How to Take Mouth-Watering Food Photos
If you’re a food blogger, then you know that food photography is essential to your success. But what if you’re not a professional photographer? Never fear! With these tips, you can learn how to take stunning food photos that will make your readers drool.
It took me quite some time and practice to start creating images that looked edible let alone mouth watering! In the beginning of my food blogging I had some really bad impression that my ugly counters with horrible overhead kitchen lights would create a good image.
Yeah my first photos are a hot mess, I am not even exaggerating here. The lighting from the kitchen put off this ugly yellowish with a horrible glare and the food just didn’t look right. Fortunately I learned a bit about food photography earlier on so I didn’t have as many photos to redo.
You learn as you go, that’s what food blogging is all about! Food photography is no different. Here are some of our tips to help you create mouth watering food photos!
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Choose the right location
The first step to taking gorgeous food photos is finding the right location. You want a spot that has good lighting and a nice background (backdrops work great.) A cluttered kitchen table is not going to make your food look appetizing!
I set up a spot in my cluttered kitchen that looks like it is perfect. It isn’t perfect, I use backdrops to create the look. My kitchen is camera ugly (not a bad kitchen but the colors are horrible in pictures.)
Pick the best time of day
The next step is to choose the best time of day to take your photo. Early morning or late afternoon light is typically the most flattering, so if you can, plan to take your photo during those times.
If you’re taking a photo indoors, try to find a spot near a window where the light will stream in and highlight your food. If shadows are too bad, use a white sheet or something to buffer the light coming in. Some foods look great with shadows while some do not.
Times of day for the best light indoors will vary per person. The direction the window you use is facing and the amount of light that comes in the window will determine the best time of day for you.
Use natural light whenever possible
Whether you are taking the photos indoors or outdoors, take advantage of the natural light. The sun will provide the perfect amount of lighting for your food photos. Depending on the time of day, you may need to diffuse some light or you will have harsh shadows.
If it is a cloudy day, that can work in your favor! The diffused light will be softer and more flattering to your subject. I love cloudy days for a photo shoot! But you do have to plan on taking photos just a little bit earlier in the day. If it is too late in the day you may lose too much light on an overcast day.
If you’re taking photos at night, try using artificial lighting. You can set up a few lamps near your food to create a well-lit scene. Soft boxes are a perfect way to add the soft lighting you need. Do NOT use your kitchen lighting for the food photos. They will not turn out appetizing!
Sometimes people call soft boxes light boxes. They are similar but the light boxes are often a big box you put the product in that is well lit inside. While great for products, not always ideal for plates of food. But you may try it and love it! We personally like the soft boxes.
Make sure all your ingredients are ready to go before you start cooking
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to have all your ingredients chopped, measured, and ready to go before you start cooking. That way, you can focus on taking photos and not worry about rushing to get the food on the table.
I also like to include an ingredient shot in my food blog posts so I take a picture of them prepped. Now I can easily take process shots because my ingredients are all prepped and ready to go.
Find an interesting background that will make your food stand out
Your background should be something that will complement your food and make it pop. A busy pattern may be too distracting, so try to find something with a simple design. Backdrops are great for this! You can make DIY food photography backdrops or you can use backdrops that you purchased.
I have a few that I use all the time because they go with everything. A couple of them are V-Flat and are amazing while a couple of them are ones that I made myself.
If you’re taking photos outdoors, look for a spot with a nice view. A beautiful landscape or cityscape can make a great backdrop for your food photos. We do not have a really nice nature view here so I usually take the pictures inside or on the grill (for my grill dishes.)
What ever you choose, be sure the background compliments the food and does not overpower it. You always want the main focus to be on your food.
Choose the right angle
The angle of your photo can make a big difference in how appetizing your food looks. When in doubt, go for a top-down shot. This angle is especially flattering for flat dishes like pizza or pancakes. It also works well for cakes and other desserts.
If you’re taking a photo of something that’s taller, like a stack of pancakes or a burger, try a straight on shot. This will help show off all the layers of your dish.
And if you want to get really creative, try a bird’s eye view shot. This angle is unique and can make your food look like art. Not all dishes are going to look amazing on a bird’s eye view.
