I’m writing today because there are only two more days until my cookbook, Love Real Food, hits the stores and your mailboxes. I can’t wait!
Since you seemed to love reading about the recipe development process for the cookbook last week, I wanted to offer the visual effects that I use in my food photos today. I’m using examples from the book so you’ll get some sneak peeks at the recipes, too. (For details about my photography equipment and more, check here.)
You can use these visual effects to your advantage whether you’re snapping pictures with your phone or shooting with a fancy camera. I’d love to see you put them to work. When you get your book, please share your snaps of the recipes in Love Real Food on Instagram with the hashtag #LoveRealFood. I’ll be sharing some of my favorites soon!
Dessert chapter intro photo, page 192
The textures, colors and shapes in food can be so beautiful on their own. In those cases, I like to keep the backgrounds simple and neutral, and get up-close to the food so it steals the show. The trick here is not to get so close that you can’t tell what the food is—unless you’re going for a more Jackson Pollock-style image than food photo.
Best-Ever Guacamole with Toasted Pepitas and Chipotle Sauce, page 111
Action shots bring photos to life and help viewers imagine making or eating the recipes themselves. You can use shutter speed to manipulate the amount of blur present in the action, depending on the desired effect. Sometimes you want to capture a crystal-sharp drop or pour, but you can strategically use blur to imply motion like you see in the photos above.
Sweet Potato-Black Bean Veggie Burgers with Cabbage-Pepita Slaw, page 177
Some foods lend themselves to certain angles. For example, it makes more sense to photograph pizza from above (it will disappear if you take it from the side), and more sense to photograph a burger from the side (so you can see all the layers, not just the top of the bun). There’s not always a right answer, though, and it’s fun to play around with visual effects at various angles.
Crumbs & Garnishes
Butternut Squash Chipotle Chili, page 83
Using crumbs and garnishes is an easy way to add visual interest to your photos. You want to use enough that it doesn’t look like you just missed a random crumb, but not so much that it distracts from the focal point. In the granola photo, I scattered some granola in the lower right corner to draw the eye to the cups.
Elderflower Champagne Cocktail, page 127
Another way to add interest is by incorporating layers or repetitive shapes in the background, whether that’s with plates or bowls, tea towels or tables. The layers can be particularly interesting when they repeat the shapes found elsewhere in the photo. Can you see how the round shapes reinforce each other in the above photos?
Hearty Lentil Minestrone, page 90
One of the easiest ways to make a food photo more interesting is to use multiple bowls or plates, instead of just one. They don’t necessarily need to match, as long as they are of a similar scale. It’s easier to make sure the food is in focus if it comes to about the same height in each vessel.
Trail Mix Granola Bites, page 14
You can strategically use the background or setting to tell a story about your food. This can be particularly helpful when the food isn’t very interesting on its own, like oatmeal and granola bites. Just keep in mind that if an element doesn’t add to your photo, it detracts, so keeping it simple usually works best.
For more information about Love Real Food, click here. If you have pre-ordered, enter to win a Le Creuset Dutch oven here. You also have a few more days to nab your free Companion Guide!
Fun read and simple but usable tips. Haven’t taken many food pictures, but now am anxious to.
I hope you try it out, Theresa!
Great info on photo taking, useful to know and awesome photo results. Info on variation of pattern and action, versus still and setting shots was good. Thanks. Can’t wait for delivery of my copy. And Le Creuset, yes! I received a splashy orange oval gratin dish 34 years ago at my wedding. I still use it weekly, it is so sturdy and beautiful!
Wow! If that’s not a resounding endorsement, I’m not sure what is. They make such great bakeware, they really are lifelong purchases.
Oh my gosh, yay! So freaking excited for you! I totally just pre-ordered! :-) Great tips, as well. So excited to see the beautiful pages up close soon! xoxo
Great tips here! I’ve never thought of a few of these tricks. Can’t wait to try them out in my next post. Thank you!
Awesome! I hope they prove to be helpful, Kristen. :)
So excited for tomorrow! Woke up to my amazon shipping confirmation email.
Aaah! I’m so excited, too!
Kelli @ Hungry Hobby
Your photography is AMAZING! Did you shoot your own book entirely?
