Food Photography

This section is intended for new food bloggers. 
Subsections cover: Camera, Lens, Tripod, Lighting, Props, and Editing.

Food photography is key to a food blog. You can’t actually give people bites of your food, so you have to show them how tasty it is with pictures. This has been one of my favorite things to learn! Here are a few initial and then later photo comparisons:

Lemon Chicken and Asparagus Risotto (Instant Pot or Stove Top): The photo on the left was one of my first blog photos. I didn’t know how to ‘see’ photography, so I was so confused when it was rejected by FoodGawker!

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Enchilada Casserole: The photo on the left I never intended to share with anyone. It was a cell phone photo that I thought was just fine to share with the recipe. But obviously the picture on the right is much more tempting.

Barbacoa Beef (Instant Pot or Slow Cooker): The photo on the left was when I was first beginning to experiment with artificial lighting. I was also beginning to learn LightRoom. I believe the photo on the right looks much more appetizing!


Camera

When I started this blog, I had a Canon T3i Rebel. It is a fine camera, but as my photography improved, I began to see it’s limitations. For example, I did not care for the way it captured reds, and when I zoomed in, it was consistently grainy. I spoke with multiple professional photographers, and experimented with several cameras. After comparing photographs from several cameras, I chose to purchase a Canon EOS 6D.

If you chose to do camera research, you will find 87,000 opinions. But this is why I chose the Canon EOS 6D:

  • The price point is lower than many of the other Canon full frame cameras. And for my personal photography, it yields almost identical results as the more expensive full frame cameras in terms of quality and clarity.
  • It has built-in Wi-Fi. I love that I can immediately see the photo on an iPad or my computer so that I can see photo issues more easily I can on the camera screen.
  • It has a 3″ screen so I can see photos fairly well on the camera when I’m not connected to another device.

Here are a couple of Canon EOS 6D: reviews that helped ‘seal the deal’ with my decision:

Ken Rockwell Canon 6D Review
TheDigitalPicture.com Canon 6D Review


Lens

I don’t have a lot of information to share when it comes to lens. I use the Canon EF-50mm f/1.8 lens.

For food photography, especially on a blog, macro lenses are ideal. I read and compared several lenses. For my photos, I can tell a difference between my Canon EF-50mm f/1.8 lens and some of the higher end lenses – meaning I do think the photos on the higher end lenses look better. But, I cannot tell a difference between my Canon EF-50mm f/1.8 lens and many of the middle grade lenses. If you’re interested in a Canon 50mm lens, this is a great article from SLR Lounge comparing the them.

As I grow as a photographer I will consider investing in a higher end lens, but for now, the Canon EF-50mm f/1.8 lens gives me results I am satisfied and even happy with.

Here are a few great articles with more information on food photography lenses:

Two Loves Studio: 4 Ultimate Food Photography Lenses
Adorama: Best Lenses for Food Photography
Food Photography Blog: What lens should you use to shoot food?


Tripod

If you are brand new to food photography, as I was, let me tell you an important little fact: a tripod is really important. Yes, a good tripod actually improves your photography!

Let me explain …. First, in low lighting, as you often have indoors, you need to use a slower shutter speed, which means the camera needs to be really still to give you clear photos. My first tripod was so cheap that just me pressing on the shutter release would cause the tripod to move and blur my photos.

Second, if you want to take overhead photos, it’s huge to have an arm on your tripod that will hold your camera level over the subject. My first two tripods didn’t have arms, so I had to hold my camera. The majority of my photos did not come out as clear as I wanted. Once I got a tripod with the arm, but overhead photos improved remarkably.

Finally, and this is certainly personal preference, I think a 3-way head is quite helpful. My prior tripod heads did not move much, so I couldn’t always level the camera. I often spent hours in Lightroom correcting photos that looked as if the food was falling off the table. By adjusting my tripod head and leveling it out before taking the photo, it has improved my photos and reduced the numbers of edits I need to make.

This is the tripod I currently use. It’s the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP with a 3 way pan and tilt head. I love it. It’s stable, the head moves easily to adjust any way I need, and it has a horizontal arm for overhead shots.

Here are links to two articles on food photography tripods and heads that I found helpful during my search:

Food Photography Blog
Two Loves Studio


Lighting

For dark situations, I use the Lowel Ego light. I place in my old tripod, so it gives a more even light, especially for tall subjects. I use it along with two reflectors. Reflector one is the one that came with the light, reflector two is a folded piece of white foam board. It’s fine. Let me tell you the pros and cons for me:

Logel Ego light in action

Pros:

  • It’s small so it stores easily in a cabinet.
  • It connects to a tripod.
  • It gives a natural light.
  • It is lightweight and easy to move.

Cons:

  • The light does not diffuse well.
  • It is not as bright as I would like.
  • The light can be harsh, so I often need to put a white undershirt over the light.

If you need a small light due to space, this gets the job done. Otherwise, there are some better options out there.


Props

Much of this is a personal preference and style. In my own experience, this is what I have found:

  • Don’t use shiny things. So, your regular white bowls and silverware may reflect light too much. I bought a few old bowls and spray painted them with mat paint.
  • Print out a picture of a color wheel. Use props in a color opposite to your subject’s color. Example: For yellow bread, use a blue towel.
  • Use backgrounds with texture. I love the look of wood grain or textured paints.
  • Use different layers. For example, place a piece of cake on a plate on top of a serving plate on top of a napkin. Layers provide interest.
  • When using different layers, especially plates stacked, be careful when taking photos that are not at 180 or 90 degrees. It can give some weird distortion if you’re not watching out.
  • I have found the following stores helpful in purchasing props:
    • HomeGoods is a great place to get single dishes, cake stands, cutting boards, and serving pieces.
    • Pier 1 is good for a variety of cloth napkins that are sold individually.
    • Target often has seasonal dishes and wood items that photograph well.

Editing

I use Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. For months I used Adobe Lightroom CC as I didn’t realize there was a difference. There is a difference. Use classic.

And most importantly, I would seriously invest in Two Loves Studio course, Lightroom Magic. Her course not only taught me how to use Lightroom, but it has also aided in my growth as a photographer. As I am still in the beginning stages of food photography, I frequently reference her course as well her blog.

My Lightroom Edits (Left RAW photo, Right after edits)


Want more?

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