5 Tips To Take Your Food Photographs From Boring to Fabulous!

Photography | September 15, 2008 | By

By Danny

Photographing Food

Photographing food can be a daunting task. When I first started blogging about food I had to constantly experiment to achieve the type of look I was after. It was hard work, but I luckily picked up a few great tips along the way. You don’t need a fancy camera. You don’t need expensive equipment. All you need is determination…and these great tips!

Food Photography tips after the jump…

The Devil Is In The Details

Details are extremely important when photographing food. Therefore the following tips all are all detail oriented tips

Tip #1 – Focus on Light

Lighting is the single most important aspect of food photography! I only shoot during the day and next to a large window in my kitchen. No exceptions! For home operations, there simply isn’t another alternative. Flash lighting will give you harsh shadows and bright, blown out highlights, so don’t bother!

The biggest tip I could give you is to shoot next to a window, during the day, and USE A REFLECTOR! A reflector can be as simple as a piece of white cardboard. You place the reflector OPPOSITE of the source of light, and reflect light back onto the food to fill the shadow areas. The reflector will also diffuse the lighting which will make it softer and more appealing.

Tip #2 – Choose Your Setting Carefully

The setting of the photograph will largely be determined by the amount of light, but if you have many options for locations, the best locations are often the simplest. I shoot on my white desktop right next to my window in my kitchen. The desktop is very deep and clutter free so it allows me to have clean looking backgrounds. My aesthetic tends to be very minimalist, so this works well for me, but it also serves to draw attention to the food! The more you draw attention to the food, and not distracting backgrounds, the better!

Tip #3 – Don’t Be Afraid To Get Close

I almost always shoot really close to the plate of food. This accomplishes a few things that are key to a successful photograph. Getting close to the food focuses attention on the food and not the background(which reinforces tip#2)but it also tends to BLUR the background and parts of the food, adding amazing depth and atmospheric space! This is what distinguishes amateur looking pictures from professional pictures! I always try to shoot slightly above the level of the food. This tends to produce the best angles for food.

Tip #4 – Plate Food on Simple Plates

Again, the focus is the food, not the plate. Even though it’s easy and tempting to use that fabulous Jonathan Adler platter you just purchased, it will most likely distract from your food. Keep it simple. I almost always shoot on a simple white plate. If I want to mix it up, I place a vintage napkin on the table and then place the white plate on top of it, making sure that very little of the napkin shows up in the picture.

Tip #5 – Garnishes Are Your Friends!

Garnishes make all of the difference when shooting food. These are not just afterthoughts! Garnishes can pull a plate together and really add an air of sophistication and professionalism to your photos. For desserts I tend to use mint, sliced strawberries, and powdered sugar. For savory dishes I use chopped parsley, basil, or cilantro. Try sprinkling it all over the plate, or try placing one single leaf on the plate. Experiment!

Do you have any great food photography tips? Leave us a comment and let us know!


  1. Leave a Reply

    Zach @ The Bitten Word
    October 6, 2008

    @ Kiriel du Papillon: I have the same challenge in that I do most of my cooking at night.

    One thing I’ve started doing — which is kind of a cheat, maybe? — is making an extra serving of the dish and waiting until the next morning to photograph it.

    Doesn’t always work — not everything holds up overnight. But it’s a good solution most of the time.

  2. Leave a Reply

    Zach @ The Bitten Word
    October 6, 2008

    I just found your site! It’s funny — I was scrolling down through your posts and thinking, “Wow, I wish he would give some tips on how he takes the gorgeous photos!”

    And then you did.

    Very helpful — thanks! I’ve got to start using a reflector.

  3. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    Thanks everyone! I’m glad this post was useful!

    Brian, I plan on doing a series of these posts which go into more detail regarding camera settings, photoshop, equipment, etc. So be on the look-out!

  4. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    Nice post. Beautiful photos. I was hoping you would include what settings you use on your camera. Maybe you could add some more info about your camera and settings?

