DIY Rock Your Food Photos Like a Pro (without shelling out the big bucks)

| Friday, 26 August 2011 12:00


Every week, we’re lucky enough to go through your food photos for our Supperclub Challenges — which usually coincides with lunch and an onset of some serious stomach rumbles. Mouth-watering pitfalls aside, we’ve noticed a lot of people asking how to give their food photos that extra oomph. So, here you go: a few easy tips to make your food photos look a little more profesh.

1. It’s not about the camera, it’s about the photographer.
Sure, if you’ve got a 5D Mark III, a Hasselblad or another wildly expensive piece of equipment you could shlap the thing on auto and still take a shot that would make Annie Lebovitz go “meh” (let’s be realistic folks), but at the end of the day food is one of the easier things to shoot because it stays put. No need for fast lenses or spiffy telephoto thingies when you’re capturing a still scene. If, however, your meal does happen to be running away from you, then you’ve got problems that we can’t fix here.


2. Open your eyes and take a look around
The best way for you to figure out what you want your photos to look like is by checking around at what other people are doing. No, this isn’t cheating, it’s getting inspired (now if only I could have convinced my high-school math teacher that I was getting inspired by peering over at my classmate’s test). Make a note of what you like, whether it’s the angle, focus, composition, lighting or that they dotted the plate with tiny hearts of balsamic vinegar. Know what you like before you start snapping.

3. Lighting, lighting, lighting (and white balance)
Ideally, you want your food photo to look like it would in real life. If you’re a fancy shmancy food photographer that means shelling out the big bucks for some premium lighting set-ups that’ll give your food a true-to-life look. The best way to mimic that look on the cheap is use natural light, whenever you can. Bring the plate outside, or near a window. Not only will it keep the colors good and clear, but it’ll ensure that your photos don’t look all grainy and gross because your poor lens is trying to pick up what it can in the scary darkness.


4. Setting the scene: plating/ faking
When you are taking a food photo remember that you are building an image as much as you are ‘taking’ it. This means don’t just shlap it on a plate and press the clicky button. Take some time, arrange the stuff, mop up extra goop on the plate. Also remember: you got to fake it to make it. Some stuff might not look so hot when its cooked the way the recipe asks for, so don’t be afraid to take it out a little early when it looks fresher to snap a better shot.

5. Mastering the art of the background

When you want your food to take center stage, you’ve got to set the scene around it so that the image really POPS. You can do this one of two ways: you can pick a plain background that doesn’t take focus away from your dish (this is a good place to start if you’re just beginning) or you can pick a complimentary colored background.  Keep it simple though and stick to similar colors. Try to stay away from large intense patterns as they will distract from your dish and make viewers confuse your photos with a nasty acid flashback.

food-photography-biscuits6. Work all angles.
Like any good model knows, the key to a great photo — besides knowing how to smize — is learning how to work your angles. Try approaching your dish on an angle and focusing in on one part, the closer you can get, the clearer you can see the dish. Just watch out for steam, it could really fog up your lens and give you a super blurry shot! Not so awesome…

7. Fix it in post: the basics of image editing
Oh Photoshop, the absolver of all photographic sins…or at least some of the deadly ones. Exposure, focus, color levels – it can fix it all! The only problem is, it’s pricey and if you’re just Joe Schmo you’re not going to want to shell out the big bucks. No problemo. You don’t really need anything fancy to make your photos pop. Almost every computer has a basic image editing software. Try amping up the contrast a smidge and add a little sharpening and voila! You’ve got a good-looking image. If you’re really set on Photoshop, download the app for your phone for easy and convenient on the road photo blogging.

Well, that’s all folks. Hope these tips help, and remember the most important thing about photography: keep your freakin’ fingers off the lens!

Photos via:

Howard Shooter –

Orange – Charlotte Sallberg

Cookies –

Give Us Some Lurve