Directly overhead is another favorite of mine. Most food can be shot overhead unless you want to show the layers (like pancakes and hamburgers on a bun.)
I like to experiment with different angles to see what I like best. I typically take the photos in a few angles so I have a few different ones to choose from.
Many food photographers refer to the angles by numbers – 45, -45, 75, 90 degrees. Lauren from Food Photography Academy has a great post the 3 best camera angles for your food photography + ones you should avoid. We are not affiliated nor have we taken her course, but her blog post covers angles much better then I can!
Get close to your subject
The next tip is to get close to your subject. This will help fill the frame and make your food look big and beautiful. Whether you are using a DSLR or a smart phone camera, you want to be close to the food to show the details.
Smart phones are all different so I am not able to give all the details for the settings. I use a Samsung phone and love to keep it on photo most of the time. I do adjust the lighting sometimes and I do like to lock the focus on my food so it slightly blurs out the background.
While using it on photo mode doesn’t give me as much flexibility as pro mode, the photo mode is an easy one to use.
While I know I said to get close to your food, you do not want to zoom too far in either. You want some negative space so you do not overwhelm your reader. This was one of my crappy photos from the beginning and you can see that zoomed it, it can be overwhelming to look at. Ok, it is a real mess but zoomed in made it worse.
The angle in the picture above would have been ok for mashed potatoes if I had not zoomed in. There is almost no space around anything and it really is in your face. It also would have been better with proper light and a good backdrop, but this is an old picture. Lessons learned!
Now this is the image I took last year for these mashed potatoes and as you can see, there is more space and easier to look at:
Experiment with props
Props can really help make your photos look more appetizing. Think about adding a few utensils, napkins, or even flowers to your photos. Anything that will help make your photo look more like it belongs in a magazine!
I love using wooden cutting boards and white plates as my base. Then I add in some napkins or towels and utensils. I really love the look of a kitchen towel with just a little color (like a light blue and white) in a picture. Sometimes I use them as napkins or they can be used to make it look like the towel was used to carry the hot dish.
Have fun with props but keep it fairly simple. You do not want your props taking away from the food but you want them to compliment it.
Edit your photos
The final tip is to edit your photos. This can really help make your food look more appetizing. I like to use the Lightroom app by Adobe to edit my photos. It’s an easy app to use and it has a lot of great features.
There are many different settings you can adjust in Lightroom. Many times I start with auto to get a base of the colors and lighting that Lightroom suggests. Then you can tweak from there.
Another great option (sometimes auto is a bit off for the food) is to use presets. Adobe has some presets in Lightroom if you have premium and there are many pros that sell presets as well. We have a lot of presets that we made and use. I will be adding them to the site for sale soon!
Practice and find your style
While there are some things you need to do for a great picture, there are some things that are flexible. I do recommend looking through other pictures of food online and seeing what really catches your eye. Try to recreate the style with your own food and take some pictures.
I am not telling you to copy their exact pictures, that is not ok, but work with the basic style they have and see if it works for your food. I have tried dark and moody (mainly in the winter time when lighting is different) and I have gone light and bright.
Try different styles and see what you like. And you may change your style over time, that’s ok too! Be creative and have some fun. You will find what works best for you.
Our favorite book about food photography along with our favorite food photography blogs that we think will help you better your photography!
How to Photograph Food – This book is amazing! It is a physical book that we bought off of Amazon. She covers everything from colors and camera settings to composition and editing.
Little Rusted Ladle by Jenna Carlin is a blog that we recommend checking out. She also usually hosts a summit for food photography around May. She is an amazing photographer and works with a lot of brands as well.
Gastrostoria by Darina is another food photographer whose email list we are on. We purchased one of her ebooks as well and love it!
The Little Plantation by Kimberly Espinel is another great one! Her pictures are gorgeous and such an inspiration.
While there are many different resources and many great photographers, the ones above are our go to.
These are just a few tips to help you take amazing food photos. Just remember to have fun and experiment with different angles, props, and editing techniques. And soon you’ll be taking mouth-watering food photos that will make everyone want to eat!
Happy snapping! Do you have any great food photography tips that you want to share? Let us know in the comments!
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