Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a full list of food photography resources.
Getting Started in Food Photography
I did something huge this weekend. I tried my hand at food photography. Here’s what I learned…
I’ve worked previously as a portrait photographer (in a studio and in the field), and I’ve even spent some time shooting landscapes as a hobby. But it’s been almost a decade since I’ve shot anything professionally.
I’ve always had the itch to get back to it, even if it’s just as a hobby. And I’d love to try new things to expand my skills.
Photography is one of those things that I’ve been waiting for the right time to jump back into since becoming a mom. A few years ago, I joined Instagram, and since then I’ve taken hundreds of snap shots and I’ve even put time in to shoot a few really gorgeous portraits of the kids. Something I love doing, but again…it takes time.
Every parent knows the level of wrangling you have to go through in order to shoot little ones. And sometimes you have to resort to bribery…lol.
But in 2017, I promised myself I would go out of my comfort zone and push past these limitations I keep stressing over. The #Fearless2017 Challenge is in full swing.
So, spending more time developing my photography skills is one of the ways I’m challenging myself this year. I want to move beyond snap shots and start creating more of the work that I’m actually proud of. So that’s what these first few food photography photos are. They’re all collection of my efforts and a beginning to this challenge.
Equipment and Props
For this shoot, I used my Nikon D3200 (which is a super affordable D-SLR camera) with a standard 18-55mm Nikon lens. I set the camera to aperture priority mode (at f/5.6) and zoomed in as far as my lens would go (55mm). Instead of adjusting my aperture for each shot, I just moved the food items or props behind each dish closer or further away, depending on how much depth of field (or blur) I wanted in each shot.
For props (plates, cups, linens, etc.), I visited the local dollar store and was able to find all of the pieces you see here for just $1-$2 each. There’s nothing particularly special about these items, but together they helped to create more interesting and well-composed images.
Here’s what I bought:
- a large red ceramic dinner plate
- a black ceramic bowl
- a yellow ceramic mug
- a small clear glass dish
- a transparent cobalt glass
- a set of silver forks and spoons
- salt and pepper shakers
- 3 fabric place mats in various colors
- 1 package of blue and white kitchen wash cloths
I also purchased a few other items for future photo shoots that are not pictured here. In all, it cost me less than $40. The very last dish was shot in a Terra Cotta serving bowl from Mexico that my good friend Tara and her husband (from Me & The Mexican) gifted us a couple years ago.
My husband purchased all of the food and drinks we photographed at our local Stripes. We unwrapped each food item and carefully set them up for display; carne guisada, mollejas and picadillo. And we got some really great shots for a first run.
Things I didn’t have that I wish I would have:
a tripod – Having a tripod would have helped me to keep the images more in focus. The photos I got look great and for most uses you won’t even notice that there is shake in these photos, but if I were to blow them up, you could see a huge loss in clarity. Having a tripod would have kept the camera more steady and allowed for a crisper shot.
a reflector – I meant to create a few reflector cards out of white board or foil to help cast more light on some of the dishes and I totally dropped the ball. I was all setup and ready to go with food plated before I remembered and ultimately, I decided not to fuss with it. That’s something I definitely want to try at a future shoot to see what type of new lighting scenarios I can create.
studio lighting – While I love working with natural light, it’s no exaggeration to say that time was working against me. When you rely on natural light, you only have a small window to shoot before the light changes. And if you’re shooting on a cloudy day, your lighting situation could be all over the place. It’s work. A studio setup would have allowed me to be more creative and put more thought into every placement because there is no rushing when you control the lighting.
Where I shot these images:
I shot all of these pictures in my backyard. Most of them were shot inside of a large cardboard box with a cabinet insert as a wood grain background and a small platform that raised the dishes up above ground level so I could get better angles.
The last few shots were set up in direct sunlight on a wooden plank that I rested on top of a royal blue stadium chair. In those shots, I’m using the green place mat I got for $1 at the dollar store. I used a variety of place mats and props to add color and interest to each photo and it ended up looking pretty good in the end.
Advice for Getting Started in Food Photography
If you’re interested in getting started in food photography, I would suggest buying some gorgeous cookbooks that include photos in the style that you want to emulate. Follow your favorite Instagram foodies. Figure out what you love about their images and what you want your photographic style to look like. Then study the composition, layout, color, lighting, props and attempt to replicate it. Put your own spin on it and figure out how you can express your own style in your images. Take some wide shots, some close ups, some interesting angles, play with shadow. Try everything and see what works for you!
This was my first ever food shoot, and I’m still working on finding my own style, but something I’ve noticed again and again is that I love adding blues to my designs. I tried to get a hint of blue into every shot whenever possible because I just love the color! Maybe for you it’s red or green or orange. Or maybe your statement feature is moody lighting. Above all, find out what you like and experiment with it.
The photos I shot this weekend are beautiful, but they are by no means perfect and I plan to continue working on them and evolving them over the next few months. I plan to play more with light and also experiment with different textures, colors, backgrounds, props and ingredients.
Read on below for a list of resources to help you get started in food photography.
Resources for Getting Started in Food Photography
Are you interested in learning more about food photography? I’m including a few links here if you would like to look delve deeper. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them or try my best to find answers for you. And if you have suggestions for me, please leave those too. I’m looking forward to it!
And remember…the two most important factors in becoming a great photographer are practice and experimentation. Shoot often and never be afraid to try new things!
- Gimme Some Oven’s List of Food Photography Resources
- Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography Ebook
- Artificial Lighting Tips for Food Photography
- 5 Ways to Improve Your Food Photography Lighting
- 20 Composition Techniques That Will Improve Your Photos
- Understanding Depth of Field for Beginners
- Nikon Exposure Mode: Mode A (Aperture-Priority Auto)
Become a Professional Food Blogger
And if you want to go ‘all in’ and become a professional food blogger, check out this awesome interactive course from the creators of Pinch of Yum!