Food Photography | 7 Easy Tips to Making Appetizing Images

by April Nienhuis

1.  Start With the Prep

Food photography isn’t just about the finished product. There are many times that just watching someone cook is enough to make my mouth water and my stomach rumble. Whether you get in close or scoot back to get the entire picture, use the visual senses to stimulate the viewer’s other senses. Can you hear the sizzle? Smell the grill? Feel the warm summer sun? Taste those charcoal kissed veggies?

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2. Get Up Close

When you step back to get an overall image there are times that you can miss certain elements. Depending on the food, it may be better to move in close to initiate the senses. Moving in close will allow you to show off the texture of the food. In the image below, can you see where the cold ice cream meets the hot brownie and starts to melt? Yum.

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3. Keep It Real

It’s fun to use a vintage technique, sepia, etc. when processing portraits but when it comes to food photography it’s best to keep the colors true to life. There’s no quicker way to turn your viewer’s appetite than to show them a meal with poor, desaturated colors or glowing neon colors. Keep the colors alive and real and you’re sure to draw them in.

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4.  Keep It Simple

There are many textures and colors present in foods and it’s best not to distract from an item with busy surroundings so you avoid drawing away your viewer’s attention. Keep it simple and clean so that the focus stays where you intend.

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5.  It’s All About the Light

It’s very important to find good light when photographing food. Inefficient lighting, or the typical artificial kitchen lights, will not result in the best colors and often give you poor white balance to struggle with in post processing. For the following image, I placed the plate on my cutting board and put it on the highchair with the fridge in the background. The window is directly beside me while the mouth watering sandwich is slightly pushed back and to the side of the window.

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6. Shoot the Clean Up

Just because the food has all been gobbled up doesn’t mean you have to set the camera aside. There are always great photography opportunities after the main event is over. Tell the full story of your meal and photograph the kids helping to clear the table, licking the bowl etc.  Capture the joy (yes, I said joy) that comes from scrubbing the dishes, and sometimes, you can find beauty in an empty, ready to be cleaned dish.

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7. Freeze the Mess

No, we’re not talking about leftovers here! While I consider it to be inappropriate to photograph an adult shoveling food into or falling from their mouth, there’s nothing cuter than a happy baby once they’re finished with a favorite. Make sure and grab those images while they’re young!

Food Photography | 7 Easy Tips to Making Appetizing Images photo

Food Photography | 7 Easy Tips to Making Appetizing Images photoApril Nienhuis, Oklahoma
Director of Online Media | CMU Instructor
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Being a second shooter for the past six years has encouraged April Nienhuis to find a creative approach to photography. While the main photographer works her magic posing and taking the more timeless images, April searches for unique perspectives and compositions that will be complimentary. As much as she enjoys fun and somewhat quirky imagery, her work tends to elicit a tranquil factor that many find soothing yet mysterious. Not believing in tying yourself down to one style, she loves a bit of everything – color and black and white, natural and artificial light, traditional portraiture along with the more abstract. April is also the instructor for CMU’s workshop Shooting 202: Exploring Creative Photography. Other than photography, April likes to cook, read, decorate and organize.

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13 Responses to “Food Photography | 7 Easy Tips to Making Appetizing Images”

  1. Nov 16 2011 at 6:50 am #

    I love food photography. I joke with a friend and say that while my business is portraits and weddings, food photography is my hobby! I'm currently doing the photos for the cookbook she's writing and we've both been so happy with how they've come out so far. I posted a little sneak peek at a couple on my personal blog yesterday: http://bigmariolife.blogspot.com/2011/11/weekend-

    http://www.stephaniecourt.com

  2. Nance Heidemann
    Nov 16 2011 at 7:18 am #

    Great article, April!! I want to go find some yummy food now!

  3. Nov 16 2011 at 7:45 am #

    I've never thought to shoot the clean up process. Great idea. Thanks for this article

  4. antonieta
    Nov 16 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Wonderful, April! Thanks for the tips

  5. DaniB
    Nov 16 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    What is the best lens to use when taking pictures of food indoors?

  6. Nov 16 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    DaniB, I think food photography is best with a mid-range lens and/or macro. You don't want to use something super wide and get distortion and it would be hard to use a long lens due to space issues. I shoot with a 5d mark II and pictures 1,3,4,5, and 7 where all with the 100mm macro. Pictures 2 and 6 were both with my classic 5d and my 85 f/1.8 with a close-up lens attached. I would suggest anything from 50mm – 105mm. A 35mm would probably be safe if you're using a crop sensor camera.

  7. Nov 17 2011 at 6:30 am #

    That was very helpful. I stuggle with lighting. Every. Single. Time.

  8. Nov 18 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Mmm. You make everything look so yummy! I still want to swipe that sandwich from you!

  9. Teresa
    Nov 18 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Spaghetti & Meatballs….

    I'm forever cooking and taking photos at the same time. My husband laughs at me when I place shreds of cheese "just so" or open curtains and stand in an awkward position to get good lighting for the plate of food before I eat it. He just doesn't understand my love for cooking…then preserving the delectables (so to speak) through photography!

  10. Pam
    Nov 18 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Great article April. This puts a new perspective on food photography for me :)

  11. Nov 20 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    great tips and awesome compositions, April…oh and that last one!!! :)

  12. Feb 02 2012 at 7:09 am #

    I love food photography. My kids are always embarrassed when I whip out my camera at restaurants. :)

  13. Ashley Løseth
    Aug 31 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    Great tips! I'm not a savvy food photographer, but I like to share recipes sometimes on my blog, so I'm glad I found this! Thanks ^-^

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