer and I would love you to see some of my work. I’m currently working on a new Website and also a foodie/photography blog with my partner Iva. We live in Wimbledon…Please get in touch! Best Wishes,Al.

  12. says

    Thank you for all the tips Kate! I have been lost at times when prop shopping and now I will be more cognizant of choosing props that reflect my personal style. Why couldn’t I think of that? ha!

  13. Rachel says

    Hi Kate ~

    I was torn between the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G and the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G. I believe you mentioned you have both.

    1. When you say fixed, these lens aren’t able to zoom in and out, is that correct?
    2. I ended up buying the 35mm to try out. Is this the same as yours?

    Thanks!

      • Rachel says

        It’s hard to get used to … I kept using the zoom feature and forgot there is no zoom :(

        May I ask:
        1. If I can’t get my tripod close enough to the food, do you just hope for the best with shaky hands?
        2. What is the difference between the 35mm and the 50 mm?

        Thanks again!

        • says

          Hey Rachel, I hope you learn to love the lens soon. I (almost) never use a tripod with my camera. I love the fixed lens in part because it’s light so it’s easier to hold steady. If you’re dealing with low light, I find it best to keep the shutter at 1/125 or faster. If you need more light, open the aperture wider or raise the ISO. The main difference between the 35mm and 50mm is the focal length. I found it difficult to take overhead shots with the 50mm because it zooms in more. In my experience, Nikon’s 35mm is sharper and has less ghosting at the edges of white areas than the 50mm.

          • Rachel says

            Thanks for the comparison!

            Sorry to add to my comment, your link to the Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens shows FX and not DX. Which one do you have?

            Thanks again :)

          • says

            I have the older lens (this one). The newer lens might be better. Can’t say because I haven’t tried it. I really prefer the 35mm for aforementioned reasons.

  14. says

    Hi! I just found your blog and it’s already one of my favorites!! Even if my blog is not about food, I post some recipes from time to time and this post will be very useful! It’s so complete! I’m preparing to face 21 days in the vegan world (it’s a Facebook challenge) and I think I’ll use some of your recipes (linking your blog of course!)
    Your way to write is very spontaneous and it’s like reading something writing from a friend (I don’t know if it’s clear…)
    Good job!

  15. says

    Just found your blog – it’s GREAT! I’ve been shooting with my iPhone 4S for my business, and it’s not adequate. I’ve been researching DSLRs and am leaning toward a NIKON 3100 or 3200 with a 50mm f1.8 lens. Any thoughts on either of the two DSLRs?

    • says

      Thanks, Dave! I’m sorry, I don’t have any direct experience with either of those models. I found some pretty extensive reviews when I googled “Nikon d3200 vs d3100″, so you might try that if you haven’t already. Good luck!

  16. says

    Hi Kate,

    I’m literally just starting out food blogging (when I say literally, I couldn’t stress that enough… my blog has nothing on it as I type this), and thought I would turn to a fellow blogger for some directional help!

    I recently became a Dad (yay!), and to help my partner out around the house I’ve taken on the task of cooking dinner (amongst other things) when I get in from work.

    I love it.

    I’ve found a real passion for cooking and love experimenting with different flavours and have found my confidence in the kitchen grow – hence why I’m going to blog about it :)

    Now to the point in question…

    I’m not at the stage to invest in a great camera just yet (nappies and baby food come first!), so I’m going to use my Samsung Galaxy S5. In your experience, and taking the great tips you’ve provided above into consideration, are there any pointers you could give me (filters to use, apps to use, etc.) that would help me make the colours of my food really jump off the page?

    Really appreciate your help – and have loved reading through a few of your recent posts (as I say, I’m new to this… but I will be coming back to read more!).

    I’m set to write my first post tonight; on possibly the most unhealthy meal I can cook (comfort food is needed after a sleepless week!!).

    Thanks in advance,

    Nick

    • says

      Hey Nick, congrats on your new food blog! No matter what camera (or phone!) you’re using, you’ll want to find a spot that has nice, filtered natural light. No food looks good under artificial lighting or phone flash. I use an iPhone so I’m not sure which apps to suggest. I think VSCO Cam has an Android app, so try that one!

