Hi I’m Amy and I’m a newbie food photographer — if we can even call me that.
Until I started blogging, I honestly did not give food photography a second thought. I loved looking at pictures of food but little did I know how much work went into making those photos look beautiful. Well then I started taking pictures of my food. Oh gosh. What a headache. The food didn’t look good, it was too zoomed in, it was too dark, too bright, too busy.
How could I improve my pictures? What did I need to do? Camera, tripod, staging area, lighting, dishes, napkins, placemats, props, angles, texture, editing? That’s a lot of things to think about when I just want to eat the food before it gets cold.
Here’s a little secret: practice may not make perfect but it certainly makes improvement.
As I was going through some of my older recipes I realized something: my photos have actually gotten better!
Fruit & Oat Muffin Tin Delights (June 7, 2013)
PB & J Baked Oatmeal Cups (January 30, 2014)
I’ve learned a lot and I’m happy with my improvement – p.s. I’m in no way looking for praise or validation, just trying to help a blogger out :)
And guess what? You don’t need an expensive camera, fine china or to be a computer whiz. I photograph with my iPhone 5, buy dishes from the dollar store and don’t have Photoshop. As of right now, this works for me. I thought it might be helpful to share what I have learned over my months of frustration, I mean joy, of taking pictures of inanimate, yummy objects.
1. Lighting is everything.
Seriously. Natural lighting is your best friend. I had no idea how important this was but I am telling you it is EVERYTHING. Good lighting makes a picture. Bad lighting can ruin even the most delicious looking plate. Find a spot (see tip #2) in your house/apartment where natural light streams in. I photograph all of my recipe pictures by the windows in my kitchen between 12pm and 1:30pm (the optimal brightness time). So if I make a recipe on Wednesday night that means I might have to wait until Saturday to take the pictures then only post it on Monday. Patience –> See tip #6
2. Make a photography station.
Yup do it. I know my parents loveeee my little spot that I’ve created in our kitchen… thanks guys… but having a spot to shoot all your pictures with a good surface, background and natural lighting is really helpful. I keep my plates, napkins, cutting boards etc. nearby so I can photograph accordingly. I use a small white table from Ikea and a three panel project board from Staples. That’s all. –> See tip #3
3. Keep it simple.
This works for me. I used to use all different colored plates, placemats, napkins, you name it. I think this is great if you have the tools (camera, tripod) to make this work. The iPhone can’t focus or zoom like other cameras so having lots of props doesn’t really turn out well. I have since resorted to basics: white plates, white background. The food is ultimately the focus not the pretty placemats. Edited to add: I have since found success with simple food props.
4. Try, try, re-make and try again.
The first way I set-up a plate/bowl/photo-shoot does not always work once I start snapping the pics. I often need to switch up how I arrange things until it looks good. A lot of times I also re-make recipes to make them prettier. Time consuming? Yes. But I love to see the finished product that I am then proud of. Patience –> See tip #6
Pictures need to be edited, almost always. I use PicMonkey, which is free (unless you choose to upgrade) but the free version does the trick. You can do so many things to a picture but I mainly adjust the brightness, shadows and exposure. I also add text and sometimes images. Have fun with it!
6. Patience is a virtue.
Yes it is kind of annoying to wait until the morning to photograph a recipe when I just want to do it right then and there. Yes it is kind of annoying to re-make a recipe just to make it prettier. Yes it is kind of annoying to touch and re-touch all of the components on the plate. But (to me) it is worth it. I rarely spend more than 10 minutes on a “shoot”: I set up and then take anywhere between 10 and 25 pictures. A little bit of patience with yourself, your surroundings and the food goes a long way in creating a piece you are proud of.
7. Don’t let comparison steal your joy.
Finally, this is supposed to be fun. I used to compare my pictures to other bloggers’ pictures all.the.time. What good did that do? Spoiler alert: none! Your photos should be just that: yours. Make them the best you can make them. Spoiler alert #2: They will never be perfect.
My latest project is re-taking recipe photos. I’ve started to go through some of my older recipes to do just this. Like, my egg & banana pancake.
Food photography certainly takes time and a whole lot of patience but in the end it is very rewarding.
Questions of the day…
Bloggers: Do you work hard on taking recipe photos or is it not your thing? Do you have any other food photography tips?
Readers: What is appealing to you in food photos?
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