Lately, I've been reading up on food photography, checking out a bunch of the food porn sites for trends, and then putting that knowledge into practice.  There are a few tips and tricks to getting somewhat decent photos that will get you featured on FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Photograzing, Tasteology, etc., and these same tips and tricks can improve your blog or Instructables if you photograph food or drinks.

Or whatever.  No promises.

But first off before getting into the fun stuff in this Instructable, it's important to go over these important things...

Hopefully, you know a few things about camera settings, but in case you don't...

Aperature:  This is the eye inside your lens measured in f-stops.  The more wide open the eye, the smaller the f-stop number.  The more closed the eye, the bigger the f-stop number.  The smaller the f-stop number, the shallower the depth of field (i.e., only a bit in focus and a lot blurred).  The bigger the f-stop number, the deeper the depth of field (i.e., lots in focus and very little blurred).

Shutter Speed:  This is how quickly that eye opens and closes measured in seconds or fractions of a second.  If you want to "freeze" movement, the eye has to open and close quicker than the movement.  If you want to "blur" the movement, the eye has to open and close slower than the movement.  As a general rule of thumb, you don't want to be holding a camera with a shutter speed slower than 1/60 of a second because it will catch your movement as the photographer in the image.  To be on the safe side, I try not to go slower than 1/80 with hand-held.

ISO:  This is how sensitive the eye is and determines how grainy the image will be be.  An ISO of 100 isn't sensitive to light and requires lots of it in either "volume" or exposure time, and it produces the clearest images.  An ISO of 3200 is very sensitive to light and doesn't require much of it, but it produces more grain than an ISO of 100.

Each one of these interacts with one another for correct exposure (i.e., the right amount of light and dark).  If you change one, you'll have to change another, and you'll need to prioritize what's more important.

Now that's out of the way, I've read and seen a lot of food photographers using very large apertures (i.e., small f-stops) for interest, but I prefer a small aperture because I like to keep as much in focus as possible and generally work with still life setups using a tripod and remote shutter release which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to do this.  The gear is quite cheap for the beginner stuff.  And outside of aperture, eh, there's not much else discussed because it's a matter of freezing motion (if any) and deciding on graininess.

Once you've decided on the right camera settings, you have to then consider your audience.  Is it for yourself, Instructables, one of the food porn sites, or other photographers?  This is going to greatly affect how you style, photograph, and edit, but if you're doing this for something other than yourself, you should probably make sure you have one shot that makes for a nice square thumbnail.  It doesn't have to be the "wow" shot - it just has to be A shot.

And generally for the food porn sites, you want bright, crisp, clear photos with a lot of the subject in the frame.  This isn't the rule, but it's the safest route in my experience.  Think "Real Simple" rather than "Cigar Aficionado".

Step 1: Lighting and Setup

Chances are that if you're doing food photography, you're likely doing it inside, and if you're a beginner photographer, then studio lighting is perhaps a bit too complicated, especially if you just want some nice pictures of your food.  That leaves natural light which also comes with a nice price tag of free although inconvenient if you prepare most of your stuff in the evening.

Remember that light diminishes the further you are from the source, so if you need lots of light, your best bet is to be very close to a window or an open exterior door.

As for setup, you don't have to have one really, but if you opt to use one, you have to decide whether you want light, bright photos or dark, moody photos.  Angling the background away from the source of light and shielding it from the ambient light will produce wonderful dark and moody photos.  Angling the background towards the light will make it nice and bright.  And be careful to not shoot your food with your lens pointed at the window - this will make the foreground dark and dull with a freakishly glowing background like your food has died and is ascending into heaven.

