Picture of Food/Drink Photography for Beginners
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".
I'm a big fan of photomatrix. Shame they don't have an affiliate scheme or you could have made some dosh.

Oh, actually they do seem to have an affiliate sheme?

zschroeder16 months ago
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.

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!

n1tootsie6 months ago
Thank you for putting such a basic explanation of camera terms in the beginning. That is the
best-est I have ever read!

Do you have a Deviantart page?? I would love to see more of your work!! <3

AngryRedhead (author)  SweetlyPeachy1 year ago

Thanks! There's plenty here on Instructables and on my cocktail blog. :)

olrob1 year ago

I have always noticed when a food site/commercial shows food pictures. One such is RED LOBSTER. Commercials showing lobsters, shrimp & 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.

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!

AngryRedhead (author)  savynaturalista1 year ago

You do what you gotta do! Lately I've been awkwardly balancing a reflector on my shoulder to reduce some annoying shadows. lol

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!

AngryRedhead (author)  mandolinible1 year ago

Three bubbles? That's a new one for me. Do you remember the context/rationale behind that?

And thanks! :D

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.
What camera are you using?
You are a prolific writer / illustrator in several venues- instructables and http://makefor365.com/, so I apologize if I missed this information.
Warmly Scott
AngryRedhead (author)  Fikjast Scott1 year ago
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! :)
Orngrimm1 year ago
"Food porn" HAHAHAHA! But really a true expression! :)

Some great ideas and hints also not for only food-pics.
AngryRedhead (author)  Orngrimm1 year ago
I didn't come up with the term - it's actually what people call those sites! lol.

But if you want to see some real food porn, check out this photo by Victoria Ivanova entitled, "What are you reading, son?!"

Don't worry - it's work safe.  :P
Hahaha! Cool, thanks a lot for this one! :D
Wow, now there is no more excuse for bad photographing!

Thank you for sharing.
AngryRedhead (author)  Pane-Bistecca1 year ago
There's still some finesse required, and I have absolutely no place in explaining that! lol.

Thank you for commenting! :)
Favorited the hell out of this. FANTASTIC!!!
AngryRedhead (author)  jessyratfink1 year ago
Psh. I bet you say that to all the pretty girls.

stretch791 year ago
This is AWESOME!! Thankyou!!
AngryRedhead (author)  stretch791 year ago
You're AWESOME!!!

Y de nada.
rimar20001 year ago
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.

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!
AngryRedhead (author)  Penolopy Bulnick1 year ago
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!
AngryRedhead (author)  Penolopy Bulnick1 year ago
To be fair, I didn't come up with it - I saw the idea somewhere online. :P
wizgirl1 year ago
Thank you!
AngryRedhead (author)  wizgirl1 year ago
Hope it helps! :)
canida1 year ago
AngryRedhead (author)  canida1 year ago