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Food Photography Tips

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Julie Andrews had it right.

The beginning is a very good place to start.

I wish we could jump right to part 2 and talk photo flair. (Ribbons! Flowers! Glitter!)


In the above picture: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge.

I often skip through the first few steps while reading directions. (I’m especially notorious for skipping directions when assembling something. Does anyone else do this?)

Unfortunately, skipping directions in an attempt to save time can occasionally backfire, leaving me confused and even costing time in the long run.

So let’s start at the very beginning…

Food Photography: The Basics

Good news!

You do not need to have a fancy digital camera to take advantage of these tips. I haven’t taken any photography courses, and therefore it would be ridiculous for me to offer you technical tips on how to work your digital camera.

What I can offer are some basic photo-styling tips you can use with any camera. These tips are all ideas I’ve learned from experience; trial and error.


Photo taken with natural light: Peach Breakfast Cobbler.

Tip #1: Listen to Nelly Furtado

Turn off the lights! That goes for your camera’s flash too.

When photographing food, keep the flash off at all times. Walk around and try to find the area in your home that has the most sunlight. I take photos almost exclusively in my living room, and usually somewhere around 11-4pm, because this is where/when I’ve found the best lighting conditions. Sometimes I take photos outside, too. Overcast days are great for this; too much sunlight can cast ugly shadows and make your photos look harshly overexposed.


Photo taken in my living room: Healthy Starbucks Frappuccino.

Tip #2: Keep it Steady!

You’d be surprised at just how much havoc a tiny shake of the camera can wreak on a shot. It baffles and frustrates me they’re doing away with viewfinders in point-n-shoot cameras, because holding the camera right up to your face allows you to be much steadier than if you hold the camera way out in front of you, without anything to brace it.

If you have a tripod, use it. (Do as I say, not as I do. I have a tripod—somewhere—but am too lazy to set it up, and therefore never use one.) If you don’t have one, or if you’re lazy like me, make sure to keep the camera as steady as you absolutely positively possibly can.


Above, on a white plate: Creamy Chocolate Fudge Pops.

Tip #3: White makes Right

Also known as the KISS principle (“keep it simple, stupid”)

When I started out, I made the mistake of thinking fancy = better when it comes to dishware. In reality, if you look at the pros, they often use very basic dishware so that the food, not the plate, holds center stage.

Above, Flourless Chocolate-Chip Cookies.

Questions of the Day:

Are you interested in photography at all?

And do you ever take pictures of your food? What are your favorite things to photograph: Food? People? Nature?

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Ohh I would love to take better food pictures! I am going to have to start using some of these great tips! I can’t wait to read about adding flair too!!!!!!!!!

  2. SUPER interested in photography. I am no good at food photography but KIDS- that is a different strory! I’m pretty good at photographing kiddos. Althought I loooooove food, I am truly inspired by children. 🙂
    Your photos are always great!

  3. Thanks so much Katie 🙂 And thanks for your kind words about my photos today. I’m trying so hard to get better, trying to photograph whenever I can! Since I’m at school all day I don’t get much by way of good natural light unfortunately. Maybe I’ll have to flip my schedule around! I’m thinking about looking into artificial lighting for the dreary New England winters; it’s already too dark to photograph dinner by the time I get to it! I just got a tripod and it’s making a world of difference. I can’t wait to read your flair post!

  4. Elise says:

    I took a photography class once and I thought the KISS principle was something my teacher made up 😛

  5. Giulia says:

    Love the KISS principle! And thank you for the tips, they are great! My favourite pictures are those of food, closely followed by nature. Food pics always make me drool 😀

  6. I like photography, and I do some food photography when I make recipes and such but I actually find it pretty boring. And I never bring out all the glitter & ribbons & decorative pieces… I’m mostly lazy and don’t have that kind of creativity!

    What I DO like photographing ar epeople. Places. Vacations. Candids are my favorite. Pictures of my puppies. I think some of htem turn out alright, and I guess what makes them even better ot me is the fact that they mean something to me. Which probably means they’re useless to most people, but whatever. 😉

    Good tips! Especially the flash and the white. I almost exclusively use white plates these days, haha. 🙂


    1. Aww puppy pictures are my favorite too! My poor dog, Molly, was completely black, so she always looked like a big black blob in photos (unless she stuck out her tongue). But you’re right; photos that others might consider bad-quality or boring are the ones that are often the most meaningful!

