How to Take Amazing Food Pictures

by zesty on September 21, 2012 · 82 comments

Happy Friday everybody!  So I have been blogging about 4  years now…. crazy I know and I have had a lot of people ask me about food photography.  I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about just that… FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY.  This is very much an art in itself.  I consider myself very much an amateur at this but I really enjoy it.

I have spoken to numerous photographers getting tips as well as reading manuals and articles on how to take amazing food photography.

For all the people out there like myself, I have put together a list of top tips on what I do to try and take great pictures.  I hope these help you the next time you flip open the lens and take a shot of your meal.

Food Photography Tips

  1. Stabilize your camera. Use a tripod, or prop your camera on a high-back chair to help reduce the photo’s blurriness.  This will eliminate the camera shake, you can also use a timer on the camera to be sure.
  2. Try to cut foods in somewhat geometric shapes for a more professional presentation. I also like to use the stacking technique depending on the dish.
  3. Arrange items on plate in a manner that showcases the strengths of a dish and its high-value ingredients.  I get this from obsessively watching the food network.
  4. Garnish the dish to enhance the color. Adding chopped parsley or chives gives spaghetti green specks that bring out the red color of the sauce. Adding a lemon wedge to a piece of fish kicks it up and gives it some zest. Or, consider ladling a sauce on the plate underneath the food, or over the items on the plate.
  5. Place your dish in a setting which will enhance the dish’s overall appearance. Place the dish on a flat-colored background, such as a uni-colored table cloth or table surface.  I myself like to use a white background and a white table cloth and normally my white square plate. If taking a picture from a side-angle, make sure the picture’s background will not distort the food in the foreground.
  6. Use as much natural light as possible. A camera flash will actually distort food pictures more often than it will enhance them. Try moving your dish into a well-lit area and have a portable lamp close at hand to prop above the dish.  Old school zesty has a five bulb light overhead shining 300 watts of crisp light. My photographer friend said that food can never really have too much lighting just be careful of shadows.
  7. Carefully choose the best angle for taking the picture. Examine the shape and features of your dish, to determine whether it looks best from overhead or from a side angle. Often, taking straight on shots of a dish doesn’t highlight the dish’s more appealing features.
  8. Zoom in so the dish fills as much of the picture as possible. Because I am an amateur I also like to use he macro setting for close ups as opposed to the manual focus.
  9. Work Quickly: food only looks really appealing for a short period of time. Ice cream melts. Veggies droop. Lettuce wilts. So you need to work fast. Even with the best-case scenario, you won’t have more than 10-15 minutes from the moment the food exits the pan or fridge to get your shot. Being well prepared really helps, and having a helper there to plate and dress is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles, settings, and garnishes nonetheless.
  10. Remember: practice makes perfect.

Here is a great resource for both beginners and those who are a little more advanced.  Lindsay over at Pinch Of Yum, created this great pdf guide on Tasty Food Photography.  Great book and a definite excellent starting point to be on your way to great photos.  (Do note, that I am not compensated in any way shape or form by promoting this book.  I just think it will benefit you.)

Here are some food sites that focus on amazing food pictures:

  1. Food Gawker
  2. Taste Spotting
  3. Photo Grazing

I hope everyone found these tips useful and will try some of them out in the future.  I would like to ask everyone, what is their best technique they found when taking pictures.  Share your techniques and we can add to the list.

Keep smiling and have a great Wednesday!

zesty

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{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

1 HoneyB

Great tips Zesty!

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2 coco

I’ve been waiting this from bloggers from day 1 of my blog experience. I’m so glad that you did it, it’s so useful!!!! Thanks so much~~~

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3 Megan

Thank you SO much. I really needed these tips. Now…if I could only buy a better camera, I would have it made!!

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4 dlyn

Great tips – it is a learning experience and practice is the key.

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5 VeggieGirl

Incredible!

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6 zestycook

HoneyB – thanks so much

Coco – Glad I could help, you can always ask me questions directly as well. I love to help

Thanks Megan – yeah the camera definitely helps

Dlyn – Practice is key – your so right

Thanks VeggieGirl.