Thanks, Kelli! I shot the vast majority of it, and hired a wonderful local photographed named Sarah Sweeney to shoot some lifestyle photos of Cookie and me. Some of her shots of me preparing food made it into the book, too!
Can’t wait to pick up your book from Literati in Ann Arbor, MI.
Looking forward to insanely good food.
:) :) :) I can’t wait for you to see it!
I’m so excited about your cookbook debut, Kate, as well as receiving my own copy– can’t wait! The book looks gorgeous from what you’ve shared so far, and I know very well the years of hard work and commitment you have put into getting to this point in your career. Enjoy this wonderful moment to the fullest– you’ve certainly earned it! BRAVA!
Marcia, thank you so much. You are the best. I hope your book arrives soon!
Your book is already on the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble (wish I had an independent option). Looks great!
Decided to pre-order my copy today, even before I saw this post! It’s my end of the semester gift to myself. Heard your interview with A Couple Cooks on their podcast. So excited!
Thank you, Amy! That reminds me– I’ll have to share that via social media! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Happy end-of-semester to you!
Excellent tips on food photography. Thank you for sharing! Love your photos!
Can’t wait to receive your book! Amazon says it’s coming tomorrow:D I pretty much only cook from your blog these days, so your book will be a welcome addition!
Joyce, that’s quite a compliment! Thank you. Hope you love the book!
I just ordered a copy for my mom, my sister, and I. Can’t wait to get cooking!
Kate, that’s so generous of you, thank you! I really appreciate it. Hope you all thoroughly enjoy the recipes!
I can’t wait to get the mail and sit down with a coffee and your new cookbook tomorrow! I’ve followed your blog for several years and it’s my favorite!
Hooray! That’s so nice to hear, Megan. I hope it exceeds your expectations! :)
I just received your cookbook in the mail and it is so beautiful. Thank you for all the years of amazing meals I have made with your help. Here’s to many more!
Thank you so much, Amanda! I will keep those recipes coming! Hope you enjoy the cookbook recipes just as much. :)
Your blog is really fabulous. Thanks for sharing your ideas and photography tips.
Thanks for reading, Annie!
Congrats, Kate! I love your recipes- can’t wait for my book to get to me on Monday!
Thank you, Danielle!
Love your inspiration and food choices
I am just wondering, do you photograph your food cold (I’ve heard people do)? Do you make it, refrigerate it, and then photograph it? Would love to know your system!
Oh no, not purposefully! I just make the food and photograph it right then. It’s a pretty intuitive process for me—I just sort of play with backgrounds/composition until it looks right to me. I’m never gluing things together or placing garnishes with tweezers. :)
Hello Kate (from cold Toronto)!
While i was shopping at WholeFoods in Sacramento a couple months ago (visiting my sister in law), I saw your cookbook (which i was planning on buying). My husband sees it and says ‘Oh, isn’t this by your Cookie and Kate’… Haha.. I said ‘Yes that’s everyone’s Cookie and Kate’. He was so happy to physically see your book (just as i was thrilled). There isn’t a single recipe we followed in the last 2.5 years that we didn’t love!… Thank you for being in our lives and for spreading your soulful wholesome food with us.
The Moroccan Couscous stew in your book has been a big hit in our home since it turned fall.. my 1.5 year old toddler enjoys it as well (minus the red pepper flakes of course).
My question is we are travelling for 5 weeks to a country that doesn’t have butternut squash and we would like to have it while we are there, is there anything else that could work as a substitute?
Hooray! I love that, Azza. Thank you for sharing. I am happy both you and your husband are big fans of the blog and now cookbook. As for a butternut squash substitute, you can try using sweet potatoes for most recipes. Enjoy your travels!
I’m a big fan! I’m wondering what camera you use to do your beautiful pictures?
Thanks in advance!
Thank you, Ainsley! Great question. I have some more information in another blog post here: https://cookieandkate.com/food-photography-tips-for-food-bloggers/. Hope this helps!
Also…thanks so much for this post – such great tips!
Thanks for these tips, I’ll definitrly implant them into my photography!
Thank you for sharing your Food Photography Tips and Tricks. I am learning photography, through online tutorials. I don’t have a genre yet, however, I do absolutely love your food photographs and aspire to take some like that. Today I made a banana bread and decided I’d take a photo. I have to work on creativity. So thank you for sharing.