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These are my top eight food photography tips for bloggers. Here are the most important changes you can make to improve your digital food photography, including my absolute number one lighting tip.

Food Photography Tips for Bloggers by Katie Webster

I originally shared these food photography tips on January 14, 2014. I have updated the images and some of the text today.

Today, I want to take a break from seasonal vegetables and weeknight meals to talk directly to my food blogging friends who are reading to share a little bit about food photography and 8 top tips that may help you. If you are a food blogger, just getting started, or just want to improve your food photography skills, hopefully you’ll find something here that will be helpful for you. If you’re not, come back on Friday, I will have a brand new side dish (it’s Best of material!)

Potatoes with Tahini Sauce - Photography tips for food bloggers by Katie Webster

A few of my blogging buddies were having a discussion about how far we’ve come as photographers since we started blogging. We have had a good time laughing at ourselves, looking back into the archives to see how far we’ve come. We have also made some pretty amazing images over the years. I even started a pinterest board so that we can all pin some of our more proud photography moments.

This Cheddar Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup Creamy is smooth baby! It gets a smoky kick from chipotle and a tangy burst from sharp cheddar making it an awesome vegetarian fall meal. Gluten free and grain free, too! | Healthy Seasonal Recipes | Katie Webster

 

 

Without further ado, here are the top eight tips for food photography for bloggers.

Use Natural Light

The easiest way to improve your photographs is to use natural light. All of my photos, with the exception of a small few, were taken with daylight diffused through a thin white piece of cloth. This includes all but one shot in my cookbook.

Fool proof recipe for Deep Dish Double Crust Apple Pie sweetened with Maple Syrup. With tips on how to get great whole-wheat crust and blue ribbon filling!

When I started blogging, that meant that I had to adjust my schedule so that I could shoot during the day when the light was nice, as opposed to at dinner time.

I know some of you have day jobs, and get home after dark, so this is not possible. So if you can’t use natural light here’s what to do: Use flash, strobe or static lights specifically for photography. I use two of these lights by RPS Studio when I need to. It is important to diffuse your light (more tips about how to diffuse your light here) and aim it from the side and back (more tips about controlling the light here.) Also make sure to set your white balance on your camera (more on that below.)

Food Photography Tips for Bloggers by Katie Webster

I took the above shot which appears in my cookbook with the RPS lights. I am not a huge fan of working with these lights, but it is better than shooting with the internal flash on your camera. Don’t ever do that. Please and thank you.

Foolproof Stove-Top Popcorn | Fiber | Vegetarian | Low Calorie | Snack | Healthy Seasonal Recipes | Katie Webster

Over the years while I was a food stylist, more often than not the photographer used strobe photography. I have never learned how to use them myself, or invested in the equipment to do so. Frankly, I just don’t have that much space to set it all up since I am shoot in my home office. Honestly, this has been an issue when I have done full day shoots, and the light needs to be consistent, but for the most part, food blogging can be done without artificial lights. Please leave me a comment below if you are currently using strobe for your food blog.

Maple Bananas Foster Bundt Cake by Katie Webster in Maple, 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Pure Maple Syrup

Look for the light

If you do nothing else I recommend here, the one thing I would say is that lighting is more important than food styling. And this is coming from a food stylist!  I learned that light is important in all photography in school, but also in part from Aran Goyoaga whom I saw speak at BlogHer Food.

Maple Mint Vodka Spritzers on HealthySeasonalRecipes.com

I had a break-through moment when I took a photo workshop with her. The light is muy importante. Aran said, “Hold your hand out and look at the quality of the light. Hold the light in your hand.” If you’ve ever looked at any photographs by Maria Robledo you know that light can transform even the most humble of subjects.

This Light and Creamy Peppermint Patty Cheesecake is perfect for Christmas dessert. Recipe and tips on Healthy Seasonal Recipes by Katie Webster

A few ways to improve your lighting is to diffuse the light from your window with a thin scrim or piece of white fabric. More on that here. One way I have found that works for me is to position my shooting surface so that the light is coming from the side, three quarters back light or full back light. If I am shooting overhead- the light ALWAYS comes from the top. I never have the light coming from the same direction as the camera.

Use natural light- Photography Tips for bloggers by Katie Webster

Over the years, I have found that sometimes more light is not better. in fact, I always turn off the lights in the room I am working in, and I block any additional light sources.

Block any additional light sourcesYou can read more about lighting here, and what I like to call the JAWS effect. 

Use the manual Settings on your camera for food photography - by Katie Webster

Use the Manual Settings on your Camera

I shoot in complete manual mode always. (*The exception is when I am hand holding the camera- and I need a minimum shutter speed. Then I’ll put it on ISO auto mode and select the shutter speed based on the focal length of my lens.)

