A Beginner's Guide to Food Photography Skip to content
Food Photo Retouching

A Beginner’s Guide to Food Photography

One of the best ways for restaurants to market their food is through photos. However, you can’t sell a dish by simply taking a quick photo or two. It needs to be presentable, visually appealing, and appetizing. Continue reading below as we’ll provide you with all the tips and tricks to get your customers hungry and coming back for more.

What is Food Photography?

There are various ways to describe food photography. But in a simpler context, food photography is a type of photography with food as the main subject. It’s an extension of commercial photography — as business owners and advertisers can use the output for menus, advertisements, cookbooks, packaging, and magazines.

What Makes a Quality Food Photo?

The magic starts before the cameraman takes the shot. This means that having the product appear delicious can greatly impact the quality of the food photo. The photographer can use all the tricks in the book, but the outcome would still be a mess if the dish itself looks like garbage. Before the actual photography process, make sure that you know about the food you’ll capture. This can help you gather all the necessary equipment that you need for the shoot.

7 Food Photography Tips & Tricks for Beginners

Like any type of photography, there are tips and tricks to help you get started. They don’t have to be complicated — just master the basics and find your own style in the long run.


Lighting is a technical method for photographers to display the crispiest shot. It also needs to be your “best friend.” As a beginner, it’s best to go for natural light. It offers simple yet fantastic lighting to any photo. Plus, natural light is free. When you master proper lighting, you can play with artificial lightings, such as flashes and strobes.

Learn the Exposure Triangle

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “exposure triangle,” it’s the combination of shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, which you can find in your camera settings. This is fundamental when learning photography, in general, because it applies to all styles of photography. It teaches you how to balance the exposure of your shot properly.

  • Shutter Speed. The length of time when your sensor gets exposed to light. The longer the shutter speed, the brighter the image. However, the speed depends on your subject.
  • ISO. The artificial light from the camera itself. It makes the image brighter even though there’s little to no light. However, if it exceeds a certain (large) number, the image starts becoming grainy, which is not appealing at all.
  • Aperture. The opening in your camera’s lens that allows light to pass through. It’s represented by the letter “f.” One thing that you would also need to know about aperture is that the larger the number, the smaller the opening and vice versa. Aperture also determines the depth of field (DOF) of a photo. This means that a larger aperture can help all photograph elements remain in focus while a smaller one does the opposite.

So, what camera settings should you use for food photography? Well, putting together the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture depends on your shot. It’s best if you start with aperture. You can go for a range of f3 to f8 or above, depending on your lighting situation. Then adjust the shutter speed and ISO accordingly.

Invest in a Good Camera and Lens

There’s a saying among photographers, “The best camera is the one that you have now.” — whether it’s a DSLR or smartphone. It means that photographers are the ones that take quality photos and not the camera or lens. However, you can never deny that a better camera and lens are equivalent to better and crispier photos. Cameras and lenses are quite expensive, but they make a good photography investment.

Use a Backdrop

You already know that food is the main attraction of food photography. But photographers should always take advantage of their surroundings or kitchen equipment to enhance the photo. This is where a good backdrop comes in. Typically, food photographers use wooden chopping boards, granite countertops, tile counters, and other food props. Just make sure that your backdrop does not distract your viewers from the main subject.

Shoot the Prep

An essential step for doing food photography is capturing the cooking process. In other words, the preparation or “prep.” This shows the intricacies of how the dish is made. Consider taking photos from the cooking to the plating process. It can help restaurants, coffee shops, and other food establishments display their finesse in the kitchen. They can also use these photos for their website, blog, or social media page, which can help attract more people while providing a different gastronomic experience.

Know Your Angles

Angling your subject can increase or decrease its value. The most common angles are top-down shots, side, and straight-on when it comes to food photography. These angles are tested and proven to deliver the best angles for food. Although the angle would depend on the type of dish you’re shooting. For example, if it’s a soup or cereal, top-downs and sides work best.

Use Proper Equipment (Aside From Your Camera)

Oftentimes, food photography is a controlled shoot. That means you have control over your lighting, equipment, and backdrops. Aside from your camera, there are three essential items worth investing in. These are diffusers, reflectors, and a tripod.

  • Diffusers. You can use diffusers when you can’t adjust lighting or if the lighting is too harsh. These items can soften the light to make it more appealing.
  • Reflectors. As its name suggests, a reflector reflects light from the light source on to the subject. This can help raise the shadows to provide you with more details.
  • Tripod. Tripods are fantastic for stabilizing your shot. This is especially true when you have slower shutter speed, leading to a blurred photo without proper stabilization.

Food Photo Editing

Don’t Always Rely on Post-Production

Some seasoned photographers would mostly rely on post-processing to “fix” an image. However, it’s not always ideal. For example, you can’t unblur a blurred photo during the editing method. You can only make it less blurry. So, make everything close to perfect, and make sure you take sharp and high-quality photos.

Make it Vibrant

If there’s one thing that’s similar between all food photographs, it’s the colors. An excellent photograph of food needs vibrancy to make it more appealing. No one wants to see a dish with muted colors. On the other note, overly saturated colors may not also look attractive to customers. So, it’s essential that you strike the perfect balance or simply apply color correction.

Get Rid of Unnecessary Objects

More often than not, there are a few elements in an image that get overlooked, and it shows once you’re in the post-production process. These objects can distract a viewer from looking at the food. So, when you’re editing, make sure to look for anything that’s out of the ordinary and cut image noises.

Overall, food photography, like all branches of photography, is a skill that needs constant practice. Make sure that you learn how to light a dish, utilize the exposure triangle, set the scene with backdrops, and perform outstanding post-production methods. On top of that, you must invest in the proper equipment. All these can help you deliver stunning and delicious images to your clients or even for your own food business.

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