7 Simple Food Photography Tips

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A picture tells a thousand words, and it does so instantaneously. If you’re a food blogger, an eye blink is all the time you have to entice readers to check out your recipe. They’ll glance at your photo, and if it doesn’t make them drool – they’ll move on.

My blog food photos haven’t enticed anyone to try my recipes, so I decided to take a photography class. Since there were no food photography classes in my area, I took an individual class with professional photographer, Nadyne McClurg.

I was nervous about the class because not only do I know nothing about photography, but I’d just purchased a Canon camera that I wasn’t even used to using. When Nadyne arrived, however; her warm personality immediately put me at ease and I had a good feeling about how things would go.

My gut feeling was correct – the class was fabulous! Two hours of training obviously didn’t transform me from a novice to a professional, but it made a difference! Let me show you.

Here is a photo I took before the class:

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Here are some photos I took during the class:

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Imagine a lovely pink smoothie in the glass – beautiful!

I loved that Nadyne came to my house for the class, because she showed me how to use things I already have to create pleasing compositions. In the cookie photo above, we took a painting off the wall to use as a background and the photo of the glass was taken on my fireplace mantle.

I learned a lot from this class, and I want to pass this info on to you. Here’s what I learned:

7 Simple Food Photography Tips

  • The kind of camera you use matters. Nadyne recommended that I purchase a Canon – EOS Rebel T5i 18.0-MP Digital SLR camera. At $900, this was too pricy for me. I ended up getting an earlier model of this camera at Radio Shack for $700. Still pricy, but it takes fabulous photos.
  • Light makes ALL the difference! Diffused natural light is best, so take photos near a window but not in direct sunlight. You can also take photos outside, but do so in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Never put anything in the middle of the frame! Novice photographers (ahem, like me) try to center their subject. Centered photos, however; aren’t dynamic or interesting. It is better to frame a photograph using the rule of thirds. To do this, divide your frame up like a tic-tac-toe board and place your subject at any of the intersecting lines.
  • Tilt your camera. Instead of holding your camera parallel to the floor, tilt it so that one side of your camera is higher than the other side. This really made a difference!
  • Don’t photograph the whole bowl or plate. When photographing food, experiment with leaving a part of the plate or bowl out of the shot to create interest.
  • Grow viola’s and nasturtiums. Viola’s and nasturtiums are often placed on food to be photographed because they are not only beautiful, but they’re edible. If you grow them, they’ll always be available to you.
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Mini cheesecakes decorated with violas.

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Cupcakes decorated with nasturtiums.

  • Edit, edit, edit! Use a program like Photoshop Elements to sharpen, crop and resize your photos as well as to correct any color and lighting issues. It only takes a few minutes to learn how to do these tricks, and they can really take your photos to the next level.

I’m still learning about food photography, and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got other tips you want to share.

Photo of tomatoes courtesy of Cook & Be Merry.

Photo of mini cheesecakes with violas courtesy of Marabous.

Photo of cupcakes with nasturtiums courtesy of Cupcakes Take the Cake.

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About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
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70 Responses to 7 Simple Food Photography Tips

  1. sophiazerg says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Celeste! Your photos from class are lovely!
    I am so excited to try the rule of thirds as well as the tilting of the camera. Didn’t know about either of these tricks! 🙂
    From a newbie Canon owner to another 🙂
    Sophia

    • I’m so glad you found this helpful. The rule of thirds and camera tilting are so simple, but make such a difference. Thanks for all your support with my photography – I appreciate it. Celeste 🙂

  2. Stacey says:

    Nice tips! I try to “catch the light” in my photos but so many restaurants aren’t lit that well. I think I’d really get some funny looks if I took my plate over to a window lol!

    • Hey Stacey!! Yea, I think it’s a little different in a restaurant. I would like to see a video of you taking a plate to a window and photographing it in a restaurant. That would be funny to watch. I wouldn’t have the guts to do it, however. Celeste 🙂

      • Stacey says:

        Me neither. I’m self-conscious enough taking photos at the table! Maybe after a few glasses of wine one evening 🙂

  3. mrsnikkiv says:

    Thanks for the info! I’ve been working on my food photography, so I’ll try your tips!

  4. Starr says:

    A private photography class is a great idea! Looks like you made real progress (loving that cookie picture).

    • Oh, thanks so much. I do think I learned a thing or two. And I do recommend a private lesson. I think for my purposes, it was more helpful than a basic food photography lesson would have been. Celeste 🙂

  5. wematterphotos says:

    Nice first pics. Thanks for sharing.

  6. charanyaram says:

    Thanks for this 🙂 Great photos.

  7. tofubelly says:

    So helpful, thank you for sharing!

