This post features my top five tips for beginners to help improve your food photography. Have a read and then practice, practice, practice.

Recently I posted a Q & A in my stories on Instagram and to my surprise, the response was overwhelming. I threw out a simple question…“Ask me anything about food photography” and I received dozens of messages with questions ranging from “do you use a tripod?” to “how do you get your whites so white??”.  It’s crazy to think that I’ve been working as a food photographer for just over a year now and I used to be the one asking all the questions. And believe me, I’m no expert! I’m still asking LOTS of questions and my journey as a food photographer is ever evolving. There is so much to learn! But I am often asked how to create beautiful, drool-worthy images for social media and brands and I decided to put together this list of food photography tips to serve as a resource for beginning food photographers.

Whether you are brand spanking new to food photography or you already have some practice shots in your portfolio, you will find some helpful tips and tricks to help take your food photography to the next level. Let’s jump right in!

FIVE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

GET THE GEAR

While it’s certainly possible to take great photos on an iPhone, I absolutely believe that if you are serious about food photography, it’s essential to invest in a DSLR camera and a decent lens. I started with a Canon 6D and now swap between that and a Canon Mark IV. Both are full-frame cameras. The body on the 6D is small and I love how it’s so manageable and not too bulky in my hand. Besides the amazing image quality found with the 6D, the built in wi-fi is an amazing feature that I use often. The camera allows you to pick up a signal from your smartphone and download photos on the spot using the Canon Connect app. Great for shooting on location or when you want to upload photos to social media in a hurry. I can’t say enough good things about the Canon 6D and I highly recommend it not only for food photography but for travel, portraits and landscape photography as well. I recently added a Canon 5D Mark IV to my kit and I love the versatility of this camera. It’s a workhorse and is ideal for low light photography. The touch screen is also a major bonus in my book!

Here’s what else is in my camera bag….

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L

Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8

Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8

Canon EF 12 II Extension Tube

Manfrotto Tripod & Lateral Arm

I primarily use the 100 mm f/2.8 lens for my food photography as I love zoomed in, close up images and the creamy bokeh {that’s code for background blur} effect it creates. This lens is great for all angles, but is definitely a tighter shot in comparison to my other lenses.

For most overhead/flatlay photos where I need to fit more in the frame, I often use my 24-70 mm lens. This is the newest addition to my camera bag and I’m in love with this lens because it’s so versatile. It’s my new go-to!

When I first started my blog, I was using a 24-105 mm lens but I found that it can distort the images a bit and found it frustrating when I would go to edit my photos. I only use this lens now for primarily for family photos and travel pics. I do like the zoom capabilities this lens offers for photos on the go with the family.

The options for photography equipment are vast and each person behind the lens should learn what works best for them. Even in my short time working in the food photography world I have learned that you don’t need tons of expensive equipment to take great photos. Invest in a decent camera, one great lens and practice, practice, practice.

FIND YOUR LIGHT

Of all the variables involved with food photography, I consider light to be the most important element. The good news is it’s free and readily available. I use only natural light for my food photography and I shoot at the same time every day from the same light source. The best light for food photography comes from either north or south facing light because the light is more naturally diffused from that direction versus from the east or west where it is more direct. I’ve recently moved into a dedicated studio space with one large window that is south facing and I’m loving it! It’s important to find the light in your space that best suits your needs. Follow the light around your house and see which space creates the most beautiful images. Don’t be afraid to experiment! But no matter what, turn off any overhead lights or you’ll end up with a pesky yellow-ish tint in your photos.

To create consistent images for my blog I always shoot between the hours of 11 and 3. If at all possible, try to shoot on cloudy days because the light is softer. I live in ever sunny San Diego so it’s rare that we get a cloudy day. But if we do, you better believe I’ve got my camera ready! Since I’m usually dealing with bright and sunny blue skies I hang this diffuser sheet over the window to help soften the light. It’s a game changer!

double-chocolate-bundt-cake

MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR TRIPOD

Speaking of game changers…I’m happy to report that I’ve recently made friends with my tripod. Honestly, I wasn’t always a fan, but after I finally started using a tripod on a regular basis I wondered why I waited so long. There is nothing worse than baking all morning and then slaving away on a photo shoot and then downloading the images onto your computer only to find out that your hero shot is blurry. Like, “there’s no way you can post that” kinda blurry. The worst! Using a tripod guarantees sharper photos because it 1) eliminates hand shake and 2) allows for lower shutter speed which means brighter, crisper photos. And as an added bonus, I don’t have to rely on having an extra hand around for pour shots and action shots. I can simply connect the camera to my Canon Connect app and capture the images with one tap on my phone. This allows me greater flexibility working that human element into my shots which is important to help the viewer connect with the image.

