Food Photography

Food Photography 101

The camera, props, settings and photo editor I could not live without! All tried and tested from years of experience specifically for food!

I get a lot of questions emailed to me and on my instagram about my food photography. So I thought I would put some time in and really dive into exactly how I take every photo on my blog.

I spent years studying film in school (I went to an Arts school), taking photos of my friends or capturing big school events for the yearbook. But it still wasn’t until the last few years that I really started to invest in my photography and specifically work on food photography and styling.

In my opinion, food is one of the trickiest subjects. Honestly, it can be really ugly in the wrong light. We’ve all tried to take a photo of our pizza at dinner and been left with a big, orange blob of a photo. 

That being said, it is possible! 

I spent so many hours and years reading about my camera, food photography tips, editing tips and spending double that actually working through it. Each time, I saw my photos get better and better, finally getting myself into the groove of things and becoming a confident photographer. 

Since I remember how insanely difficult it was to get started, I wanted to make sure that I spent some time sharing exactly what I do for every single shoot on my blog. If you have any questions, please comment below! And if you have any other tips for you, I would love to hear them. I’m still learning too.

1. My Camera: Nikon D3100

Way back in high school, my parents bought me my lovely, beautiful camera. To this day, it is still the only camera I use. If you take the time to understand the settings on your camera and exactly how it works, you do not need the newest, flashiest version to take a great photo. This camera has seriously made it through everything! From beach trips to hiking in the Smoky Mountains. As long as you can adjust the settings, shoot in manual mode and replace the lens, your camera is good to go. It really comes down to the lens, lighting and setting, not the most expensive camera in the batch.

As long as you can adjust the settings, shoot in manual mode and replace the lens, your camera is good to go.

Now onto camera brand. Personally, I have always used Nikon. I think Nikon is super user friendly, has a sleek design and offers every single feature I would want. That being said, I definitely love Canon and honestly, if I were to buy a new camera, I would  consider switching to a Canon Rebel Ti…whatever version. They are both extremely high quality cameras that you can’t go wrong with. 

2. My 50 mm lens

About a year ago, I asked for a 50 mm nikkor lens for Christmas and it has completley changed my photos. Everything has so much more depth now and the wider lens allows for more light to hit at each angle. The lens I chose does not have auto focus so it was a little cheaper and I actually prefer it. Once you get used to focusing it each time, it’s way better. You can actually chose which chocolate chip to focus on instead of hoping the camera hits the right one. 

3. Flat Boards & Back Drops

I actually found my flat boards at the dollar store! I picked up a white and a black one and I use them for almost all of my shoots. When you aren’t doing a big holiday themed series or something that needs a better backdrop, these are perfect. Typically, I use the black board for my base and the white one in the background to reflect the light. Always make sure to dress it up a little with bowls or decorative towels. (Take a peak at my typical set up below). 

When I do bigger shoots, like 12 Days of Cookies, I use larger photo back drops from Amazon. I have this wood paneled one and a Christmas backdrop you can see here

Food photography

And here’s an example of how the photos came out…

Food photography

Pretty cool how such a small space can seem so large and professional with just the right angle and lighting!!!

4. Lighting

For my birthday last year, Chase totally surprised me with a complete lighting set!!! It came with four lights, covers to tone it down, 3 back drops and mounts for everything. For most of my shoots, I use 1-2 of the lights without covers. The set up is much quicker and I can usually lighten it later in editing. I personally do not have access to much natural light, since I can usually only bake when I get home after work, so these are a lifesaver! When I am working on a bigger series, like 12 Days of Cookies, I usually use all 4 lights and leave them set up in the dining room for a few weeks. 

Some quick tips for lighting: 

  • Make sure to have a white board on the opposite side of the light to reflect away from it. Otherwise, your photos will look overexposed and washed out. 
  • Don’t put the light too close to your set. 
  • If you’re using white lights, instead of yellow, try to add a small table lamp off to the side so you can throw in a little yellow light.
  • Don’t be afraid to move your lights and set around until you get the perfect angles. You’ll eventually know exactly where you want your light so it’s okay so try out different placements while you learn.

5. Props

Props can seem really intimidating to pick out at first, but once you hone in on a style you love, stick to it and search for the best deals. My two favorite places for plates, bowls, utensils, and any other props are Target, Goodwill and the dollar tree. You don’t have to spend a fortune on fancy sets of everything. Get a nice white plate for $5 from Target, some linens from the dollar tree in a few colors and any worn muffin tins, utensils or unique bakeware from goodwill to give it a classy feel. 

These bowls in the background below were $1 each from Target!

Blueberry Muffins

And this cloth was $1 from the dollar store!

food photography

6. Shooting in Manual Mode

Depending on your lens, camera and lighting situation, the settings will vary. Here is a handy post I found on basic photography settings. I usually keep a low shutter speed to let in more light and play with the rest of the settings depending on my mood for the shoot. Honestly, it takes a few tries to get the hang of what each little change will do but set up a shoot and play around until you feel good about your scene. 

All of this being said, I do not recommend shooting in automatic. You really need to pick up some basic skills in manual mode to take your photos to the next level. It may seem daunting but your photos will thank you. I shot in automatic for years, always nervous to try and set it up myself. But as soon as I did my photos got SO MUCH BETTER. It’s worth the time for what you get out of it. 

Automatic…

Manual…

Food photography

7. Adobe Lightroom

Finally, it all comes together in editing. I like to pick out my favorite 15-20 photos before importing them to light room so I don’t waste my time with ones I won’t even use. From there, I never batch edit. I think I’m too much of a control freak to apply one edit to all of my photos. Plus, I really enjoy spending time perfecting each one!

While there are a lot of programs you can use to edit, I personally prefer lightroom. I use the entire Adobe Suite regularly and I feel like they are all very usable and leave you with the best quality product. 

When editing my photos, I like to boost the brightness and contrast. I usually reduce highlights and up a little black. Then I finish it off with some clarity and vibrance. While this isn’t the case with every photo, I feel like bright photos that still maintain their shadows are the best! You want to see the cracks in your cookies while still looking at a bright, colorful photo. 

A little before & after from one of my darker photos to how I was able to edit it in lightroom!

 

Alright! After about 1,500 words, I think I have summed up all of my food photography essentials. I really hope this helps and if I can clarify anything or offer any advice, please comment below or shoot me a message! And if you have any tips or tricks to get even better photos, let me know! I love to keep learning and improving. 

2 Comments

  • Reply Rosemarie September 9, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you so much for this AMAZING POST!! I am stunned by all of this fantastic content. Seriously loving your lighting set and have been wanting one for a while- really contemplating getting one right now!!

    • Reply Meghan September 10, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Thanks, Rosemarie!!! Definitely do it! It’s so worth it, I don’t know how I shot without one for so long.

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