  8. Ally says:

    Thanks for the great tips, Celeste. Such a great idea to have a private lesson. I’m really looking forward to your food photos.
    I might just take up the idea of planting nasturtiums. 🙂

    • I always appreciate it when you stop by Ally! I don’t have a green thumb, but I’m going to attempt to grow nasturtiums too. I thought that was a great tip. Celeste 🙂

  9. More Than Greens says:

    Your class photos are lovely! I’d love to do a course like this but it’s not really viable for me right now so thanks for sharing your tips!

    My photos have definitely improved since I started my blog last year (mostly due to a camera upgrade and copying other bloggers in framing and style ideas) but I still have a long, long way to go!

    • I think your photos look pretty darn good (love your Spicy Bean Wraps photo!!). I think that learning from others and practice really does help. Thanks so much for your comment!! I really appreciate it. Celeste 🙂

  10. Moonierh says:

    The rule of third is probably the best tip I ever got from my teacher in my photo class too 🙂 I am glad you had a nice experience on the lesson, and I hope you (will) enjoy photography as much as I do, it really is an incredible way to capture moments!

  11. Thanks for sharing ! The rule of third is very interesting…. I shall use all your tips. Thanks Celeste !

  12. Lauren says:

    Amazing difference! Your photos are lovely.

  13. Anna says:

    Glad you find so much pleasure in a new activity. Good going Celeste.

  14. Wow! A private photography class sounds amazing! Your photos are so lovely..digging the cookie picture.

    • The class was so worth it just to get me comfortable with the basics. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I have the confidence that if I practice enough that I’ll improve. Celeste 🙂

  15. Great tips! Thanks for sharing. I’ll look forward to more yummy photos from you. 🙂

  16. Mike Lince says:

    Pretty cool! Obviously, food photography is significantly more challenging than landscapes and buildings. Keep up the good work. 🙂

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  18. Wow fantastic Celeste – fun! Love the photos!

  19. This is an useful post, thank you for sharing what you learned.

  20. what great tips !! fabulous Celeste .My pictures are not good so I am also going to invest in a DSLR camera. Thanks, also thanks for your regular feedback and encouragement .

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I have to admit that despite the DSLR camera and my lesson I’m still struggling with photography. I do like my camera, however; and I know with practice I’ll get better. And as for my feedback – it’s my pleasure! Celeste 🙂

  21. Lorrie Wenzler says:

    Loved the photos that you took and the tips.

    • Hi Mom! I love that you read my blog. It really means a lot to me. I’m still working on the photography. I practiced taking photos of veggie burgers yesterday. It didn’t go so well. Oh well – practice makes perfect. Celeste 🙂

  22. What excellent pointers! Thank you for sharing them!

  23. bloomlisa says:

    Great tips and I love your blog, I discovered it through Lori Leigh Wilson as a fellow nominee for the Inspiring Blogger Award. I am looking forward to your posts!!

  24. Oh my…. You are the goddess. I had been struggling with mine…you came at the right time to me..reblogging it..if its okay…so thy I can have it with me forever :).

  25. Fab post! I was actually thinking of writing something similar in the future but haven’t yet as I haven’t got the right setup just yet. Your post did make me think again about the right conditions for food photography (it has been something I’ve been thinking about a lot). I have a DSLR but no tripod and nothing to lean it on (need to buy one) and therefore have been using my iPhone for most of my photos. I have low light in the kitchen and I always seem to be baking at night where my camera needs to use flash (as it is winter here in Auckland, it gets dark before I get home from work), and as you mentioned, natural light is best, especially the hour after sunrise and before sunset. So, i decided that I need to try and bake on the weekend more to get the best light. Thanks for a great post – I think anyone who has a food blog would find this useful 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Caroline! These tips really helped me, but I’ve still got much to learn about food photography. I’ve been practicing and doing research and I’ll probably write another photography post once I’ve learned more. Like you I struggle with preparing food at the right times to take advantage of natural light. I hope your plan to bake on the weekends works out for you. And I don’t have a tripod yet either. I’m curious about your blog, so I’ll be checking it out shortly. Celeste 🙂

      • Thanks Celeste, I’ll be looking forward to your next food photography post 🙂 Let me know what you think about my blog – it’s always gluten, dairy and ‘sugar’ free but I have also been experimenting with vegan recipes lately (E.g. the ‘Delicious banana cake’). Caroline 🙂

    • I was just looking through your blog and I love it! I left a long comment on your about page. Celeste 🙂

  26. Kimbo says:

    Thank you celeste for this post!
    I’ve been experimenting with food shots with Instagram so this will benefit me a lot!
    Kim

    • Hey there Kim! I’m so glad you found this post helpful. I’m doing research on food photography and plan to write another post with more tips soon. Good luck with the photos! Celeste 🙂

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  28. Celeste,
    Can I share some of your tips on one of my contest’s Facebook page?
    Thanks,
    Sonal

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