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7 Freya

Fascinating and helpful tips!! Where do you stand on using Photoshop for “enhancing” pictures? I have just bought a copy to help my pictures look better!

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8 ZestyCook

Freya – I often use the levels option to lighten the picture. In addtion to that I usually crop the picture as well to clean it up and make the food centralized.

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9 thehungryengineer

Fantastic tips – Thanks!
I agree with you on natural light – sometimes (especially if your kitchen is dark) food feels claustrophobic and it just wants to go outside to have its picture taken :-)

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10 Lisa

Thank you for the tips! YOUR pictures are always wonderful.

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11 Culinary Cory

Great Tips. It’s all about playing with your camera and great lighting. I believe you don’t need an expensive $1,000 camera to get started with great pictures. However, you do need a camera with a macro mode and one that can let you adjust your light settings.

Also, sometimes the colors in food may not be as bright as you want them to be. Understanding photoshop can help take you pictures to the next level.

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12 RecipeGirl

Great tips. I think a good camera with zoom capability is key, and natural light is my best friend. I also have a pair of the LGO lights, which is very helpful- even during the day sometimes.

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13 Sharon

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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14 Lori

Great tips! Thanks for passing them on. I am always amazed at the beautiful food photography on all the food blogs I read including yours. You all do such a great job!

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15 chef E

I got a better camera recently, its the photographer, and my condo’s kitchen is not lighted well at all!

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16 Cajun Chef Ryan

Two of my loves both cooking and photography combine well, my only problem is remembering to bring the camera into the kitchen when I cook! =:~)

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17 Kath

Gorgeous lime!!

I want an SLR camera :(

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18 Nurit - 1 Family. Friendly. Food.

Thank you for sharing this. I also blog about 3 + months. Got into food photography. I really enjoy it. I’m starting to think about investing in a better camera and tripod. Right now I am using a simple digital camera.
My best technique? begtting close to the food, taking it near a window, turn on all the lights.
Do you have any tips on taking pictures when there isn’t much light, like night time?
Nurit

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19 joan nova

Thanks for sharing that info…even if some of it is not new, I always need to be reminded.

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20 Peppercorn Press

Thanks for these tips. We just returned from vacationing in Mexico where we took photos of all the wonderful dishes we ordered. I was greatly disappointed at how many of the photos didn’t turn out. I realize in looking back that a lot of that had to do with the dark restaurants (all of which were blurry), because the daytime meals turned out best. I agree that food presents best on a white backdrop – much more appetizing than when the color of the plate and/or background competes with the color of the food. Anyway, thanks… I will definitely keep your post in mind when photographing my food.

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21 Foong

Thanks for these tips! Now, I’ll try these out in my future food porn pictures.

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22 Juliet

Great tips! I couldn’t agree more with the lighting – especially daylight – making a big difference in how food photos come out.

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23 Be Foodie

I’ll soon have photography lessons from my boyfriend(husband-to-be) this winter; and this post will also help me. Thanks for the info. :) Cheers!

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24 Maggie

Great post :)

There’s a great photo editing program called GIMP that is FREE – it’s similar to photoshop, and perfect for photographer newbies to play with. You can improve your pictures a lot with a few minor adjustments. It helps me when I don’t have natural light.

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25 Usha

Thanks so much for the useful tips, Zesty…I will keep them in mind when I take food pictures in the future :-)

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26 emily

Great post! I would also recommend that aspiring food photographers also check out this post by VeganYumYum, which gets into more detailed instructions regarding camera types, lenses, etc….I learned a lot from it, just need to buy a good camera now!
http://veganyumyum.com/2008/09/food-photography-for-bloggers/

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27 Dr. Nicole Sundene

Awesome tips! Funny I was just thinking about learning photography so I can photo the healing foods/herbs I am talking about on my blog. Great tips and if you did that pic of the lime you should be really proud!!! Yay zesty!

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28 mully03

Knowledge is power!,I never thought i’d be taking photos of flowers & insects 4 years ago,but here & i doing just that.
Some good pointers put down there,i’ll save them for future reference just incase i feel the need to shoot pics of fruit instead of just eating it,ha ha.

