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food-photography-4 Tips & Tricks

Food Photography Tips | The Basics Of Food Photography

By Michelle Bird on September 30th 2014

Food photography has been booming in the recent years with many photographers ditching portrait and wedding gigs to concentrate their whole business solely on this niche. Since food will always be a necessity, it’s something pretty secure. Of course, you do need to network just like any other specialty niche, but the possibilities are endless: there’s restaurants, bars, coffee shops, small deli’s, farms, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. People will always be searching for that next delicious meal, or drink, so companies seek out photographers to capture the food’s good side.

[REWIND: Tasty Food Photography, How To Make Your Viewers Mouth Water]

Here are some basic food photography tips if food photography has been peaking your interest and you’ve been wanting to give it a try.

1. Light is Everything

Put that camera flash away and snap photos next to a window. Natural light will make the food look more appetizing. Your angle of light is very important as well – back-lighting will bring out all the textures, and any steam or smoke coming from the food.

2. Bring In The Props

Props definitely enhance food photos, making them look even more desirable. Whether they show how the food is made by the raw ingredients placed around it to the color of the napkins and bowls, try to think about what props will tell the story of the dish you’re preparing.

3. Photography Equipment

You don’t need a fancy set-up when taking shots of food, but a few basic things like a tripod and some reflectors are always good to have. A tripod will help with your stability when getting those close-up macro shots. Reflectors can add a new element, whether it’s to bounce the light back onto the plate and reduce shadows, or if you want to cast a gold or silver tone to set the mood.

4. Change Angles

Make sure you vary your angles when shooting food. Even food has a good side – you’re not going to shoot cupcakes the same way you’d shoot a bowl of hot soup. Tilt your camera a bit, shoot from above, from the edge of the table, sitting at eye-level. Also, if you’re shooting for a client, they will want quite a bit of variety so have that in mind.

5. Collaborate

If you don’t want to cook all of the dishes yourself, that’s understandable. You can’t wear all the hats, so reach out to others and collaborate. Chefs, specialty baristas, bartenders, bakers, culinary school folks, all these people already know how to present the food in all its excellence. Not only will you get a good end product, but you can also take some shots of these people preparing the goods, which is an added bonus.

P.S.- Just make sure you don’t eat everything you shoot.

What food photography tips have you found that work for you? Leave it in the comments section below.

If you would like to learn even more about food photography and other tips and tricks on the best ways to to get professional food photography photos, check out our Photography 101 Workshop in the SLR Lounge Store for a comprehensive guide to food photography and much more!





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Michelle Bird is a Southern California based freelance photographer and writer, with a strong focus on music, editorial and portrait photography. She is the founder and creative force behind the music+culture online blog Black Vinyl Magazine, and can often be found in the photo-pit shooting the latest concerts in town. She has a strong passion for art, exploring, vintage finds and most of all animals. Connect with her through Email,
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Q&A Discussions

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  1. desmond chislom


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  2. Diane Colquhoun

    My tip is time is everything, set everything up before you even start cooking because you need to get that shot within 5 minutes.

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  3. Daniel Thullen

    Gents, MIchelle’s article was on the “Basics of Food Photography.” Are stylists really necessary? Yes, we all want tack sharp images of whatever subject we are taking but unless we are on assignment shouldn’t the basics of good photography: lighting, composition, equipment, etc. be sufficient?

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    • Daniel Jester

      I think for next level sort of work, yes a stylist is absolutely necessary. What a stylist allows you as the photographer to do is FOCUS on the basics/fundamentals by taking a MAJOR part of the project and applying their own expertise. In return you get a beautifully lit, exposed, and composed image of a beautifully crafted subject. This isn’t to take a way from the content of the article at all, but to add to the conversation surrounding how to get the best out of your photography.

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    • John Cavan

      No, they’re not *really* necessary, but even having someone to move the food around is a huge help. Irrespective of anything else, you usually have a short window before most foods look less than ideal, so help that understands is good. Think about it this way… A fashion shoot is going to get a more polished look with stylists doing hair and makeup than the model doing it.

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  4. Raoni Franco

    A few tricks of food fotography:
    – WD40, yes, the machine oil. Makes things like meat, bacon, some cooked vegetables and fruits, look more fresh or newly cooked. Use it with caution or the food will look greasy.
    – Mix glicerine with water to have more stable droplets on fruits, vegetables, glasses, etc. Spray it for a droplet effect or use a tooth pick (and more glicerine) to make bigger drops.
    – Small reflectors help a lot. Make them with card board, foamcore, etc, and make some kind of base for them so thay stand still over the table and you don´t have to hold them.
    – Glass bricks can be interesting gobos. Place them between your light and the food.
    – When the food needs to look newly cooked, baked or fried, do your tests with a stand-in plate. Bring the “star” plate when everything is ready.
    – The list goes on and on…..

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  5. John Cavan

    A good food stylist would go a long way too, there are tricks and techniques that they employ to position food to be at its most interesting. Also, many foods only give a short “fresh” window, especially frozen, heated, or soaked so there’s a ton of tricks to go with that too. I do my own cooking blog (not really maintained like the dedicated ones) and I often wish I had better time to set up my shots, but it’s usually my actual dinner then!

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    • Daniel Jester

      Hear hear! In really any facet of photography, an experienced stylist is awesome to have. I work with a lot of product stylists and the really good ones are basically magicians.

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