If you are not ready for putting your camera into complete manual mode, I totally get that. No problem! In that case try shooting in AV mode. Which means aperture priority. That way the shutter speed will be chosen for you by the camera’s light meter, based on the aperture you choose and the available light.

depth of field- photography tips

The reason controlling the aperture is a good choice, is that controlling the depth of field is really important. The food is the star, and sometimes, it is better to let the other details go soft. The aperture (and the lens you are using) will be the ways to control this depth of field and what is in focus.

depth of field- photography tips

If you want the background to be blurry, you just choose a wide-open aperture (a small number.) If you want more of the scene to be in focus, stop it down (close the aperture/ choose a higher number.) I could write an entire post about this subject, so this will have to suffice for now.

These Leek and Parmesan Muffins are a perfect make-ahead kid-friendly breakfast or snack! They are filled with healthy and filling whole grains and are also low in sugar. Healthy Seasonal Recipes | Katie Webster

Use Manual Focus

Taking your camera out of “idiot mode” also means manually focusing on your subject. Depending on your camera, this may be a setting on your lens. Or it could be on the camera body. The reason you would want to do this is that the camera automatically wants to focus on the center of the viewfinder, unless you tell it otherwise. And often the main subject isn’t in the center of the photograph for composition reasons. Therefore it is better to take matters into your own hands and focus the camera on what you think is the most important part of the frame.

Use a tripod | Tips for food bloggers by Katie Webster

Use a tripod

That way you can really set up the shot and have low light situations, with a long shutter speed. You’ll also need a cable release so your camera doesn’t shake when you hit the shutter button. This will give you so much more flexibility. [Especially late in the day when there isn’t much light left.]

Put this Asparagus with Tarragon Vinaigrette on your Easter brunch menu and you will more time to spend with your guests and hide those eggs! This is the perfect make-ahead Spring side dish that is ready in under 30 minutes and just also happens to be vegetarian and Paleo friendly! Healthy Seasonal Recipes and Katie Webster

Shoot tethered

Shooting tethered is just attaching your camera directly to your computer, and skipping the disk in your camera all-together. Again I know this sounds really scary, but all it takes is two mouse clicks. Before I started doing this on my own, I knew about it from being a food stylist. All professional photographers shoot tethered. And there is a reason why.

I use Lightroom  to do it, but a lot of the professional photographers I have worked with use Capture One. You will also need a cord probably like this one so that you can be further than a few feet from your computer.

The reason you would want to shoot tethered is that it takes away all of the guess work. You can REALLY see if your image is in sharp focus. You can crop right then and there. And you can adjust the images as you go to see if you need to change the styling, composition, exposure, light or props.

I’ll give you a quick example of why that would be important: my recipe plug-in uses a square crop photo of my recipes. Before I had started to shoot tethered I had a hard time figuring out my composition. I would look at the little tiny screen on the back of the camera and try to block it out into a square. I would have no clue if it would all work out. Often times I was disappointed once I finally got the images onto the computer. There would be a fork cut off at an odd angle or a shape I hadn’t seen.

Advance tip: I also shoot with pre-sets, and this is really helpful to automatically apply them as I am shooting.

Tilapia with Tangerine Salsa is a fast and healthy weeknight meal | by Katie Webster on Healthy Seasonal Recipes

Set your white balance- or at least question it

For the most part, digital cameras have really awesome auto white balance. But, particularly in the winter, or very late in the day, the light can be very blue, since the sun is so low on the horizon. A camera can get confused. To set your white balance, basically all you have to do is take a picture of a white card in the light you are shooting, then tell the camera that image of the card is true white. Again it is a simple setting [usually something like “WB.”] The camera will then adjust the other shots moving forward. You can also do this on the computer if you are shooting tethered (see above) or you can adjust it in post. Doing it this way will take away the guess work if it is new to you.

Take your photos in RAW- photography tips for food bloggers by Katie Webster

Take your photos in RAW

I know this sounds scary to a lot of you, and it did to me too, but really all it will change about the way you take the picture is changing a simple setting on your camera. But once you do that you will have much more data for your photographs. That way if one of your images needs to be reproduced in print, like if you get a cookbook deal (sweet!) you’ll have higher quality data files and images. You will also have much more fine control of the images once you start manipulating it digitally in post production. Just pull out your camera manual to see how to do this on your camera, it is a simple setting.

My Top 8 Tips For Food Photography

  1. Use natural light
  2. Look for the light
  3. Use the manual settings on your camera
  4. Use Manual Focus
  5. Use a Tripod
  6. Shoot Tethered
  7. Set your white balance
  8. Take your photos in RAW

Please make sure to read these other Food Photography Posts I have shared

My Favorite Food Styling Tools

Household Items to improve your food photography

How to do backlighting in Food photography

Sharing my food photography tips at Blog Brulee

Lighting Tips in Food Photography

Please leave me a comment below, and let me know the biggest thing you’ve learned about photography. I am always looking to improve, so help me out, what would be another tip to share? What did I miss?