peanut-butter-chocolate-ganache-tart

That said, I will always be a fan of taking some time at the end of every shoot to just play. And that usually means taking the camera off the tripod and snapping a few free-hand shots. Some of my favorite photos like the one above were taken at the very end of a shoot when I take a few minutes to play around with angles and styling and make a bit of a mess before cleaning it all up.

extra-dark-chocolate-snack-cake

MASTER MANUAL MODE

Shooting in manual mode on your DSLR camera is a must for having the most control and creativity over your images. If you are shooting in Auto mode, the camera is making all the decisions for you. I’m not all that techy but shooting in manual mode was far easier than I thought it would be. It all comes down to understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO, also known as the exposure triangle. When I first started out as a food photographer, I read this post from Two Loves Studio which breaks it down into easy to understand terms. Have a read and then practice with your camera every day until shooting in manual mode becomes second nature.

white-chocolate-macadamia-nut-blondies

LEARN YOUR ANGLES 

Okay, let’s face it. Just like people, even food looks better from certain angles. The angle of a photo can make or break the composition. For the most part, there are just three angles that work best for food photography. Let’s review.

The Overhead Also known as the flatlay or top-down image. This angle is best for flat foods or with foods styled in bowls or on plates to show depth. It’s also great for showing table scenes or images where a human subject is reaching into the scene. This is probably the most popular angle used on Instagram and it allows for lots of creativity when it comes to composition. When shooting overhead I usually have my camera set at an aperture of 4.5 – 5.6.

warm-molten-chocolate-cakes

The 45 Degree This is my all-time favorite angle to shoot baked goods which you can see from one look at my Instagram feed. It’s important to note that this angle works give or take a few degrees. Think of it as a fluid space between 25 and 75 degrees. A slightly tilted straight-on shot which is great for showing off the details on top of the food as well as a bit of height. For this angle I often have my aperture dialed in at anywhere between 3.5 and 5.6.

The Straight On This angle is best for “stacks” of foods such as pancakes, cookies, or layer cakes where there is more going on inside the food than there is on top. It’s also great for showing off drips or drizzles on food and because there is no where to look BUT the food, this composition can deliver striking images. Depending on how blurry I want the background, I generally shoot straight on at an f-stop of anywhere between 3.5 and 5.0.

So there you have it. My top five food photography tips for beginners. If you are just starting out, I hope you found these tips helpful as you begin your journey in food photography. With a little practice, you’ll start to develop an intuition for the best angles, how to manipulate your light so it’s consistent and which apertures create the most striking images. The most important thing to remember is that we all start somewhere. Honestly, I didn’t feel good enough or ready enough when I started my blog in 2018. Truth be told, I still don’t feel good enough or ready enough. But we are all beginners at one point so just start somewhere. Anywhere. And then practice, practice, practice. And you’ll go farther than you ever thought you could!

If you found this information helpful, or have more questions about anything related to food photography, please leave me a comment below or feel free to reach out via Instagram. Don’t be shy…I’d love to chat with you! And stay tuned next month as I’ll be sharing a behind the scenes look at my new studio and my food photography set up.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

The Newbie Food Blogger’s Guide To Success

5 TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING COLD TREATS

Behind the Scenes at Browned Butter Blondie

 

Five Tips for Beginning Food Photographers

 

 

 

  • Reply
    Brooke
    April 16, 2020 at 12:24 am

    This was WONDERFUL!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      April 16, 2020 at 9:48 pm

      You are so welcome! Thank you for reading!!

  • Reply
    Sophia Joachimsthaler
    December 11, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Hi! Where do you buy your backdrops/boards for food photography?

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      December 11, 2019 at 11:38 pm

      I love the backdrops from Replica Surfaces because they are lightweight and so portable. I also really love the surfaces from Backdrop Woodville…they are very high quality and they have large sizes available in lots of beautiful finishes. Also check out cbl backdrops for vinyl surfaces. They are so versatile and the price is right!

  • Reply
    Meredith Garner
    October 24, 2019 at 2:28 am

    Your photos are stunning, Heather!!! Thank you for sharing so many great gems here – and for sharing your time and talents with us all!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      October 24, 2019 at 8:33 am

      Aww, so kind of you Meredith. Thank you so much for following along and reading!!

  • Reply
    Nisha / Rainbow Plant Life
    October 23, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    This was great to read, Heather! Can’t believe you’ve only been doing this for a year or so – your work is beautiful! I love the process of constantly learning – I’m always learning something new about manipulating light or composition and it’s just so fun!

    • Reply
      Heather Mubarak
      October 23, 2019 at 7:35 pm

      Thanks for reading Nisha! I agree…never stop learning!!

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