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Food Photography Tips

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!)

pb-fudge11

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.

breakfastcobbler

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.

homemade-Frappuccino

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.

healthy-fudge-pops2

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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Published on September 14, 2011

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
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ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day!

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  1. 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 😀

  2. Nicole @ Of Cookies and Carrots says

    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. 🙂

    <3
    n

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      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!

  3. Ali @ Peaches and Football says

    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.

  4. katie @KatieDid says

    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!).

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      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!

  5. Alyssa @ Life of bLyss says

    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! 😉

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      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.

      • 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

    Whitney

  10. Melissa says

    I am interested in photography & take food pics for my blog, but I’m not very good at it. Photography in general is something I’ve always been interested in. I’m glad you’re doing this series. Hopefully I’ll learn some things! I’ve just recently stopped using a flash when taking food photos, but sometimes they look grainy and icky if I don’t have good light. Trial and error, I suppose! 🙂

  11. jordan says

    thanks for these, katie! i just started my blog and i’ve always loved taking photos of my food for good memories (and ’cause it’s pretty!), but for some reason i feel like the photos i’ve been taking for years are not appealing enough for my blog. i’ve always admired yours, so i’ll try these tips in the future 🙂

  12. Liz @ Tip Top Shape says

    Great post, Katie! I love food blogging and taking pics is both my favorite and least favorite part of it all. The tip about natural light is great. That is one really easy way that I found to improve my pictures.

  13. Jessy (squeezetheday) says

    I have a DSLR and I love photography, but I haven’t mastered it up quite yet. My favourite things to shoot for me are nature (especially seaside!), animals and children. I rarely take pics of food – I would feel uncomfortable taking out my camera and start shooting my meal in front of people, heh.

  14. Angel says

    I am absolutely interested in learning about photography. All the pictures I take are of my kids doing goofy things in strange outfits. How fun. I want to be able to take better pictures of them and I want to photograph beautiful sunsets and gorgeous leaves.

  15. Karen says

    Hi Katie! Thanks for these awesome blogs!!! I love to see what you come up with every day! I was wondering if you would be willing to do a post on pumpkin cookies? My non vegan husband loves them and i’d like to make something we both can eat 🙂 Also, what do you use for chocolate chips? I haven’t been able to find any vegan ones 🙁 thanks so much!!!

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      Hey Karen!

      I do have a pumpkin bar recipe to share soon, but not yet an idea for a cookie one. I can try to think of one, though! I’m also hoping to develop a chocolate-pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving :).

      As for chocolate chips, Many brands are vegan, including: Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet (the ones in the gold package), Enjoy Life, Whole Foods brand, Sunspire, some generic brands, Divvies, etc.
      Look in the natural section of your grocery store, if it has one. And if you absolutely can’t find any (and don’t want to buy online), you can always take any-flavored chocolate BAR and break it up and use that as chips. I’m actually posting a recipe later today that uses this method!

  16. Amber K says

    I love looking at awesome photos, but don’t really try to make my own anything special. Mostly because the only places I have to photograph inside don’t get natural sunlight. But yours is one of the blogs I seek when I’m searching for food porn 😉

  17. Sophie @ LoveLiveAndLearn says

    Yay I’m so glad you did this post :-). I love photography but I’m like you, I’ve never taken any classes or anything like that so I’m always looking out for good tips! Good call on the simple dishes, it really does make the food look better!

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