  5. Leave a Reply

    Kiriel du Papillon
    October 6, 2008

    Good tips… but as I do most of my cooking in the evenings, the whole day shot thing doesn’t work so well. I haven’t really found the solution yet.

  6. Leave a Reply

    Tastes of Home
    October 6, 2008

    oh thanks! these are such good tips. Mm, so do you think a digital SLR cam will make much of a difference compared to a point and shoot? thanks so much

    yeah, sometimes I have to take pics at night since I work during the day time, and they really don’t look good

  7. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    Great tips–as noobish as it sounds, I only recently discovered my digital macro feature.

  8. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    This is very helpful. Thanks. I’ve been thinking of posting photos but feeling just too overwhelmed. I’m not a photographer, trust me. But by implementing this tips, I just might become one. Thanks again.

  9. Leave a Reply

    Anne Lossing
    October 6, 2008

    Great advice! I definitely want to learn as much as I can to be able to take better food photos. Thanks!

  10. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    Thanks for the advice. I’m trying to improve my photos. I’m in the process of buying cheap props and dishes at garage sales as a way to spice up my photos.

  11. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    Great tips! I agree that a good photograph says a lot more than a pageful of words. And thanks for the tip on a reflector.

  12. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    thanks for the comments! yes, natural light is the most important….no exception!

  13. Leave a Reply

    Linda F
    October 6, 2008

    Really interesting and useful -thanks. I am guilty of taking too many photos at night!!!! Natural light is soooo much better!

  14. Leave a Reply

    October 6, 2008

    Really good tips! I couldn’t agree with you more. Lighting is the most important. Always make the food the star, get as close as you can.

  15. Leave a Reply

    October 14, 2008

    Oh, what a great post! Thanks a bunch. 😀

    a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

  16. Leave a Reply

    October 18, 2008

    wow! Simple but to the point. I have to shoot a squash soup this morning so I’ll put your tips to the test! Thanks

  17. Leave a Reply

    October 23, 2008

    Thank you so much for your post!

    I just started my food blog and really want to increase the quality of my photos!!

  18. Leave a Reply

    Mexican Foodie
    November 19, 2008

    Great post to get everyone started. I would love to see some additional posts on composition and props and how to set up a shoot so you get great shots in the short amount of time available when the food looks its best. It seems to take me too long to get a good shot and by then the sauce has always separated and the garnish has wilted.

  19. Leave a Reply

    December 15, 2008

    Thanks for this – really useful, especially when you’re a chef rather than a photographer…..

  20. Leave a Reply

    March 11, 2009

    Thank you Danny! Such tutorials are most welcome! I constantly faced the challenge of taking picts. As you know, things had to be fast either before food softened, changed color or 'stolen' to feed someone and with a 3 year old boy tugging and trying to copy what you doing is not help either. When I'm ready to take picts, half day is gone and the sun is above my building. Also, I constantly have to fight with heavy wind from the sea and rain (when the season hits) at my terrace. I took most of my picts there due to the poor lighting inside home (too much soft & yellow lightings and walls) with tinted glasses for windows & doors. Your tips somehow gave me ideas how to solve the problems… I hope to see more of tips from you. Thank you!

  21. Leave a Reply

    February 4, 2010

    Thanks for the tips :)
    I've been doing my best using 'natural' light bulbs, but nothing compares to the real thing.

  22. Leave a Reply

    SoCal Food Investigator
    March 25, 2010

    Excellent tips. I've been doing a survey of professional tips from LA photographers and yours are right on track. Another stealth tip to presenting the truth in your image, was to wipe the rims with vinegar water so there are no streaks. Keeps the lines clean.

  23. Leave a Reply

    Athletic Pastry Chef
    April 23, 2010

    Awesome tips. I was just thinking of how I can put that wow factor on my photos. I will definitely use your advice. Thanks


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