Food Photography- Achieving Delicious Color and Tone

Introduction: Food Photography- Achieving Delicious Color and Tone

About: Professional photographer based in New York. Co-founder of an educational photography blog A father of two awesome kids. And just a guy who is enjoying what life has to offer
If you are a foodie, food blogger or an aspiring food photographer – read on!
A job of a food photographer is to communicate the luscious taste of food through the image. There are a number of elements to consider if you desire to achieve mouthwatering results. In this article I would like to highlight one of them:
The perfect color and tone:
Before we taste our food - it always has to pass the “look test” Our eyes are trained to determine the freshness of food judging by its color.
Color is directly linked to the light source. Any type of light source will produces different color temperature. Even our beloved Sun changes its color temperature throughout the day. So how do you tell your camera the exact color temperature it should balance to?

Tips to record perfect color:

When using DSLR camera or Advanced Point and Shoot:
  1. Use only one type of light. daylight, flash, Incandescent, fluorescent and avoid mixing various sources together.
  2. Avoid using pop up flash (it will make your image look washed out / unappetizing)
  3. Set Custom White Balance (see step by step Video below).

  • a. Use a perfectly white card (or 18% grey card)
  • b. Position the card in front of your subject. Tilt it to make sure that card itself is not blocking the light.
  • c. Take a capture of the card
  • d. Set Custom white balance in your camera.
  • e. Refer to your camera manual for exact steps specific to your camera under “Custom White Balance”.
  • f. This should help you produce the true white balance for healthy looking color.
  • g. You can add some vibrance /saturation to your image for extra juice, after the white balance is corrected

Note: If you are shooting in raw and using raw processing software (adobe raw, Lightroom, capture one, or camera specific raw software) take a white balance reading by pointing a white balance picker to the point on the card. And then set the same WB setting to all future captures.

Using Camera Phones and basic Point and Shoot Cameras:

  1. Use only one type of light source (day light preferred) most camera phones will have white balance setting. Usually it’s set to “auto”. Switch is to Manual / Preset: “Sun” icon for daylight, “bulb” icon for incandescent ..etc. use appropriate setting based on lighting source you use.
  2. Do not use flash. It will result in a washed out image.

White balance is just one element to pay attention to when photographing food. Other elements include: angles, lighting, styling, composition, mood, texture, props, environment, focal point and depth of field. Stay tuned, I will cover them in future posts…

What trouble do you run into when photographing food? What would you like to learn next?

See my Food Photography & my Educational blog for more Photography Tutorials

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    4 Discussions


    Thank you for your clear instructions for lighting food photography. Eagerly looking forward to future posts!

    On thing to add - If you're indoors and using an external flash then diffusing the light is really important, especially for meat, which can take on a nasty shine with very direct light...

    At least that's been my experience, also don't let the food get cold! Then it's not as tasty and it can look congealed in photos...


    8 years ago on Introduction

    awesome, and very informative! I always have trouble with shooting food indoors.
    Thanks for the tips!