Like I said, you don't need a setup, but you likely have some things lying around the house such as aluminum pans with a nice patina, some scraps of plywood, or bits of poster board.  Experiment and see what you like.
I'm a big fan of photomatrix. Shame they don't have an affiliate scheme or you could have made some dosh.
<p>Oh, actually they do seem to have an affiliate sheme?</p>
Fantastic primer and great intro to the key elements of food photography! I got my first DSLR this Christmas and I have been doing a lot with people photos. Your food focus is a perfect balance of concepts and a few specifics to get started right away.<br><br>Example. I love your quick intro to light. Lots of indirect light (or longer exposure) will minimize shadows around and in the subject. Direct light sources (not bounced or diffused by an object like your cooking pan) will produce shadows. Whether shadows enhance or distract from a photo depends on the photo and viewer, so experiment!<br><br>:-)
Thank you for putting such a basic explanation of camera terms in the beginning. That is the <br>best-est I have ever read!
<p>Do you have a Deviantart page?? I would love to see more of your work!! &lt;3 </p>
<p>Thanks! There's plenty here on Instructables and on my cocktail blog. :)</p>
<p>I have always noticed when a food site/commercial shows food pictures. One such is RED LOBSTER. Commercials showing lobsters, shrimp &amp; fish (the reds and pinks) always look good enough to eat. They have an outstanding photography department. Unfortunately, there are no restaurants near me in Massachusetts.</p>
<p>I love small appentures and work with a tripod to!! I find myself and my tripod in some small areas just to get a perfect shot! </p>
<p>You do what you gotta do! Lately I've been awkwardly balancing a reflector on my shoulder to reduce some annoying shadows. lol</p>
<p>Very useful tips thank you, I remember reading once that for a drink in a glass, three bubbles are the optimum. There endeth-ed my knowledge, until now! </p>
<p>Three bubbles? That's a new one for me. Do you remember the context/rationale behind that?</p><p>And thanks! :D</p>
I don't remember anything other than that, something subliminal I'm guessing, like the golden ratio, that sort of thing.
I just read your instructables on Food/Drink Photography for Beginners. <br>What camera are you using? <br>You are a prolific writer / illustrator in several venues- instructables and http://makefor365.com/, so I apologize if I missed this information. <br>Warmly Scott <br>
Thank you! I actually didn't say what camera and lens I'm using in this Instructable, so for what it's worth, I'm using an old Canon Rebel XTi with kits lens (18-55mm) which I've had for 5 years or so. Hope it helps! :)
&quot;Food porn&quot; HAHAHAHA! But really a true expression! :) <br> <br>Some great ideas and hints also not for only food-pics.
I didn't come up with the term - it's actually what people call those sites! lol.<br> <br> But if you want to see some real food porn, check out <a href="http://500px.com/photo/56391028" rel="nofollow">this photo</a> by Victoria Ivanova entitled, &quot;What are you reading, son?!&quot;<br> <br> Don't worry - it's work safe.&nbsp; :P
Hahaha! Cool, thanks a lot for this one! :D
Wow, now there is no more excuse for bad photographing! <br> <br>Thank you for sharing.
There's still some finesse required, and I have absolutely no place in explaining that! lol. <br> <br>Thank you for commenting! :)
Favorited the hell out of this. FANTASTIC!!!
Psh. I bet you say that to all the pretty girls. <br> <br>Thanx!
This is AWESOME!! Thankyou!!
You're AWESOME!!! <br> <br>Y de nada.
I am not a photographer, but I like to enhance my photos. I use PhotoFiltre, a free, lightweight and very useful photo editor. Generally I fix gamma parameters, bright and contrast. <br> <br>I would like to know how to fix the barrel effect, but I did not find the method.
I had been wanting to ask you what you have been doing to get those amazing shots! Now I know!
Apparently you've not been the only one wanting to know! Someone told me that they were wanting to know how I was creating my backgrounds, and yep, it's aluminum pans. Kinda silly but it really does make for a cool background. :)
Very cool background! I've been trying to figure that out and don't think I would have guessed it!
To be fair, I didn't come up with it - I saw the idea somewhere online. :P
Thank you!
Hope it helps! :)

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