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Tips & Tricks

Food Photography Tips & ‘How Tos’ From A Young Instagram Dominating Photographer

By Kishore Sawh on April 8th 2016

I know someone who recently compared photographers to possible suitors for dating. She said she has trouble finding someone because people tend to be relatively one-dimensional, or at least easily pigeonholed. He could be handsome and athletic, but then what if he wasn’t funny? The good looking ones rarely are, she claims, “God doesn’t give with both hands.” Now, I don’t know about all that, but it was an interesting comparison because in photography you tend to be defined by what you shoot, and known for that genre: If you’re a fashion photographer you’re typically not considered to cover Wimbledon.

Betty Liu, is a bit of an anomaly that way. Her bread and butter is wedding photography, a vocation both she and her husband are accomplished at, but on the side, so-to-speak, she’s a food photographer, and that’s a bit of a problem.

Betty Liu - 5

So let me swivel the Rubik’s cube of your day and explain how this is odd, and it’s because wedding photographers don’t usually have images on Instagram that get millions of views, and hundreds of thousands of likes – of food. Betty, trailing streamers of success behind her, has managed to not only become great at more than one genre, but to become highly marketable in both. She and I spoke last night about her work, and she shared her story, her gear, and how she leveraged Lightroom presets (her own) and a simple technique to gain massive traction. She even breaks down how to do it.


Photography Gear

Nikon Bodies Mostly (but it changes)
Leica M9 
Contax 645 Medium Format Film
Film Of choice: Fuji 400H

Betty’s voice and vocal demeanor are reflective of the presence she has online. She’s soft spoken but well spoken; unpretentious and unassuming; eclectic and unapologetic about it. Perhaps the last part comes from being American of Chinese heritage from California now residing in Boston.

A photo posted by betty | ? (@bliu07) on

Her food photography work, however, strikes more a European vibe than American. It’s moody, often dark with soft directional light, and an almost monastic environment. The look of her images is from a Lightroom preset she and her husband created from their experience with wedding photography, and it’s reminiscent of film, as many are.

If it’s a look you like the SLR Lounge Preset System can achieve similar results with a single click. In fact, her film of choice is Fuji 400H, and the SLRL system has a 1-click 400H preset. Find it here

Betty Liu - 6

Betty Liu - 3

And as many of you may know, Instagram has been making a major push for video in the last year, introducing view counters for videos, and the ability to do minute-long videos. Betty has leveraged the Instagram video options to really draw her viewers into her work, primarily with short stop-motion ‘vignettes’ (a term adopted from architectural studies), as they are perfect for quickly demonstrating a technique. The appeal of these videos is rather obvious and Instagram has featured her work. After much demand, Betty has created a tutorial on how she makes them and has shared it first here with us:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 5.14.05 PM


  • Have an idea of what you’re shooting. Is it process? Is it folding a dumpling? Or is it putting on garnish for a soup? Or, are you cutting a cake? Assembling a tablescape? All of these micro-stories would work beautifully in a stop-motion vignette. Put together a small storyboard so that you know what the beginning frame is and what the last frame is (or at least visualize it in your mind).
  • Shoot in RAW so you have full capability to edit to create uniformly edited photos.
  • Use a tripod for steady framing if you are planning on incorporating your own hands. I use a Gitzo explorer.
    Prepare all the ingredients beforehand so you can simply shoot without interruption.
  1. After you’ve finished photographing and editing the individual frames, export to JPG in a single folder
  2. Open Adobe Photoshop. File >> Scripts >> Load Files Into Stack
  3. Click browse. Find your designated folder, and select all.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 5.13.17 PM
  4. Click OK. All files should then appear as individual layers in one file.
  5. Click Window >> Timeline to prompt the timeline window
  6. Click “Create Frame Animation” in the timeline window
  7. In the Timeline Window’s top right corner, click on the menu and click “Make Frames from Layers”. The frames will then populate across the Timeline Window.
    Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 5.13.33 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-08 at 5.13.45 PM
  8. In the same menu, click “Reverse Frames” to obtain the right order.
  9. Adjust the timing to your specifications
  10. To export:
    GIF: File >> Export >> Save for Web
    mp4: File >> Export >> Render Video



You can find the recipe to this and the full blog tutorial here.

I’ve stressed over and over on SLRL that Instagram is a massive resource for photographers to leverage, and Betty stands as a great example. I think these types of stop-motion videos, and videos in general, are going to become so important to photographers in all genres and it’s probably wise to adopt it into your culture now.

You can get the wonderful recipes Betty provides on her site, including this one that so many people seem to love and you can also see her wedding photography. Do show her some love on Facebook and Instagram, and even if you’re not a foodie, the visuals are sweet.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Cristina St. Germain

    great article. I have wedding as a money-income project, but I do not want to ultimately defined by that. especially right now when i am still figuring out what i like and want to shoot.

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  2. Joseph Wu

    Love the gif!

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