Photography tips that any food blogger or hobby photographer can understand and implement. That's the focus of this post.
I'm going to start this post by stating that I really don't feel like I have the skills or talent to be providing photography tips, but Steph from Stephs Bite by Bite asked me to, so here we go.
French Toast Made with Challah Bread as recommended by one of my readers, recipe from this post.
I've gotten to the point now where I regularly get my food photos featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting, sometimes Tasteologie, and a few other food photography sites as well. I understand how frustrating it is to submit photos every day, only to have them declined. Every. Day.
And the reasons why? I don't really understand some days either. Composition, lighting and exposure seem to be the standard answers and if I had to sift through thousands of submissions a day, I probably wouldn't include more than one word answers either.
My first piece of advice is, don't let it get you down. Photography is all about who's looking at the final image and every photograph will be viewed differently by different eyes. Do not write a diatribe about how crappy it is and how much they suck. I'm not one for grudges, but it certainly wouldn't help you get on my site.
Both Tastespotting and Foodgawker have articles on their site with tips and hints on what they are looking for and their submission requirements. I have seen interviews with the editors of both sites talking about how it works. Feel free to check them out.
Here are my photography tips for submitting photos:
Honestly, I have no real photography tips. I still cross my fingers every time I submit a photo. But here's what I use and my set up for my pics.
My camera is a Nikon D3000. It cost me around $480.00 on Amazon.com and it was worth every penny. I am very happy I purchased this camera. I use it for food photos and every day photographs as well.
You do NOT need an expensive camera to make your food photos pretty, but it helps. Before my Nikon, I had a point and shoot Kodak. I won't lie - it sucked, but that's not what was making or breaking my photos. Most small point and shoots now come with a macro setting (usually shaped like a flower) for getting the up close and personal shots. This will help a lot. Use it.
Now, I can say that starting to get into food photography in the summer was brilliant of me (and I didn't even know it) because there is natural light pretty much all of the time that there is food on the table.
There it is; one of my real photography tips!
Natural light. No house lights, no 'I look just like natural light' lights - Sunlight. And $4.00 (or less) at a craft store for 2 pieces of white foam core and you're pretty much set.
I have a glass door to my back yard in our dining area so I usually set my food on the end of the table nearest the light and reflect light with a bounce card (my high class foam core). This technique not only brightens your area but lessens any harsh shadows.
Image taken while photographing Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon.
Really, that's about as high tech as I get.
Now, if the light from your window is too bright and creating a strong shadow, another trip to the local craft store for some vellum and tape will do the trick. Vellum is a type of paper used for tracing (I'm sure there are other uses for it but when I was talking design classes that's pretty much what I did with it) so it acts as a diffuser for the harsh light while still letting a lot in.
My best photographs are the ones I've taken with just the sunlight and foam core.
Another one of my best photography tips that is often overlooked:
I wasn't aware how much the seasons would change my ability to take a pretty picture. I underestimated this until I was knee deep in winter weather and there hadn't been a sunny day in 3 weeks. And when it was sunny, the sun was setting by noon - that's right noon - I live at the North Pole.
I do have a small light box I purchased from Amazon that came with two small lights as well that I use sometimes for my night shoots (most of my 'quick dinner fixin's posts' are shot using this and I have been known to use it on cupcakes if it was too cloudy out that day). But I did take it upon myself to pimp out my light box a little.
Image of falafel from this post.
There are two light clamps with 100 watt daylight lights on either side of my photo box instead of the little lights it came with. The lights it came with worked just fine but one of the bottoms broke and I just found these to be more useful.
I also recently treated myself to a Totapak Light system from Lowell and so far I am not in love. But I am still learning it, so I will re-address that topic when we've had more time to cuddle and get to know one another.
So there you have my food photography tips.
My magical science to making pretty pictures.
My biggest tip: don't give up. I have a world to go before I can be held in the same category as the food photographers I look up to, but with every day I get better. I can look at pictures I took a month ago and see where they could have been better and we won't even talk about the photos I was taking this time last year when I was just starting out this blog. 😀
Great tips, your photo's are awesome!
