Tips from a Newbie Food Photographer – Part 1

All the photos on our food blog Certified Foodies were taken by me (except indicated otherwise). And, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m still a newbie when it comes to food photography. But, I’m proud to say that I’ve improved a lot since I started taking photos of food.

I’m no expert in food photography, but I have learned and discovered a couple of things along the way while I self-train myself into “professional-looking” food photography. These tips that I’m about to share should help other newbie photographers out there.

Included in this post are a couple of my food photos, some were taken about 2-3 years ago before I knew better (lol). I’m posting some unedited photos (except for the watermarks and resizing) so you could see how awful they look and to prove my point.

By the way, I was using a Sony Cybershot DSC-T2 point-and-shoot camera before. Now, I’m using Canon PowerShot SD1000. I’m planning on purchasing a new point-and-shoot in the next weeks. By middle of next year, I’m hoping to already own a DSLR for my travel and food photography. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Tip #1: Use Good Lighting.

This is a very general and no-brainer tip. If you’re taking a photo of something you cooked at home or you ordered at a restaurant, try to place your food subject in front of a window where a good amount of light comes in. That way, you’d get a natural look and colors on your photos. That’s the best way to take photos of food. Just look at this one that I took while we dined al fresco at Best Friends in Monumento.

Natural sunlight makes a food photo automatically look yummy! - blankPixels.com

 

Tip #2: Avoid Using Your Camera’s Flash.

I used a lot of flash in my photos! - blankpixels.com

Yes, I used to use flash A LOT. Just look at my photo of this chicken dish. Though it does look delicious, the colors have been altered already and there are just too many shiny spots on there.

So, my #2 tip is as much as possible, do not use your camera’s flash when taking photos of food. It makes the food unappealing with all those unnatural shiny spots. Plus, like what I’ve mentioned earlier, flash alters the true colors of your food. It makes the whole photo look flat in my opinion.

Now, compare that first photo with this one, where I turned off the flash. Doesn’t it look more natural, and yummier?

Without flash, it look yummier - blankpixels.com

Now, if I apply a little post-processing to that natural-looking photoโ€ฆ

Applied a little post-processing... - blankpixels.com

That looks GOOD, considering I only used an 8.1-megapixel point-and-shoot camera. Most people won’t notice ’cause the food just looks yummy.

 

Tip #3: Use your camera’s ISO and White Balance settings.

ISO refers to light sensitivity of the image sensor on your camera. This is pretty easy to understand:

Bright scenes = Lower ISO = Finer photo

Dimmer conditions = Higher ISO = Grainy / Noisy photo

Now, take note though that you shouldn’t set your ISO settings way too high because your photos would end up too noisy. Unless you’re using a REALLY good camera, of course, set your ISO to only 100.

I usually adjust the white balance or brightness settings on my camera instead of changing the ISO. That way, I won’t end up with a too noisy photo.

 

Tip #4: Use your Camera’s Macro Features

I know there are a lot of digital camera owners out there who are not yet familiar with their camera’s features and capabilities. And the macro feature or capability is one of the most untapped among all of them.

Macro photography is close-up photography. Basically, you use your camera’s macro capabilities to take really close-up photos of your subjects while retaining the quality or sharpness of the results.

When I started using a digital camera to take food photos, this was the best that I can do to take close-up photos:

My failed attempt to take a close-up shot - blankpixels.com

You barely see the supposedly main subject of the photo which is the filling of that ham and cheese tortilla. It’s because the macro feature wasn’t on.

Now, how do you find out if your camera has macro features/capabilities? Check the user’s manual that came with it. Or, if you’re like me who prefer to tinker on the settings before giving up and resorting to reading the manual (hee hee hee), then, just look for anything, an icon or button on your camera, that looks like this:

Macro icon or button on your digital camera - blankpixels.com

Play around with your camera’s macro settings. To activate the macro when taking photos, move your camera closer to your subject and lightly press on the shutter button. You would then see your subject still looks clear even up-close using this feature.

Some cameras, including DSLRs, of course, have the ability to change the focus of the macro or lens. Make sure you check your camera’s manual to know if you have that.

 

 

Tip #5: Try Different Angles. Get as Close as You Can Get.

I’ve seen a couple of food photos where they were taken right above/top of the subject. This may be a good angle for some food subjects, but a little variety can go a long way.

Let me show you some photos I took from different angles and distances. You would see how it affects the results.

Wide shots for huge servings and plates of food - blankpixels.com

Wide shot for large plates of food, like this one from Okuya

Horizontal front angle shot - blankpixels.com

Horizontal front angle shot (or whatever they call it *LOL*)

Vertical front angle shot - blankpixels.com

Same salad from Tokyo Cafe, but this time, I took it vertically.

