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11 Tips for Photographing Food

Today the article is mouth-watering because I’m going to give you 11 tips for photographing food like a professional. Those who photograph food have a mission on earth, to make other people want to eat the screen or a magazine page. If you are or want to become a commercial food photographer, a photographer who takes pictures for food blogs, cookbooks, or ads, what matters the most is that the photos should be full of life and the compositions should water the mouth of those looking to your pictures. There are people out there who are not interested in wedding trips or wedding photography, and perhaps food photography might be a niche for you to find a way into everyone’s heart. After all, we all like to eat, don’t we?

Today I will give you 11 Tips to photograph food but I already advance that if you want to be a great gastronomic photographer you need to be ready to invest in the right equipment and be very critical with your compositions. And one thing to remember is that the food may look amazing in the photo, it doesn’t necessarily mean it tastes amazing. In fact, some dishes full of delicacies but they can’t even be inedible in real life!

So, people do not always order the hottest dishes or drinks in a restaurant, they ask for more “photogenic”. And don’t forget that photography also has its cheats, so food photographers often use chemicals, or other things, to make the food look stunning.

However, if you decide to document recipes you will put in not only your ability to take photos but also your ability to sell an idea using only one image. This is some pretty good for any photographer.

Ready to become a better photographer with these 11 tips for photographing food?

11 Tips for Photographing Food


1 Lighting, lighting, lighting

No matter what type of photos you’re taking, light is always the key element you should take into consideration. It will always be your best friend and your greatest enemy. When it comes to food photography, direct natural light is the most preferred option. This way you will be able to get better textures and colors and maintain the natural feel of the image. Try to place your composition next to a big window and try to find the best angles. If you feel that the light is too harsh, you can always use a transparent fabric, or a diffuser, to make it a little softer. If you can work outside a room your lighting options are huge.

If you don’t have the least control over your lighting the best thing you can have at your disposal is a Light Tent. If you simply can’t use natural light, try creating a composition inside the lightbox, and experiment with its lighting, the idea is to create something desirable.

Related: Natural Light: Light Quality

2. Decorate and make a mess

Food photos aren’t just about food, although it’s the main subject in the photo they usually have a context, they have a history. And so it’s normal to have a lot of things going on on the plate when you’re photographing food.

Don’t be afraid of the mess of flour on the table, some coffee beans are thrown here and there, or any other garnish that is relevant to the dish. All this will bring much more personality to the photo and create a beautifully detailed set. Learn a little about the dish with the cook if you didn’t cook it, this way you will know what is coherent to appear on the photograph.

Do not forget that this picture will be the first idea of the viewer/customer about what he/she will eat, so do not go crazy and start to put everything possible in the photo. Everything that you decide to put has to be related to the dish you are presenting.

Good food photographers always decorate the dishes they are photographing, often decorate even too much. There is no problem in decorating the dish for the photo, just always try to portray the dish in a way not too fanciful or out of reality. Photographing food is sell the idea of a good and delicious dish with just an image, and this image will change how people eat that particular food.

3 Learn how to use manual mode 

Sorry, but the truth is harsh sometimes and learn how to use manual mode so you won’t be dependent on what your camera “thinks” is right is the truth here.

If you are new to this scenario of taking pictures in manual it’s very likely that at first, you’ll take a beat from your camera until you start taking cool photos with it fully in manual mode. 

But listen, when you need to take pictures with perfect focus, accurate white balance and still keep the depth of field well controlled you will see that knowing how to use your camera in complete manual mode is worth every headache.

For photographing food you won’t always be working in a controlled environment, or schedule, where you’ll have lighting and everything else at your disposal. Sometimes you will be work inside the restaurant with the chef with crossed arms looking over your shoulders. And knowing all the aspects of your camera is the way to go.

4 Have a tripod

Have a tripod and don’t argue. A tripod is extremely necessary for photographing food, and at some angles, it may be the only way to shoot. If you want to shoot a top view of your dish it will be very tiresome and complicated to do this without a tripod. And as bowls, salads, and most meat dishes are best photographed from above doing this with a tripod is the most coherent solution.

