Blog Chat: Food Photography Tips

When I look back at my very first food post, a recipe for Pad Thai, I totally cringe at the terrible photographs I took. Sometimes I wonder whether I should delete that post as it is so embarrassing. But then I compare those photographs with my most recent food posts and I can see just how far I’ve come. I realise that I have learnt so much about food photography since I started my blog and keeping that old Pad Thai post helps me to remember just how far I’ve come.

Pad Thai

(bad photo = too small for blog, distracting background, poor composition of items)

chicken chorizo chickpea casserole

(bad photo = taken at night under artificial light, orange hue to image, slightly out of focus, all one colour, looks like a plate of mess)

My first forays into food blogging included awful photographs with poor lighting (halogen lights), distracting backgrounds (washing machine anyone?) and rather weird angles. The photos were too small for the post and did little entice the reader to make my recipes. This is despite the fact that the food was very tasty (I know, I’m biased). But as with all areas in Blogging, I have continued to learn and develop my skills over the years. I have spent time practising by taking photos of my food on a weekly basis and spending time researching food photography that I enjoy. The result is a vast improvement from the early days. And whilst I still have some way to go before I am entirely happy with my skills, I am pleased with some of my latest offerings.

Food photography lessons learned:

Lighting

Natural light is your best friend when it comes to photography. Sometimes this means I am making a main meal in the morning to make the best of the light (it’s ok, I reheat it later for my dinner – nothing’s going to waste here!) but it is totally worth it. Photographs of food taken at night-time under a light bulb look wildly different. They often have an orange hue and look rather drab. Position your dish near a window and preferably the weather is overcast so you don’t get too much contrast (bright sunshine = high contrast). You could always use a net curtain or white drape to diffuse the light if it looks too bright. Early morning or late afternoon are prime times for natural light. Work out the best window in your house to do this and make space there to take your food photographs.

Chorizo Linguine Recipe

Say no to flash

Do not, I repeat, do NOT use flash. The flash flattens the image and casts an unsavoury glow over the food. It does not make for an appetising photograph. So turn off the flash and make use of natural light.

Peanut Butter and Nutella Swirls

Composition/Colour

Think about the composition of the image. Remove anything distracting in the background of the photograph. Ideally you want a plain background, but do think about using pretty tablecloths too. Bear in mind the colour of your food and how this will look against your background. Switch up backgrounds, even use a plain sheet of card or fabric to hang on the wall behind the food.

Limeade

Camera/Lens

Some of my favourite food photographs have been taken on my iPhone 5. It has an HD function if I’m feeling snazzy and there are a number of great photo editing apps that help make the image pop. Otherwise, I am now using a 50mm lens on a Canon DSLR and this creates a beautifully sharp image and a lovely depth of field (the blurry background). It has transformed the quality of my images, I love it.

Chicken and Potato Wedges

Props

Think about what you can add to the image to create interest. Food looks best on plain crockery, but if the colours suit try some vintage pieces too. Use flowers, napkins, chopping boards or cutlery to add interest to the photograph. Think about colours and shapes that will add interest to the final image. Experiment with angles and different arrangements.

Pork and Peanut Spicy Thai Noodles

Garnish

Is your food a plain colour? Is it all brown or beige? Is the texture rather boring? You can make the food look more interesting just by adding a simple garnish such as a sprig of parsley, a sprinkling of fresh coriander, a couple of fresh chilli’s or a slice of lemon.

Mexican Mole

Editing

I have found that if I have made use of good lighting, interesting composition and nice props then there is little editing required. I use Photoshop to crop and optimize the file size for web use. I might tweak the brightness and sharpness of the image to help the food ‘pop’. And that’s it! You don’t really want to add vintage-style filters to food photography as you’ll lose the true colours that make food appetising.

Sweetcorn-Fritters

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That should be enough useful tips to help you make your food photography stand out. Like I said, I’m still learning every day but with perseverance I have seen a great improvement in my food photography.

Let me know if you have any great food photography tips!

And if you need more inspiration I have a Food Photography pinterest board. Check it out!

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This is part of the Blog Chat series – a weekly column sharing Blogging tips and debate.

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13 Comments

  1. 21 August 2013 / 2:33 pm

    Yes, yes and yes! I am constantly trying to improve the food photography of my blog (with the help of my very patient OH) and it’s amazing how much just a few months of trying and testing different things can make a difference.

    I do find that it’s much easier in summer, just because you get more hours of extra light – good for us who work 9-5!

    I think my favourite blog for food photography at the moment is Top with Cinnamon – definitely worth checking out if you’ve not already (although the fact that she’s still at school makes me wildly jealous!) xxx

  2. 21 August 2013 / 4:16 pm

    Perfect tips! I so agree with vintage food photos- it loses the quality so quickly. Your photography is always so lovely!

  3. 21 August 2013 / 5:20 pm

    If using a DSLR you should always set the white balance for current conditions before starting to photograph your food. A great resource for food photography information is From Plate to Pixel by Helene from Tartlette.

  4. 21 August 2013 / 5:52 pm

    Excellent tips, thank you for sharing! I will definitely be coming back to these, since I’m starting to include more recipe posts on my blog.

  5. 21 August 2013 / 7:23 pm

    Great article! Those are very simple, useful tips that I am going to take into account. First stop, Etsy to get a few props, then, I guess an Iphone or Ipad app would be good too. Do you have any recommendations? x

    • 26 August 2013 / 1:23 pm

      I recommend the Afterlight app – it’s really versatile and it’s my current favourite.

  6. 24 August 2013 / 12:55 pm

    These are great tips! I’m without a camera at the moment so all photographs have to be taken using my phone, which only has a 5 megapixel camera 🙁 I’ll take all these tips into account to try and improve my food photography; they’re fab. xxx

  7. 25 August 2013 / 11:45 am

    I have been known to get up in the morning in winter to take pictures of food in the 1 hour of clear daylight we have. NO FLASHES. I am quite looking forward to food photos from this flat though, so much more light.

  8. 29 August 2013 / 4:46 pm

    Yeah we shared the same sentiments, I was so ashamed seeing my first photos that I posted on my social networking accounts, but then I realized that keeping those is actually a good thing to do, those we’re the things that could make me remember how far I’ve improve on taking pictures and editing. Thanks for the great tips! I’ve learn to appreciate not using flash.

  9. Jon
    31 August 2013 / 12:02 pm

    Nice post, I think I could improve by using props better, thanks for the tips. And yes you can see how far you have come. Really nice images.

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