Taking photos of food: Some basic tips

We take all of our own food photographs, and people often comment on them. I am certainly not a trained photographer, but after hundreds of food photographs, I've learned a few tricks.

Sunlight is good lighting for food photos. Indirect sunlight is usually best (although direct sunlight will work in some instances, like the photo above). Our kitchen table is near a window, and I take most of my food photos with the plate on the table, close to the window (curtain open). NO FLASH, just sunlight.

Use your camera's macro setting. Get really close to your food. Yum!

(Homemade Bologna)

Watch out for background objects that look pretty but are distracting. These stainless steel cannisters really distract from the beautiful lunchmeat being displayed!

Garnish plain foods if possible. This chicken looked really pale and plain. I didn't have much on hand, but just sprinkling some black pepper and dried parsley flakes added a little extra color.

(Lemon squares)

Flashes should be used as a last resort, in general. The washed-out look, sharp shadows, and off-color is difficult to edit out of a photo. If I absolutely must use a flash (i.e. I was cooking at night instead of during the day!) the trick is to stand back and zoom in on your food. Since you're standing back, the flash isn't quite so harsh. Sunlight is still better though!

Fill the plate and arrange it attractively. This is a beautiful plate of food, but it wasn't close to the window. It was taken too far back, so the food is fuzzy and the colors are off.

Don't take a picture of leftovers. This food is delicious served hot. I ate instead of taking a picture. The leftovers looked cold and gross. To top it all off, it was dark outside by then, and I had to use a flash, indoors. YUCK!!

Use a plain plate/bowl/background, unless the design adds to the display. These quesadillas look delicious, but the design on the plate distracts.

(Grilled garlic lime chicken breast)

Photos looking straight down at a plate aren't usually as nice as angled photos. This photo was taken with a flash. The setting looked great in person, but the picture turned out awful!

These are just my basic tips about what works for me... I have many many more photos I could use for examples, but these will hopefully give you a good enough idea of what I mean. I take about 20-40 pictures of each food. I cringe when I see some of the pictures we put on this website when we first started it. :D


Wow, what great tips, thank you! (o:


Now I'm hungry. Great tips! I will keep these in mind as I like to enter recipe contests. :)

Nikki from nikkianddanny.blogspot.com

Those photos are great and I'm getting hungry now! Thanks so much for sharing these tips, I'll definitely be putting them to good use. Have a great rest of the week! =)


I love these tips and have bookmarked this post.

Thanks for sharing!


Great photo tips, Tammy =)

Terrific tips, thanks!


Bookmarking this post. : )

I just started a food blog, so these will come in very handy! Thanks!

Have you ever used a light box?

Thanks for sharing these great tips! I have to bookmark this site!

Thanks for all the great tips. Yours do look rather professional!


Thanks for the tips, I occasionally take pictures of food for my blog. I rarely have sunlight, though, and have to rely on the flash far too often.

Hi Tammy,

I have always thought your photos looked so professional. Thanks for sharing your tips!


I LOVE the tips - I love taking pictures of food. So much so that my friends and DH think I'm crazy!

I'm definitely going to keep yours in mind.

love this... love the recipes, too...

My biggest problem is that I'm cooking at night. I guess my photos will look better now that the sun is staying up!

I don't take many pics of my cooking, but I love yours. That is one of the things that has impressed me about your site. I can see what it looks like before I decide to try it. So keep up the good work and know that it is appreciated.

Oh, thank you, everyone! Anonymous, no, I have never used a light box. Joshua wants to make me one. :) And yes, sunlight is the best (if it's getting dark outside, I sometimes even take the food out there to photograph so it gets more natural light!) and it makes food blogging easier to do in the summer. ;) In the winter, I had to cook in the morning or afternoon, and didn't really take pictures after about 3 pm. I tried taking pictures later and they never turned out, so it wasn't worth my time. :)

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