  17. says

    Hi Kate,
    what terrific advice and I am so pleased I landed on your blog. I am about 2 weeks since launching http://www.lovethekitchen.co.uk and struggling to decide whether to continue with my Nokia Lumia 920(most of what I have taken so far has been with this), Panasonic DMZ-TZ40, or dust off my Canon EOS 20D (which has been largely neglected for far too long) with a 35mm Prime lens and make a real go of it.
    One minor challenge is that I only photograph a recipe I am about to eat, so spare minimal time to the photography to prevent my swill and fodder from going cold.
    Finally, some of your recipes are really close to converting me towards vegetarianism.. ;o)

    • says

      Hey Richard, congrats on your new blog! It looks lovely. I really love the vantage point from my 35mm lens. I think, with time, you’ll find a few favorite angles and standardize your setup, which would make taking pictures even faster!

  18. Julie says

    Wow! What great info! Thanks for sharing. Just starting my own biz. Website and blog to follow but this will help me tremendously when I get to that point of posting my own creations and demo videos. Once again, thanks so much!

  19. says

    Such a useful article, thanks for sharing! I especially agree with what you say about presentation/photo props. I’ve just started my own blog and I’m finding myself using my dresses/skirts as tablecloths, it can get quite messy at times but at least I’m sure my pictures reflect my personal style, haha :)

  20. says

    Thank you for the advice. I just made the switch to a DSLR and I can say that I am happy with the results so far. Right now I only have the kit lens that came with the camera, but the 35mm is on the horizon.

  21. says

    Thanks for the wonderful article! It was very easy to understand and you highlighted all of the most important photography tips. Thank you for sharing :)

    I recently switched from an 18-55mm lens to a 35mm lens and the difference truly is night and day. I have a Nikon D3200 and I was so happy when I finally decided to use the 35mm. The picture quality is astounding!

    I love your work!! My Twitter is http://www.twitter.com/ShibaMedia if you’d like to check out some of my samples with the 35mm.

    Keep up the good work!

  22. Andre Niemeyer says

    Incredible resource and impressive work! Congrats Kate! Your photography, website style, content layout, … speak volumes on your competence and quality work. You gotta a fan here!

  23. says

    Hey Kate,

    I’m so glad I found you via Twitter. I was checking out some of your other recipes and just stumbled upon this post. Thanks for all the great resources. I shoot in natural light too and just picked up foam board to use for some food and interior shots. I’ll let you know how my next shoot turns out!

    • says

      Thanks for the note, Kerri! Hope the foam boards are helpful! I don’t use them all the time, but they help lighten shadows when I want lighter shadows.

  24. Tessa says

    Wow! I just came across with article and really excited for the information. I think I can start my beginner Photography with this very helpful information.

    Thanks Kate! You are so wonderful.

  25. says

    Nice informative article Kate. I look for such informative articles for our participants in photography contests including food photography and this one will be a good source for them. Thanks.

  26. says

    Hi Kate! thanks for writing this post about food photography, it was really interesting for me, especially all the details and links you shared! I have a Nikon D7100 and I usually use a 50 mm lens f/1.8 and i really like it too for food photography. I still have to get the 35 mm but it’s on my list! What do you think about Macro lenses? I have one Tamron lens 90mm, very very good and I can take very nice macro shots of food. Did you ever use it?

    • says

      Hey Fedi! I actually do not have much experience with macro lenses so I can’t comment. My friend Ali (Gimme Some Oven) uses a macro lens for most of her photos and gushes about it!

  27. mim says

    i am photography raspberry mille feullies for a assesment task TOMMOROW! and need some prop ideas and lighting and background ideas TONIGHT!
    thanx kate…..hope u reply 2 my blog soon!

  28. Judith Levine says

    Love your writing style, delish recipes, beautiful photos, your passion and creativity. Been following you for a while… You are very talented! You’ve become quite the pro in all aspects of food blogging. I so enjoy your stories & vegan friendly, yummy meals! Your emails have become a bright spot in my culinary journey from vegetarian to vegan! Nutrition and physical wellness have been my life’s passion. Nutritionfacts.org has elevated my food science knowledgebase, exponentially, but your recipes with enticing photos and savvy instructions have round out my food prep repertoire. Thank you! Can’t wait to read more! Wishing you continued success and much happiness in 2015 and years ahead. A loyal fan :)

  29. Andi says

    I know you posted this a while back, but I’m really interested in what you said about props/styling. I didn’t realize people bought special props for their food blog. Can you talk a little bit more about how to find your style (or how you found yours) and pieces to look for when prop shopping? Thanks!!

