5 Easy Ways to Improve your Food Photography Skills

Food photography basics.
Every one is taking pictures of their food these days. What they’re eating, what they’re cooking. How do you get your images to stand out? There’s nothing worse than poorly photographed food– so unappetizing! Let’s talk about a couple of easy ways to improve your food photography skills.


    • Invest in a REAL camera.
      I’ve has this argument many times: cell phone camera vs. digital camera. While the cell phone cameras have come a long way, and they do deliver good results, the fastest and easiest way to step your game up is investing in a DSLR. You can find one moderately priced and with a little homework you can invest in a camera that will last you for years and years. (When was the last time you said that about your cellphone?) The second part of this advice? Learn how to use your camera. Like, REALLY LEARN. Go to YouTube, type in the model and start watching videos. Learn all the functions. Once you know how to use the piece of equipment you own, delve into photography basics: the rule of thirds, f-stops and apertures, etc. Learn to use the manual settings on your camera and you will own your photography game. This guy has some of my favorite photo tutorials and videos, easy to watch and informative.

    • Get serious with some accessories.
      As you learn your camera and master how to use it, you can decide what to invest in. Some basic lenses are a great place to start. For example, if you want tight, detailed shots with a blurred background, a Prime lens is a good investment. You can find them starting around $100, and they make great portrait lenses too. A tripod is another great tool, and you can easily find them in the $20-50 range (this is the one I have, it’s cheap and lightweight and I love it). This is great when setting up to shoot multiple images and it also comes in handy if you’re shooting in low light –you can steady the camera for longer exposures, no need to worry about shaking hands. And speaking of shaking hands, a remote like this one keeps your hands off the camera when shooting; you’d be surprised what a difference it makes when you have a long exposure!  Background lighting and photo filters are other useful items that won’t break the bank, and can help you make up for lighting that is less than ideal.


    • Natural lighting is key.
      I know I just ended that last paragraph talking about lighting and filters, but your best bet is natural light. Always. A bright sunny window or shooting outside is going to give you the best results, so plan your shoots with consideration to the weather and time of day. Set up next to a window that lets the light pour over your subject. Have you ever photographed something inside, in an artificially lit area? You think there’s enough light, but you get a yellow cast. It will throw your colors all off. Use natural sunlight when ever possible. That said, when talking about artificial lighting, you’ll want to use studio lighting, as it’s pure, white light with built in diffusers to soften the light as it falls on your subject. An even cheaper option are photo reflectors, to tone the light you’re working with.


    • Props
      Props can be cheap and easy. Some of my favorites include a wood grain cutting board and an old aluminum cookie sheet with a nice patina. You can go as simple as a piece of white poster board, for a clean and minimal background. Stick to all white dish ware and focus solely on the food.  I like to mix and match patterns or go out of my way to find vintage pieces. I also frequent places like Home Goods and TJ Maxx for random dishes, even thrift stores for one-of-a-kind items. When plating your food, dress it up with fresh herbs, slices of fruit or a dusting of chunky sea salt or sanding sugar (the salt and sugar only do any good if you’re zooming in and focusing on the details). One of my favorite tips in the category is to use smaller vessels when you’re plating your food. A small plate or bowl looks more inviting in an image because it will look more full.


    • Learn advanced editing skills. As important as it is to know your camera, you’ll want to invest in some editing tools as well. (With that in mind, you won’t spend as much effort editing your photos if you’ve learned the basics.) Editing software can tweak your photos, help you organize your batches and streamline your process. Lightroom from Adobe is one of the industry standards, but there are other options out there if you want to spend less  (or nothing at all) such as GIMP or Photoscape.


Below: Some real-life images from my real-life kitchen set up. Making use of the natural light. Setting up the tripod allows me to move things around as I work, and steady the camera. I was able to shut off the flash and lower the shutter speed (to allow a longer exposure, which means more light) and this alleviates the shaking caused naturally by holding a camera.  You can find the recipe for the dish below, here. 

5 Easy ways to Improve your Food Photography


**Disclosure: there are lots of links in this article, I am not being sponsored or compensated by or for any of them, they are intended to be references. There are Amazon links included here, and I am an Amazon Affiliate. Thanks!

12 thoughts on “5 Easy Ways to Improve your Food Photography Skills

  1. This is a great post! I am a professional birth photographer but just learned to improve my food photography skills last year. It made such a difference for my blog. Thanks for sharing these tips, they are spot on!

  2. I need to be better about planning my photos around when I have natural light! A lot of times, I just take the pictures when I finish the food, but that’s not always the best time of day. I’d like to get a tripod or maybe even one of those light boxes that you can put items in and get good lighting.

  3. Natural lighting is key, but I did just invest in a daylight fluorescent lamp and it has become an absolute lifesaver with winter coming and the days getting shorter! I got mine from B&H photo for a little over a hundred dollars. 🙂

  4. Ooooh I love that you have this written for everyone. When I first started I was so confused on what to do and how to start because I had no training. This post really helps out and even serves as a great reminder for those who take photos all the time. Great job!!!

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