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Food Photography Through a Novice's Eyes

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"I was skimming through all my dessert cookbooks one day. I desperately needed a good party dessert. I stopped to look at a delicious lemon pound cake, some chocolate chip cookies, and a very good-looking pear pie. I was thinking to myself,"

That was an excerpt from my instructable version of Pomegranate Cake Tarts. Believe me they are delicious. If you need a link, here it is.
Now, in that instructable, I said that I loved all the photos I took. I uploaded to best but still have some other shots I have rejected.

I also posted this instructable on my blog. You see, in the "food blogging world," there is a great site called foodgawker and another one called tastespotting. These sites showcase the best of the best in food blogs. The pictures are sharp and perfectly lit. The composition is impeccable and leaves your mouth-watering. The editors of that site hold very high standards for photos and reject plenty of them.

Pomegranate Cake Tarts made it onto foodgawker (amazingly) and I was beyond happy :) :) I'm still learning the ropes for photography but I have some quick ten tips on food photography for anyone willing to learn:

1. Get some great props- Food alone is great but the photo really shines when a carefully placed fork or colorful napkin is placed in the photo. I know this really works. When shooting one of my recipes, I was at a loss. A white background and the food. Then I replaced the background with some textured red and added a fork in there and poof! Magic :)

2. Composition, composition, composition- In truth, this is the part where I struggle the most (this and lighting). When running into problems, don't be afraid to play around a bit. Move this left, take the green away, move this forward...whatever works. :)

3. Lighting- Oooo. Don't even get me started on this one. Lighting is one of my biggest issues, especially when shooting at night. Shadows are terrible for food, I tell ya. Make sure to shoot when it'd daylight. If not, try moving the camera around until you find an angle that hides the shadows the best.

4. Messy can be good- Sometimes food can look too perfect. You know what I'm talking about...the almost fake pie that you're afraid to cut...or the perfect iced cake that has absolutely no marks? Well I'm telling you, it's okay to mess it up a bit. Slice the cake and take a bite out of it. Place a fork next to it and the photo looks more "friendly." Almost if you can picture eating it yourself!

5. Add some color- Photographing savory foods can be a pain. Rice and curry look plain but you can always spice it up. Add a dusting of herbs or even throw some fresh garnishes in. Put a colored napkin on the bottom or utensils.

6. Try different angles- Have you ever tried a top down shot? I will tell you it is hard to get right. If one angle doesn't please you, move around. Stand on a chair is you have to! It's fun to experiment with different angles. One time I hung the camera around my neck and set the self timer and started adding ingredients. Cool effect!

7. Get inspiration- Where did you come up with the recipe? What are the recipe's origins? Use the answers to these questions to add some life into the photo. For example, my Asian-Style Tomato Soup photo has some chopsticks to reflect on the origin of the recipe.

8. Shoot clear images- Make sure your camera is focused. No one like blurry photos, not even blurry photos of good food. Try out the differences between manual focus and automatic. Play around and get to know your camera!

9. It's the person not the camera- Don't worry if you're not a professional photographer. I'm not one either. :) Put your personality into it and it will come out looking like your did. You don't need some fancy camera (although it helps). Use your imagination.

10. Have fun- I know this sounds very cliche, but have fun with it! There are so many ways to capture your beautiful work of art/food. I know I had fun jumping on and off chairs to get a better look at the food. Trying out different fabrics and even using a calendar as the background for one. It was definitely fun :)

Well I put my two/ten cents in. I'm not a professional but I'm working at it :) I love taking pictures of the food that I made! I hope this helps and good luck!

Please vote for this instructable in the I Made It Photo Contest!!

Great tips! I will definitely be using these tips soon! And they probably can be applied to crafts and other stuff too, right?

Got my vote!
jen7714 (author)  SkysTheLimit3 years ago
Thanks for the nice comment!
angelabchua3 years ago
Awesome stuff! Where were you when I photographed my hummus which ended up looking like a bowl of cat puke.

These are awesome tips that I will share with my foodie friends! And congrats on making foodgawker. We were drooling over your pomegranite cake tarts here at the Instructables HQ!
jen7714 (author)  angelabchua3 years ago
Thank you! I'll be glad to pop on over to the Instructables IQ...now to get a plane ticket. Haha. I do bet that any hummus looks better than cat puke though :)

Thanks soo much for the nice comment (it really means a lot). I can't believe foodgawker actually accepted my photo :) And aww thanks (again). I bet Scooch would make you some :D
elimasmx3 years ago
Very nice tips, thanks!
jen7714 (author)  elimasmx3 years ago
Thank you for the nice comment!
ac1D3 years ago
"It's the person not the camera"
How did you read in my mind.. every time my picture are bad, I yell at my camera!
jen7714 (author)  ac1D3 years ago
Haha :) I have a secret...I'm telepathic. ;) Keep it at! I promise it'll work out! Thanks for checking out my ten tips :)