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.

 

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. Furthermore,

  • 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.
  • Minimize clutter. When it comes to styling, if that spoon/napkin/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.
  • Adjust the white balance when necessary. When you’re editing your photos, if your plate of food looks very blue, yellow, magenta or green, use your white balance tools to fix it! Colors come alive when the white balance is set properly.

 

Cameras for food photography

Nikon dSLR cameraYou don’t necessarily need a fancy camera to take appealing food photos. You can probably get by with a point-and-shoot camera if you know how to 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 SLR. It’s an investment, truly!

I use my trusty five-year-old Nikon D80 camera. The Nikon D7000 seems to be the modern-day equivalent. If you can’t decide between Nikon or Canon cameras, know that the differences between the two are pretty minimal. Comparable models will produce photos of comparable quality. I’d suggest going 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

50mm 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 switch between two fixes lenses for food photography: my old Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens and my new Nikon 35mm f1.8. I generally prefer the 35mm because it produces sharper photos and is easier to use for overhead photos of food on my table. My food photos prior to July 2012 were taken with the 50mm lens and most photos since have been taken with my 35mm lens.


 

Other photography equipment

Reflectors 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. This inexpensive round reflector comes in handy when I want to cast a golden or silver tone to the food. It also doubles as a diffuser. Sometimes I hang sheer white fabric over the window to soften the lighting source, too.

Tripods: A good tripod is also nice to have. I generally prefer to hold my camera by hand, but tripods do provide stability and, as a result, allow for longer shutter speeds and sharper photos. Speaking from experience, if you are in the market for a tripod, do not make the mistake of buying the cheapest tripod available. It will be rickety and difficult (if not impossible) to use.

 

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. An alternative to Lightroom for Mac users would be Apple’s Aperture program, which is basically a pro version of iPhoto and offers similar RAW photo editing capabilities to Lightroom. You can download free trials of each to see which you prefer.


 

Recommended photography books

Understanding Exposure by Bryan PetersonUnderstanding Exposure by Brian Peterson: Start by studying the fundamentals of photography. This is my favorite book on the subject.


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.


Pinch of Yum Food Photography eBookPinch of Yum Tasty Food Photography eBook: A great 48-page 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. Helpful videos included show how to edit photos in Lightroom and Photoshop (how to adjust exposure, contrast, white balance, etc.). Click here to purchase and download the Pinch of Yum Tasty Food Photography eBook for $19.


 

Where to buy food photo props

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

Speaking of food props, I’ve made the mistake of going prop shopping without giving enough thought to what I wanted my style to be, so I suggest thinking that through before hitting the stores. 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.

 

Online food photography resources

 

Questions?

Please leave them in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them. Also, check out my other resources on food blogging:

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

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. 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. 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!

      • 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. 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 :)

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

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