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How To: 14 Simple Food Photography Tips

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My photography has changed over the past couple of years since I started this blog.

Am I a professional?  No.

But while I may not be a professional food photographer, my pictures sure have taken a turn for the better.  While I still have a lot to work on and I am continually trying my best to learn more about photography, I am proud of how far I have come in a fairly short amount of time.

When I sat down to think about how and why my photography has changed over these past two years, I discovered that some of the things I have changed have been rather simple.  Guess what?  These are also things that you can easily do yourself!  Following are My Simple Food Photography Tips that anyone can do- even those with little time to dedicate to the practice.  And yes, most of these truly are simple!

(I do use a DSLR camera, but have only been using it for approximately three months.  Even without a DSLR camera, your food photography can be improved- something that I discovered while I was still taking pictures on my non-iPhone).

14 Simple Way to Improve your Food Photography

1. It is all about the lighting.

food photographyFor the longest time I took pictures in my kitchen basked in florescent lighting.  But after doing my research, I learned that natural lighting is ideal for food photography.  After trying out my apartment patio (which was a fail since it is covered), I realized that I have the most perfect window in my bedroom- North facing and all.  Use natural lighting whenever possible.  This includes taking pictures outside when you can.  Oh, and do your best when Winter hits and there are only a few hours of “good” light available to you.  I generally find that photographing around 1:00 in the afternoon is ideal for me.  Find what works best for you and your space, and plan ahead when you can.

2. Do not use your camera’s flash.

I used the flash on my camera for at least the first year that I had this blog.  When I accidentally started using my camera without the flash, I realized that my pictures were so much better.  You may be tempted to use the “auto” button on your camera (which I do utilize for non-food related photos), but I highly encourage you to either use your manual settings or the “no flash” setting depending on what type of camera you have.

3. Mix up your angles.

Move around your object of interest when taking pictures.  Things get boring when all 10 photographs that you post are from the exact same angle.  This is something that I am working on improving myself.  We can get stuck on an angle that “works,” but it turns out a whole lot of other angles work well too and provide unique and exciting photographs!

4. Change your backgrounds.

fff chickpea summer saladKeep things interesting by varying the background that you use while taking pictures.  Get creative on this one and use what is at your disposal.  A lot of my pictures are taken on a brown desk or a tan-colored wooden cutting board.  For the picture above, however, I mixed things up a bit and took the picture outside.  My background was concrete and different and I followed #1  by maximizing the use of natural light available to me.

5. Focus!

Yes, focus on what you are doing, but what I really mean is to use the focus guidelines on your camera (this is most pertinent to those with a DSLR camera).  It sounds simple but this is something that I sometimes forget to spend enough time on.

6. Simple white is nice.

hilary's eat well 3Colored and patterned plates are nice.  But white dishes are generally the best when it comes to food photography.  White dishes minimize possible distractions and they really make the food pop!

7. A white poster board is perfect for directing light.

food photography 2So you have that gorgeous natural light coming through the window?  Control and direct it in the ways that you want by bouncing it off of a white poster board.  These only cost about $2.00 so they are incredibly cost effective.

food photography 3I prop my poster board up with one of my kitchen chairs.

8. Use fun (but not distracting) props.

food photography 4I have an entire stack of various placemats, napkins, tablecloths, straws, silverware, etc. sitting under my photography desk.  These add character and excitement to your photos (when used minimally).  Try to mix these up often so that your photographs are not taken using the same placemat every time.  I recommend checking the clearance sections of places like Target, World Market, TJ Maxx, etc. for such items.

9. Some foods photograph better cold.

tofu veggie enchiladas 8yRemember these?  And remember how I told you that I photographed these Cheese and Potato Enchiladas cold?  It turns out many foods photograph better as cold leftovers.  These are a perfect example.  Another food that I find photographs better cold is soup- though this is one I am still trying to master.

10. Odd numbers are best.

eggplant tomato feta 3Food tends to photograph best in odd numbers.  When you are photographing muffins, cookies, or things like these Roasted Eggplant, Tomato, and Feta Cheese Stacks, pair them in odd numbers.  Odd numbers are more visually appealing to the reader.

11. Add a pop of color.

Italian loaf 16yAdding a pop of color can be done in several ways.  Try adding a garnish (like the spinach above), spicing things up with colored text, or providing colorful (but not distracting) accents through placemats and/or napkins.

12. Set the scene.

almond trail mix 15Setting the scene is important.  Adding that napkin, pop of color, garnish, fun utensil, accompanying side or drink, etc. can make the picture and can help your readers see themselves eating that same dish in their very own homes.

13. Take your time.

Sometimes I can be tempted to rush through my photography because…well, I’m hungry!  Plan ahead when you know you are going to photograph your food and give yourself ample time.  This is another instance where taking pictures of cold food can be helpful.

14. PicMonkey is your friend.

I know it is my friend!  I do not pay for the upgraded version, but I find that the free version truly makes a difference in my pictures.  For the most part, I focus on editing each picture’s exposure (brightness, shadows, highlights, contrast), colors (saturation), sharpness, and clarity.  I also use it to add fun effects, graphics, and text.  I can tell a difference in the quality of my photos every single time that I use PicMonkey.  If you are not utilizing this free resource, you need to be!

As I mentioned before, I am by no means an expert when it comes to food photography.  I also know that I have a lot to learn and can continually improve my work.  I do hope, however, that some of these basic tips and techniques that I use may be of benefit to you.