So excited for this!!!
Thanks for this. I really need to get a proper camera but I'm kind of nervous about all the settings and stuff. With my point & shoot I just push the macro button & that's it. But I am really envious of your gorgeous crisp photos so it's my birthday coming up, time to start dropping hints!!
we have the same camera, and i'm still learning how much it can do! good post!
Lauren at Keep It Sweet says
Thanks for sharing your tips! The foam core is a great idea. I wish I had more space and more natural light in my apartment for taking photos.
Chef Dennis says
Great tips Kita!! thanks for sharing your knowledge with us, and my friend you are quite skilled!
Great tips Kita, really! They are awesome, I should get into the habit of having something behind my food when I take a picture. I normally have kitchen utensils or kitchen sink blurred in the background hehe. Thanks for sharing!
I've been frustrating to get the pictures better after I got new camera last New Year... still I can't figure out how to use it 🙁
I love your tips... I will keep reading and learn 🙂
Thanks for the great tips, Kita! I've had some photos published on foodgawker and tastespotting, but lately I seem to have lost my "mojo". I'll keep learning from great posts like yours and I'll keep trying! 😉
Fresh and Foodie says
The natural light thing is huge. Unfortunately, I live in a city condo so only have certain time of day when the sun will shine through. Plus, I live in Chicago where it's dreary as heck right now. Totally a bad combination, but you're right. The natural lighting thing is the best cheapo thing you can do!
Susie Bee on Maui (Eat Little, Eat Big) says
Thanks for the encouragement! and tips. Your photos are really good-don't sell yourself short.
Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic says
These are really good tips! I definitely need these 🙂 Happy to find your blog, and looking forward to reading more!
Thanks! Your post came just at the right time where I was about to give up. I sometimes feel like I am beating my head against a brick wall with taking photos. I should have no excuse because I have so much natural light but still I struggle. Maybe I have too much light and jalousie windows don't really help either because of the lines they cast.
Debbie B. (DebaRooRoo) says
I just bought a foam board and am pretty stoked. I've had every single photo rejected by foodgawker!! haha ... Have one submitted now .. so keeping my fingers crossed!
I couldn't believe how good your shots were from the get go. Like your set-up, all my favorite photos I've taken, have been shot in natural light, there really is not replacement.
Kate @ Diethood.com says
You're awesome - thank you for sharing! You know I've been waiting around for this post for quite some time... I really appreciate it!
Many than ks for the advice, Kita. We have six months of winter here so the photography thing has been a struggle as of late.
Thanks for sharing your advice!! I never would have thought to use vellum, great idea!
Thanks for this! I've been thinking about getting a large white board. My kitchen has some okay windows, but I think with the white board I could really get some good light in here. And the idea to use the backgrounds, especially for cupcakes, would be awesome.
Awesome post and your photos are lovely. I have zero natural light 365 days a year (the trees around my home don't let enough light in for photography), so I always have to use Lowel Ego lights. Sadly, unless it's a professional studio with thousands of $$$ worth of the best lighting, you never get the details, colors and all around beauty of a naturally lit photo. However, it is 10 times better than your basic house lighting!
Jenny @ Savour the Senses says
Thank you for your advice. I have recently been trying to figure out how to improve my photography. My apartment has only 1 window other than in my room, and I usually cook at night, so I am stuck with my 1 light. I think I am going to invest in a second. But on the bright side, I just got my 1st photo acceptance on Tastespotting! Thanks to people like you for helping me learn =)
Great info and tips! I love hearing about how food bloggers take pictures and seeing setups. Your post left me feeling inspired!
Brian @ A Thought For Food says
Diggin' the action shot of the dripping maple syrup on the challah french toast.
Janna M says
It's really hard to not be frustrated over the numerous rejections. I had quite a few accepted last year but nothing since. I appreciate that you've shared your tips. Thanks.