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29 TonyC

while the tips are GREAT, as are all photography pointers, many of them don’t apply to day-to-day dining out situations…

you’re not always dining out during natural light hours. and i’d be darned if restaurants appreciate you pulling out the table-top tripod. finally, you’re always at the mercy of the chef as to plating n geometry.

taste spotting is great, but it’s hard to find pictures of restaurant-prepared food on that site. i’m happy for folks who dine at home, but people at biggestmenu is more to my diet plan.

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30 Bella Vita

THANK YOU SO MUCH! This was so helpful and you DO take great photos of your dishes! ~ Roz

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31 bencoolen

Excellent article! Like you i’m new to food photography,and i’m having a ball!
I have just invested in a 60mm macro lense which cost a bit, but i’m enjoying myself!
You asked people to share tips, so here is mine;
If trying to capture the effect of steam rising from a freshly cooked item try and use a black or dark background!
This will help to highlight the effect of the rising steam, rather than a white background that is basicly the same colour as the steam!

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32 hdalex

very nice tips,the lime looks very juicy nice shot

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33 Barry C. Parsons

Some good tips there, I use many of the same techniques myself and am a strong believer in shooting food in natural light. I might add that a shallow depth of field often looks better for food photography. You can check out some of my natural light food photos on my blog at http://www.rockrecipes.blogspot.com

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34 Hugging the Coast

Great advice and very helpful! (Especially about using a tripod, which can make a huge difference in the quality of your photos.)

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35 kang L

Great tips :D
The tripod is a definite must for tack sharp pics … also you can set your camera in aperture mode and shoot two f stops down from wide open (usually around f/8 ) as that’s normally most lens’ sharpest aperture. :P

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36 passion4eating

Thanks a bunch! I can use all the help I can get. Also just starting out and I have no experience.

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37 shibani

Great Tips and me too exploring and still ametuer in taking photographs,I am enjoying this lately and ur tips are certainly going to help me.

Thanks for sharing the website and tastespotting is awesome.

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38 matt wright

Here are a few more tips:

Shoot in natural light if at all possible – food looks better.

If you are shooting in artificial light, make sure it is white, and diffuse – put some vellum (cheap from an art store) between your food and the light source to diffuse it. This will create softer shadows, and cleaner reflections.

Shoot with space. Don’t zoom in too much. If you have a high megapixel digital camera, you can always crop down. Some of my favorite shots I have done have been crops of larger pictures.

Set your camera’s white balance accurately if you can. If your camera supports it, shoot in RAW format – you have more control in post processing afterwards.

Use a simple white piece of card as a bounce. Put it the other side of your food to the light, to bounce light back into the shadow areas. Either that, or place it just under the camera for a soft fill.

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39 ZestyCook

Thanks everybody for great comments.

Nurit – If I am taking pictures in the dark, which often times I am. I will use as much light as possible, overhead light, desk lamp light, anything. The brighter the better.

Maggie – thanks for the info. I use photoshop usually to lighten the levels when the picture is not in natural light. Great tip Maggie.

Kang – great tip for sure.

Matt – thanks for adding great ideas as well.

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40 My Simple Food

Great tips. Thanks. I am still on a digital camera not SLR but your tips are great. Will continue to improve my food photos

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41 Jenn (eating bender)

GREAT tips!! It’s so interesting to read what others have to say, too! I actually have never done the camera on a tripod thing (since I don’t have a tripod, haha) – I can only imagine how much clearer my pictures could be. Thanks, Zesty!

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42 Regina

What great tips! Thank you so much!

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43 Julie

I have one more tip to add for ya….don’t drop your flippin’ camera on the hard tile floor. Of course this is mostly directed at me cause I’m sure no one else would do that :P

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44 aleta meadowlark

Man! I wish I’d had this about three months ago.

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45 PaniniKathy

These are some great tips – many thanks!

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46 WOW

THANKS! I REALLY APPRECIATE YOUR HELP! AND IM NOT SHOUTING BTW. MY CAPS IS SPOILT AND I DONT WANT TO HOLD SHIFT ALL THE WHILE SORRY!

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47 welovefoodcoma

i’ve be meaning to get a good camera and tripod stand. i think its really important to take nice pictures for blog posts! and i love tastespotting, great content!