What food photography tips do you have to share that I have not covered?  Please share in the comments!

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  • Zornitsa Atanasova August 22, 2014, 1:12 am
    Great tips :) I like these post, the more i read them the more i wish i had time and patience to create a blog :) But then i know i'll never do it. PicMonckey is a great site, i've been using it a lot for my personal pictures in the past, but i also highly recomend Fotor.com Have you tried it? Is's also free and if you sign in (for free) you have some "pro" options like "scenes", one of them is called "food" and is created for food bloggers. Check it out if you want, i'm sure you'll like it :)
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 22, 2014, 8:38 am
      That's awesome! I'll have to check it out! And never say never... I never thought I would start a blog either ;)
  • Jeff @ Murnan Creative` August 22, 2014, 7:34 am
    Great post and thanks for the tips! You are really talented! I agree, PicMonkey is an incredible free resource. If you ever need a free Photoshop equivalent, I use GIMP for the heavy editing jobs as well.
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 22, 2014, 8:42 am
      Thanks Jeff! And thanks for the recommendation. I'll definitely have to check that out! I have been wanting to try using Photoshop or something like it... I'll have to research GIMP and then learn how to use it ;)
  • Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine August 22, 2014, 8:57 am
    Taking my time and lighting are what I need to work on! But for that I also need a better window ;)
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:12 pm
      Having a window with great natural lighting definitely makes a HUGE difference... unfortunately, that is just not possible for everyone :(
  • Liz Perry August 22, 2014, 8:59 am
    Thanks Hannah! Recipes are a small part of my blog, but I could definitely bump it up. I'm pinning for other bloggers :) Liz Perry recently posted...The Mrs. Doubtfire Challenge: Suicide Prevention AwarenessMy Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:46 pm
      Thanks so much, Liz! I appreciate it :)
  • cait @pieceofcait August 22, 2014, 9:09 am
    great tips thank you so much! :)
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:46 pm
      Thank you, Cait! You are so welcome :)
  • Jamie | Jamie's Recipes August 22, 2014, 9:22 am
    Great tips! I am always always trying to improve my photography. I have noticed over the last 7 years how much I've improved but there is always room to get better. Jamie | Jamie's Recipes recently posted...Grandma’s Potato SaladMy Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:48 pm
      Isn't it so fun to see the progress you have made over the years? It definitely feels like quite the accomplishment!
  • Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health August 22, 2014, 9:34 am
    i am not a pro either but natural light is the way to go. Also, practice, a lot of practice will slowly make photos come out better. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health recently posted...Three Bean SaladMy Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:49 pm
      You are SO right! Practice doesn't make perfect, but it certainly results in progress!
  • Glenneth August 22, 2014, 9:36 am
    fantastic tips!!! Glenneth recently posted...Fabulous Friday Five . . .My Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:49 pm
      Thank you so much, Glenneth!
  • Dana P. August 22, 2014, 9:56 am
    These are wonderful tips, Hannah! It's been on my list for some time now to invest in some white dishes. Thanks for sharing! Dana P. recently posted...Under ConstructionMy Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:50 pm
      I am so glad that I finally purchased various white dishes. They are definitely my go-to dishes for food photography now!
  • Erin @ Her Heartland Soul August 22, 2014, 10:35 am
    Seriously great tips! I just learned a lot. Thanks for sharing Hannah! Erin @ Her Heartland Soul recently posted...Friday Five 29My Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:51 pm
      Thanks Erin! You are SO welcome! :)
  • Alexis @ Hummusapien August 22, 2014, 4:32 pm
    Great tips, girl! My photographer friend gave me her lightbox which has been BEYOND dreamy. I'm with ya on the white backgrounds!
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:52 pm
      Oh, nice!! I hope to either make or buy a lightbox one of these days!
  • Ambar August 22, 2014, 8:19 pm
    Thank you for the amazing tips!!!!!! Ambar recently posted...Yucca With Mojo SauceMy Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 24, 2014, 5:53 pm
      You are welcome, Ambar!! :)
  • Kelly @ hidden fruits and veggies August 26, 2014, 11:45 am
    My house is in the woods, which is GREAT for looking at squirrels, but not so great for natural light. Should've thought about that when I bought my house (several years before I started a blog... lol) We made a light box for less than $10 and you can buy light bulbs that are more similar to natural light -- these are pretty much our lifesavers. Especially in the winter when there's a 15 minute window of sunshine and it only happens when I'm at work ;-)
    • ClnEatingVegGrl August 26, 2014, 4:22 pm
      Photographing food in the Winter is SO rough, especially if you work an 8-5 job :( I really need to invest in a light box.
  • bolton carley September 1, 2014, 6:46 pm
    Fellow iowa girl at heart. Great tips. I need to remember to use natural light more in my house. I do when I take photos of people, but I need to use it more with food. Thanks! bolton carley recently posted...Honor thy Pig otherwise known as International Bacon Day!My Profile
    • ClnEatingVegGrl September 1, 2014, 8:31 pm
      It is definitely something that is easy to overthink, but is so important!
  • Juan Carlo February 9, 2015, 3:49 am
    Awesome tips Hannah! All I need to do now is find a room with good lighting. Any tips on what colors may seem appealing to the crowd?
    • ClnEatingVegGrl February 9, 2015, 12:25 pm
      I find the best backgrounds to be subtle/basic colors... like white or wood. I then add a pop of color with the food and/or napkins. Simple backgrounds tend to work best for me!

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