Wide, farther shot - blankpixels.com

Wide, farther shot of my order from Big Daddy’s Chicken

Up-close shot - blankpixels.com

Up-close shotโ€ฆ see the difference?

There are also times that I don’t capture the whole subject, but only a part of it. It adds a little dramatic touch to the whole photo. Like this photo of my Gelatissimo gelato.

Close-up, angled shot of my gelato - blankpixels.com

Also, don’t be scared to take really close-up shots aside from those wide ones. If your food really looks good, however angle or up-close you capture it, it’ll look good. Try some variety in your photos to see what works for you. For me, I like taking really up-close photos of food, like I’m teasing the viewer to take a bite or something. ^_^

 

Tip #6: Use a Tripod / Self-Timer.

If you’re taking photos at home, then, you can use a tripod. If you’re dining out, use your camera’s self-timer. Why? This is for those who have digital cameras with slow shutter speeds, thus, most of your photos would end up blurryโ€ฆ really blurry, just like this blurry chicken nugget.

Blurry chicken nugget - blankPixels.com

Also, when you’re pressing the shutter button, that can slightly move the camera as you take your photo. This happens a lot to me so now, I use my camera’s self-timer. I set it to two (2) seconds and I end up with more sharp photos than before. I guess my hands are a li’l shaky. Hehehe.


 

Please stay tuned for the second part of my tips. Here’s the second part of my tips on food photography for newbies.

If you liked this article, feel free to share or subscribe to my blog. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

Note: The watermarks on the images here were set to Certified Foodies ’cause this was supposed to be a post for our food blog. But, I decided to publish it on my geek blog since it’s more appropriate here, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      
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  • i like the way you take pictures. just like a PRO! ^_^ that’s why you are my IDOL! YeahBoy! ^_^ hihihi

    what kind of cam do you use? brand and model?

    • saw it….forget my stupid question ^_^

      i’m now searching for the pics of your cams ^_^

      • Hahaha. I wasn’t supposed to publish these comments, but I decided to approve them… adek ka kasi. *LOL*

  • i like how you did the post processing on the chicken and on the salad. just like the pics i see in food mags. you have to teach me that ^_^

    thanks to you, i now know what ISO is for…lolz ^_^

    i love using the macro for close up. though, im not sure of the effect if i leave it at macro then take a regular shot/pic.

    my sister loves angling, for her it’s all about angles….^_^

    • Yes, I’ll post a tut on the post-processing part. It’s VERY useful.

      ISO and macro are your friends. Oh, and of course, natural lighting too. Hehehe.

      I actually just leave the macro feature on and haven’t observed any difference with the quality of the photos. Not sure with other cameras though.

      Yes, it’s all about the angles! Makes the food look interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great tips! Like you I’ve discovered for myself that I’m more comfy with up-close shots. I also have that problem with shaky hands sometimes. hehe.

    Waiting for the 2nd part of your tips. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Oohh… *apir* ang shaky hands. *LOL*

      Yeah, I love up-close shots din! We’ve got that in common din ha! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Very useful information you got here. I love the “using the self timer trick”, will definitely try that one. I’m using Canon Ixus 80IS and truly, macro shot works wonders. Hope you’ll drop by my blog too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you, Sarah! Sorry for the late response, but I checked your blog as soon as I saw your comment. Just didn’t get to reply at once.

      Yep, the self-timer trick does wonders for someone who has shaky hands like me. Hahaha. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Thanks for visiting ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nice pics … and you made me feel hungry. Good tips anyway and the tripod is very important, at least for me. No matter what I can’t hold the camera steady. Good luck with the DSLR purchase, make it sure you check the details because is not really a cheap camera.

    • Yes, thank you! I’ve done my research, but will read them all again before I purchase. Hehehe. Any recommendations for a DSLR beginner like me? I’m thinking of buying Nikon D5000.

  • your tips on photography are very helpful..

    Post more please.. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Aww… thanks, sis! Yep, I’ll be posting the second part really soon. Just making some adjustments. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Happy New Year! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Pingback: Tips from a Newbie Food Photographer – Part 2 | blankPixels - The Geek Side()

  • Gosh, I didn’t know that little flower means macro ahahahaha.. will try the self timer trick coz my hands are shaky too.. thanks :0

    • Now you know! Weeehh! Just in time for your new baby! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • hi i like this article, i actually take down some important points like ISO and Macro features. guilty ako dyan.

  • interesting =)

  • Thrixie Baylon

    wow!
    it makes me want to be a food photographer.
    hahaha

    • Go go go! ๐Ÿ˜€
      My food photography skills have improved the past 3 years, so it takes a lot of practice. This is a good way to start. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Thrixie Baylon

        i already practice taking picture using my digital camera and also reading materials XD
        i really like the your way of giving advise…

        • Thanks, Thrixie! Hopefully you’ll find my tips useful. ๐Ÿ™‚
          And Happy New Year! ^_^