My ULTIMATE food photography guide - including my favorite props and ceramics, tools all about lighting, composition, styling as well as all my favorite equipment, camera gear and lighting.
Food Photography Tips
Natural Lighting ~ I personally shoot in natural lighting, I find it's the best for food photography. However, this can also depend on the mood and tone you're trying to accomplish. I personally like bright, white colorful food photos, so that's why utilizing natural light works, however, if you are going for a more moody tone then artificial lighting, nighttime food photography or dark tones may work best for you.
I personally love to shoot in overcast lighting next to a window. I like the sharp and bright images without any direct sunlight with an overcast shadow.
Artificial Lighting ~ You can also utilize the bright colorful images with artificial lighting. Although more expensive and takes some practice in terms of technique to accomplish, you can definitely use this too.
The Food Itself
This is one of the main food photography tips I can give you! You don't have to think TOO much into this but it should be on your mind. Make sure you are developing recipes/plating itself that looks great. An image can do so much, but the colors and textures of the dish is what you really want to be the star.
Think before you plate, how can I make this look it's best? You can imagine how the camera will pick up the colors as well. A tomato soup that is red can look vibrant, but it can be elevated with a little bit of olive oil to add texture, some basil for a pop of green while still allowing the tomato soup to pop and be the star of the dish.
I've found that by incorporating hands and arms in photos, it gives the photo texture and a human element + emotion to the image. It can sometimes elevate an image just right. Use it to hold chopsticks, pick up lettuce wraps or to dip nachos in queso for example.
The mood and tone of a food photo depends on the style you're going for. You can utilize a bright image or a moody dark tone. Its up to you. Mess around with different settings and find your style!
I have another pair of boards from Toile Blanche and I am IN LOVE. It is such a high quality board and not to mention, it photographs beautifully.
I am also a huge fan of anything Lodge or Staub. I also always take a look at any Marshall’s or Ross when I’m in the areas of any locations - sometimes you can find some really great gems! If there are any local estate sales or garage sales near by, that can also be a great place to find cheap and affordable props and styling tools. More on props here. You can also shop my favorite ceramics and props here as well in my SHOP.
Some of my favorites at the moment are:
Staub 2-Piece Rectangular Baking Dish Set in White (I find myself using this one a lot!)
Start simple, snap and keep adding ingredients and props.
What I like to do is shoot the image in it's purest form. Then keep snapping and see what needs adding. Sometimes a little addition of a fork or a herb will make all the difference. You can also add little things, but sometimes you won't be able to take items away, so start simple then keep adding as needed.
Keep it Simple + don't Overdo it on the Props
Sometimes we want to overdo it with the props and linens, and then sometimes it can look too cluttered, scattered and dirty. You want your food photography to look natural and seamless but also utilizing simple props that will elevate it.
For example, a apple pie will look elevated with a scoop of ice cream, a piece cut out and the knife right next to it. But if you start to scatter 2 or 3 more knives around, a bunch of slices of apple around the frame, and ice cream scoops surrounding the image, it might look messy. Keep it simple but still use props to elevate the image.
Texture, Angles + Composition
Some of the most important aspects of food photography are texture and composition. You need to make your food look vibrant, colorful and appetizing. By just putting a boring plate of salad or leafy greens, it looks sad and unappetizing. It needs to be elevated with certain types of textures and colors like crispy breadcrumbs and layers like herbs, red tomatoes etc.
For composition, mess around with your angles and where you want the dish to be placed. Sometimes a simple nudge of the plate to the corner might elevate the photo just right. You want balance, symmetry and to take shots in all different angles to see which composition works best for the dish you're shooting and what style you’re trying to utilize for your aesthetic.
I currently use a Canon 6d Mark II and a Canon T5i for side angles for video shoots. I use a 50mm 1.4 lens (which is one of the best and affordable lenses out there in my opinion and great for food photography). I also use a 85mm 1.4 as well, I switch off between the two. For an entry level camera, I would recommend a T5i.
Editing Softwares/Post-Processing (desktop and phone)
There are so many softwares out there to edit photos. I personally use a few before actually posting on Instagram but generally I start with my lightroom preset. What I love about lightroom is you can create an edit preset that you love and you can just copy/paste on all your images and adjust contrast, saturation, brightness, exposure, etc. from there.
It's also a great spot treatment so if a drizzle from a sauce gets on the outside of the bowl, I can edit that out.
I also love the app A Color Story. I use 3-4 filters on my Instagram photos along with the lightroom preset sometimes, it depends on the image.
Another great phone app is Snapseed, this generally operates as a great alternative to Lightroom. You can brighten and sharpen certain points of the image and I personally love their sharpening tools as well as their selective tool - if one part of an image needs brightening or contrasting, you can just focus on that part.
I use the app Facetune to whiten the background of some of my images when they are maybe too shadowy, dark or not as white as they can be.
Thanks for reading! Any other tips you’d be interested in covering in more depth on photography and food photography?
Keep up with me on instagram @lindseyeatsla!