  7. Only for food photography! It makes me so happy to see a nice photo I’ve taken of the food I made! 😀 Thanks for your tips! 🙂

  8. LOVE this post! I agree natural light is always the best. 🙂

  9. Cameras can be so outrageously priced. My little one was just over $100 – and I am always looking for ways to make food pictures come out better. You are right though, the flash ruins it. Sometimes I’ll take 2 pictures – one with the flash and one without – so I can compare later and see which I liked better. Twice the work but helps me get a better finished product.

  10. Em says:

    yeah! i love photography! its so hard to hold my camera still though!! 🙂

  11. I find for my house that shooting later in the afternoon, after 4pm works for me because the lighting is a bit softer than high noon. I love shooting pictures of people, to capture emotion and eyes and expression. But food is really fun too because you can set it up just how you want! And it evokes it own kinds of emotions and feelings (read: HUNGER!).

  12. I love photographing food! I just need to work on the complimenting colors in the background. Any advice on that?

    1. NOT yellow! 😉

      LOL but seriously… my house is so yellow, and it puts such an ugly cast on photos. Good background colors are things like white or light blue– light colors. And honestly, I haven’t completely figured out the background thing yet either. But usually, in photography, white seems to be a good choice for anything!

  13. LOVE these, katie! I have a very basic point-and-shoot, and I have such an issue with photographing my food with such little lighting in my house and office (much of my “food photography” happens at night when I’m not at work). thanks for the tipskis! 😉

  14. Thanks for these great tips! My amatuer food photography will Hopefully benefit greatly!

  15. Michaela says:

    I love photography so much and I am so glad it pops up on so many blogs 🙂 You can never get too much information!
    I adore makro photography, but I also enjoy taking pictures of people and recently, mostly while preparing a meal or eating it, I am thinking “this would make a nice pic”… I guess I caught on the food photography bug 😉
    Looking forward to your next posts on photography!

  16. Jennifer JCD says:

    I love photography, and your tips are great. (As are your photos – they have come a long way in the past year!) Another tip most photographers follow is the rule of thirds – try to place your subject off-centre, preferably at 1/3 of the width and/or height of the frame/photo. Centering the subject in the middle works well in most cases, and moving it off-centre can add even more interest. The Frappacino and Fudge Pop photos demostrate this principle beautifully! The cobbler too.

    As for me, I like to photograph kids, nature, and vacations. I’m still in the old school with a 35mm film SLR and a point and shoot digital for those times when I need a smaller, lighter camera or want to take lots of photos.

    1. Oh yes, thanks for bringing that one up! I try to keep the rule of thirds in mind… but sometimes (like with the blueberry muffin), I just can’t help but break that rule!

      I need to find a new, good-quality point and shoot… my old Kodak one was INCREDIBLE, but sadly it was also seven years old and finally broke. They just don’t seem to make them anymore with viewfinders, which is a must for me.

      1. Jennifer JCD says:

        Every photography rule is designed to be broken, and I like the muffin photo just the way it is. Sometimes centering things is the best way to capture them!

        Ugh, I understand the lack of viewfinder frustration… viewfinders are another key to achieving good photos, I agree. We like our Canon PowerShot A1000iS – it’s older and has some great features, it’s very durable, and still works perfectly after almost 4 years of heavy use. I don’t like cameras that only have a LCD, especially if you cannot see them in bright daylight. (I had this eperience this summer with a waterproof camera – couldn’t see a thing on the screen with all the glare, so the photos were hit-and-miss, mostly miss.)

        Good luck finding a new camera! And keep taking great photos!

  17. Mandy says:

    Thank you so much for the tips! I’m new to food photography (and photography in general!) – loved these!

  18. Keep the tips coming! Your photos are always so gorgeous 🙂 I use mostly white plates b/c honestly, it’s all I have!

  19. Jill says:

    I am working my way through a chocolate cookbook, one recipe at a time without skipping. As I go, I write in what I made it for and the date I made it. If it is spectacular, I make sure to note that too, so I know which ones to repeat someday. After I make the chocolate creation, I take a picture of it with the cookbook page behind it. I am thankful for the simple steps you have given because I do not have a particularly special camera, so I always figured what was the point in trying to make it a really great picture? But now, I have these easy steps that wouldn’t take much effort but will make a much better picture! Thanks!

  20. wwhitney says:

    Awesome post, totally agree with the no flash rule. My photos are all natural sunlight. Sometimes te 7am breakfast photos don’t turn out as good but its whatever. Lunch photos always rule!


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