Tips for photographing food

Or even you have to use a slower shutter setting, because of the lighting, a tripod will make your photos not get too shaky. In addition to the tripod, I will indicate that you use a remote control or the shooting with a regressive counter to solve blurry photos. 

Using a tripod will help you a lot, not just stabilizing your shots but also helping you to reduce your own shadows in the photos. 

5 Invest in good lenses 

This tip here one can cost you a little bit, but if you want to make great food photos you will need good lenses. The first lens I can suggest is the classic Nifty Fifty, 50mm we talked about last week. It will be able to do just about everything you need to photograph food. But there are lands it won’t explore.

Another lens that lots of photographers love to use for photographing food is a macro lens, somewhere between 90mm to 105mm does the trick well in my opinion. They are great for photos with a blurry background, where you want to isolate the subject and they are perfect for close up photos. Nothing better than being prepared for just about any situation, and these two lenses.

6 Have a plan when photographing food

Of course, having a plan and a schedule will depend on the type of food photography you make. If you like to take pictures of step-by-step recipes, make sure you have all the ingredients and have good lighting throughout the process.

And when we talk about the ready dish try to paint in your head an initial idea of how you would like to see the final product. Before you take the picture, imagine what you want it to pass on to anyone who sees it. Get the necessary accessories (scenarios, napkins, and silverware) and decorate everything before getting the dish ready to shoot, try shooting the entire composition without the actual food to make sure that the colors look great and that the position is perfect. 

7 Add Color

Let’s be honest, some dishes don’t look attractive (even if they can be a great food to eat). You can try adding color and texture with some embellishments and vegetables that we mentioned earlier. Vegetables and fruits are always a great attraction, so you can add them to the photo, to give value and depth.

Also, do not forget the knives, forks, spoons, and plates. They can be incredibly beautiful and help get the viewer’s attention. All this will bring more detail to your photo and hold the viewer’s attention.

8 Have great scenarios

Scenarios, backdrops, or backplates are incredibly important for food photography. Especially for advertising photos, social media, or cooking blogs. Plus, it’s another great and easy way to add some color and texture to your compositions.

Tips for photographing food

The great news is that these scenarios don’t have to be expensive. Yes, a rustic table or a marble stone is great for photos but there are numerous materials that you can use for this purpose, the limit is your imagination.

Don’t forget the napkins 

This tip for photographing food has more than one reason to be on the list. A lot of people think food photography is just putting a bunch of stuff on the table and taking the picture and it is done! And simple, clear, and fast are adjectives there most of the time don’t relate to food photography. You have to control everything that’s going on on the plate from the “dirt” to the purposefully placed crumbs, to the huge lake of dip sauce you want to put in your photo.

And having napkins by hand will help you a lot to keep everything under “control”, no one wants to shoot a glass full of fingermarks if this is not the intention. 

And don’t forget that you can also use the napkins in your composition.

Take a look at how others do

Taking a nice look at how people do things will help you learn loads about photographing food photography. Don’t just look for angles and composition references, see everything. I’m not telling you to copy, I’m just telling you to collect ideas and try to put them into practice. Get inspired on how the photographer used the sauce on the food, or how he decided to cut half of the plate. The main idea is to get inspired, fired up to put your ideas in motion.

Be creative while photographing food

Sometimes you really don’t need that apple pie to look perfect in the picture. Take a bite! and see what it looks like in the picture. Photos taken in this way can create an instant relationship with the viewer, as they will see a delicious dish and want to devour immediately. You’ll be adding some authenticity and this is always great to pass a message. Keep in mind that sometimes even dirty kitchen utensils look amazing as if you’ve just finished cooking and haven’t had time to clean.

Tips for photographing food - Creativity

Use this freedom to be creative and enjoy creating your style for your photography. 

Along with these 11 tips for photographing food there are a lot of material that you can find online on how to do the job without any problems. 

But for now it is all you gonna get here, so you can expect a part 2 someday. If you have any tips you can leave it here in the comments or on Twitter

Written by Rix Mascarenhas

Rix Mascarenhas is a photographer, videographer, and drone pilot at

Art lover, always involved with crafts, design, painting etc... As a photographer, I enjoy taking pictures and creating stories that have meaning and help people to thrive. My work is guided by the stories behind each scene that really represent the moment.


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