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48 AlliJag

Thanks for the tips! They were really helpful! ;)

Have a great Thursday!

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49 ladyhomechef

good tips here! Thanks!!!!!!!!

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50 Biz

I recently found tastespotting and love it! Even saw some of your pics there!

My husband has now officially considered me crazy for NOW lookin at food pics! But I tell him, I am not the only one, there are thousands of us!

Thanks for the tips!

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51 Jessie

Great information, honey pie! Thanks a bunch.

+Jessie
a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

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52 Laurie

These are great tips, Zesty! Your photos are always excellent. I love taking food photos but with a hungry family waiting for dinner, I don’t always have time for the best shots. I just checked and my camera does have a space to attach a tripod.

I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for three months!!!

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53 ziabaki

Wow, I’m thrilled to find these tips. I actually signed up for a food photography workshop, and it was waaaaaay over my head. He was all rigged up with professional props and lights, with live video feed. It was amazing but I was thinking, somebody needs to do a workshop for food bloggers. Ya know, point and shoot.
Thanks!
http://danazia.wordpress.com/

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54 HangyPants

I guess I should stop using my iPhone for pictures. :(

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55 Hillary

Great tips…I could definitely use a tip or two in food photography. But I think I also just don’t have the right camera.

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56 Betty

I am very happy that you posted this. I never use a tripod with my human models, but it makes perfect sense to use one with food that is sitting perfectly still. Thanks!!

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57 Aggie

Hi! thanks for the Foodbuzz add! Great post on food pictures…I’m pretty amateur myself and I loved reading your tips!! Thanks!

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58 Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter)

Thanks for this post Zesty! I’ve been trying to make my pictures by an a window during the day, and the natural light really helps. My problem is nighttime pics. I guess I just need to stand by a really good lamp or other source of natural looking light.

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59 amatuur

Hi- thanks for the tips, your article is excellent!

I’m wondering if a regular digital camera can do the trick (or do I need a more professional camera to snap the pics?)

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60 Oh She Glows

Do you usually have someone help you with your food photography or do you do it on your own? I find I often wish I had someone to help but Im usually home on my own wishing I had 4 arms! lol

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61 Mel @ bouchonfor2.com

Awesome tips. One problem is there are no windows in my kitchen. It’s so hard to get enough natural light in my apartment :(

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62 david

Dear Zesty

what kind of lens usually use in food photo taking?
is it micro lens,because i am helping Hotel taking some food photo.

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63 ZestyCook

@David – I use a point and shoot Canon A720 with a lot of natural and artificial light.

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64 em

what kind of photo editor do you recommend?

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65 ZestyCook

@em – I strongly recommend Adobe Photoshop.

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66 Emma

Until yesterday, I was attempting to photograph food for my blog using the “photobooth” on my mac. Needless to say, I was having trouble producing good-looking photos! Now that I finally have an actual camera to work with, I’m beginning to appreciate just how many considerations there are when taking pictures of food. I’ll be using your tips for sure.

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67 Rita

Thks for the great tips.
I usually cook or bake late in the evening or night, so not enough natural light.

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68 what katie's baking

i’m an amateur, too, so this tips are extremely helpful!!!

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69 Fernando

I was reading that when I saw the comment to use as much natural light as you can. So not true. The cool trick when taking in studio food photos is to always use a back light stronger than the frontal ones. Shadows are cool in food if used right!.

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70 Jim

I’ve got to learn how to take great photos of my food. This has helped so thanks!

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71 zesty

Glad this helped Jim

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72 Simjen Photo

Great Tips Zesty. Thanks for the help.

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73 Olive

Hello! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the great job!

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74 Jenny

Excellant tips! I hope it’s ok that I link this page to my page. I’m an amateur…I mean so much so that I don’t even have a good camera :( all my food pics come out horrible. I want to remember these tips though for when I do get a good camera! Is there a particular one thats affordable that you would recommend? thanks for posting~!

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75 Ruben Ramos

Thanks for the great article. Looking forward to taking more food photographs.

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76 Maryellen

So useful, look forward to visiting again.

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77 Arnette

Wow cuz this is very good work! Congrats and keep it up.

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78 Sharyn

Quite interesting looking ahead to coming back.

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