GUEST POST: basic tips and tricks when photographing food.

Aaaaah… food! Love it or hate it! I know I, for one, love it! I'm not just talking about eating, I'm talking about food, haute cuisine. The best chefs in the world spend years trying to perfect a recipe, mix ingredients for a harmony of different tastes. They spend years developing their style. Sort of like photographers. Photographing food is a tough exercise. I've done it a couple of times and there are many tips and tricks to make the food look good. They do say we also "eat with our eyes". That means the presentation is as important as the taste. So when Winston submitted his guest post about food photography, I thought it was a great idea! Have fun reading it and… bon appétit! — josh

 [hr]Food photography is a really great way to start your photo carrier since basic photography doesn't require some special equipment and studio. You can shoot at home (restaurant, cafe, etc.) and your object range is very wide. I'm here to share some easy tips to help you create quality photos even with basic photography knowledge. 



  1. Use natural window light coming from behind your object.
  2. No direct sunlight. 
  3. Use small mirrors to reflect light back to the front of your object. Also you can use a couple of white boards and a roll of vellum paper over the window to diffuse light.
  4. Don't use camera flash.
  5. Shoot at about 45 degrees.
  6. Use macro lenses – 50 or 60 mm (suits best for me) with aperture size 2.8 or lower. Some photographers use tilt-shift lenses such as 90mm TSE.
  7. Use different backgrounds and plates to present your dish best: painted surfaces, metal tins, kitchen equipment, linens etc. If you are not sure, just use plain white background.
  8. When dealing with hot food, shoot it immediately after cooking. It means you have to prepare your equipment, background and light beforehand.
  9. Use shadows to add depth to your pictures.
  10. Concentrate on the most good-looking part of the dish. For instance, stuff the burger from one side to create bursting look and focus on it.
  11. If you are not sure what dishes to start with, go for seafood and cocktails (whiskey or bourbon will suit perfectly as well). Shellfish and oysters look especially great. 


And here some tricks to make your food look better:

  1. To create artificial steam, put a lit cigarette behind your dish. Another thing that can be done is to rinse cotton balls in water and heat them in microwave for a few seconds.
  2. Use the mix of 80% water with 20% of glycerin for seasoning to make your dishes look more shiny.
  3. Brush the vegetables with grape oil to create moisture effect.
  4. Personally, I prefer real food that can be eaten after the shooting but some people use unusual substitutes for products such as:
  • Using brown shown polish to make meat look roasted
  • Using white glue to substitute milk drops
  • Using potatoes to substitute ice-cream
  • Using brown paint to simulate melted chocolate
  • Using motor oil as seasoning
  • Using artificial ice cubes because of melting 

The first rule of the photographer is to take your camera with you in all occasions. Just remember to practise and shoot every dish, so you can create your own unique style. I hope these basic tips will help you create better and more attractive shots. Do you have more tips to share? Feel free to comment below.


About the guest poster

Winston Mathews is a photographer and fan of the Ralph Smith Photography studio, located in Houston, Texas and specializing in food and beverage photography. You can browse through their portfolio that inspired me on this post.