    • says

      Hey Andi, great questions. You don’t need to buy props if you can get by with your own stuff! I think most food photographers (myself included) like to change up their photos by using different props. I own too many plates, that’s for sure. I typically look for smaller plates (like salad size instead of large dinner plates) and bowls, because those look better in photos. I also prefer dishes with less sheen, which can be distracting. As far as style goes, I recommend really looking at the props used in photos that speak to you. Maybe start a Pinterest board to study. Good luck!

  30. says

    Hi Kate! Thanks for sharing- I love your photography. I’m curious about what you use for your background and underneath your food when you shoot. Is there a certain board you like to place your food on? Where do you buy them?

    Also, I was wondering where in your house you take your photos? What room works best for you?

    Thank you!
    Georgia

    • says

      Hey Georgia, great questions. I found the best light is in my office (AKA studio). As far as backgrounds go, I use an old white tabletop from a garage sale, a chalkboard, tea towels and a marble pastry board. Just depends on the recipe and my mood that day.

  31. says

    Hi Kate, another new blogger here and your information was so helpful. I just read it and I loved your answer to Andi. I too have been using the dishes I have around the house and like using smaller plates and bowls. I am having so much fun trying new recipes and taking the photos. And best of all, it gives me a legitimate reason to buy more fun dishes.

    Thanks again,

    Renee

  32. says

    Hello Kate, I have just started blogging and this post has a wealth of information. I have been micro blogging for awhile and always took pictures with my phone (did the job then). So when I started writing up a proper blog I invested in a new camera but didn’t know where to start with it. This must have taken you ages to put together! Great job and thank you very much. I will be putting it to good use!

  33. Adrienne says

    Please add a post to caution bloggers on too many photos. It’s so annoying to scroll through photos of pouring milk or chopping herbs, things most people know how to do. Photos should be reserved for the final product and complicated steps.

  34. says

    I have found this information so helpful for my food blog which was only started a month ago. Will definitely have to implement these tips. Thanks Kate :)

    • says

      Hi Cherie! I’m sorry, I haven’t personally used either of those models, so I don’t feel qualified to answer. I would suggest reading reviews for each.

  35. says

    Hi Kate,
    I have been helping my wife with her Baking Blog for about 9 months. While I am constantly reading, your tips on both cropped format and focal length were priceless (I was set to by a 50mm which would have been problematic in our small house). After playing with our telephoto lens for couple of days it was clear that 35mm would be the perfect fit for our D5200 and our style of photography so we purchased the prime Nikon 35mm f1.8. Just WOW, prime is right! I processed the first batch of pictures this morning for my wife’s next post featuring roasted carrots and the pictures are clearly two steps up from our kit lens. The roasted carrots sizzle, the cured lemons shimmer, the pesto pops – ready to eat right on the page. I also picked up Understanding Exposure by Brian Peterson and am about half way through that.

    Thanks for the excellent recipes, terrific photos, and gear tips!

    • says

      Hooray! Delighted to hear it, Roger. Sounds like you are a big help to your wife. I used that 35mm f1.8 for a couple of years and absolutely loved it!!!

  36. says

    Thank you so much for these helpful tips! I am new to blogging and sometimes my photos don’t come out too great! Now, I have much more needed info to combat that area!

  37. Maria says

    More and more ecommerce websites are using high definition pictures to reflect the quality of their products. We have seen some really nice conversion results on our website somproduct.com after using high quality photos.

  38. says

    Hi Kate (and Cookie!),
    Thank you so much for your in depth posts on blogging and photography. I am in the process of changing my blog and I am looking forward to putting some of what I learned from your blog into action. Thanks again!
    Sincerely,
    Neva
    P.S. My mom has a schipperke named Jackson, not too many people know about the breed, I bet your pup is a cutie!

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