Tips from a Newbie Food Photographer – Part 2

Here’s the continuation of my tips for food photographer wannabes or beginners like me out there. Make sure you’ve read part one. These are so basic and are based on what I’ve learned so far as a newbie food photographer and blogger. I don’t consider myself a professional, but these tips are for those who are starting their own food blog and just gotten into food photography πŸ™‚


Tip #7: Take a Lot of Photos… and Quickly!

It’s pretty funny dining with people who don’t understand that I’m a food blogger and I need to take photos of food I eat. Take for instance, my mom and bro (before we put up Certified Foodies). They’d really be impatient with me and I end up with photos with their spoons already on the food (*LOL*).

My brother wanted to start gobbling up those sylvanas! -

Can you tell how much my brother wanted to grab one of those Sylvanas?

So, if you’re dining with people who aren’t into food photography like you, take photos quickly! Plus, the quality of food degrades fast so it’s really important that you take your photos immediately after it’s served.

And, of course, you should take LOTS of photos. That way, you’d have a variety to choose from. Remember to use different angles and distances.



Tip #8: Take Photos of the Menu instead of Note-Taking.

This tip is not really for newbie food photographers, but for those who post their photos on their blogs and have to describe it and mention the price, too.

I used to copy/write down descriptions and prices of food we order. It could take a lot of time, especially when you ordered a lot of food. It’s also a hassle on your part when the waiting staff need their menu back for new customers who haven’t made their orders yet.

So, my solution was to take photos of the menu, capturing the description and the prices. That way, I can quickly return the menu to the waiting staff and I can start eating already when starters or appetizers are served. Plus, you get to spend more time bonding with the people you’re with at the table than note-taking for your blog.

Here’s an example from Bigby’s Restaurant: Bigby's Restaurant's menu -

I even take photos of the menu posted on restaurant’s walls, especially at fast food chains, just like this one at Krispy Kreme in Greenhills.

Krispy Kreme's menu -



Tip #9: Play Around with your Food.

Okay, I didn’t mean play with your food. I mean don’t be ashamed to arrange or fix pieces of food on your plate to make it more presentable or appetizing on a photo. Get your fork, spoon or chopstick and move the pieces of food or garnishes so it’ll suit your style of food photography.

If it’s not your food or order though, make sure you ask for permission :D. Also, rotate the plate or bowl. If other people are looking at you, ignore them. πŸ˜€

Here’s an example. I had to arrange these McDonald’s twister fries so they’d look better on a photo:

I had to arrange these twister fries so they'd look better on a photo -



Tip #10: Add Texture to Your Photos. Make the Subject Pop!

Basically, what I mean by this is don’t take photos of food without anything that can make them pop or without emphasizing them on the photo. There should be something else in the background so your photo won’t look too flat.

For instance, when I’m taking photos of food that look too simple, I usually scoop it up or pick up a piece with a fork. Then, take a close-up photo of that piece of food with the rest of the dish, plate or dip in the background. Here are a few examples:

A piece of tempura dipped in sauce makes the photo more interesting -

An up-close shot of a spoonful of peach yogurt teases you to taste it -

A spoonful of creamy lasagna... yum! -

Now, this technique doesn’t work with all kinds of food so be careful. If it doesn’t look yummy, scrap it.

I also don’t have a lot of fresh greens or veggies that I could use to garnish plates when I’m taking photos of anything we’ve cooked at home. So, I simply put a fork or spoon in the background. Compare the two photos below:

Before the fork:

Too plain, too flat... -

With the fork:

A fork... a simple solution to a boring, flat photo -

A fork! Simple solution to a flat photo! Okay, some may disagree that the fork made a difference. But, to me, it did. πŸ˜›

You can do this to possibly have your viewers compare or show them how much is on the plate. The blurry background also helps put more emphasis on the main subject of the photo.



Tip #11: Learn When to Give Up.

Yes, there are times you can’t do anything to make the food look good. So, learn when to give up. Some food and plating can really look ugly on a photo, no matter how good they really tasted.

I’ve got a couple of ugly food photos that never got published. Well, until now. Here’s one of them:

Creamy pesto pasta and grilled chicken with gravy, with that weird carrot garnish -

I tried to take a photo of the whole plate because they were all so good. I know, that weird carrot garnish my brother added on top of the pasta only made things worse :D. So, I scrapped that photo and just used other angles. You can see the photos that made the cut on our post: Creamy Pesto Pasta recipe with Grilled Chicken.



Tip #12: There’s No Shame in Post-Processing.

Post-processing is a term used by photographers to refer to the editing done on their photos for enhancement (repair or fix) or to apply certain effects or change the mood of the photo.

If I had a DSLR, I might not be doing a lot of post-processing (PP). But, I’m only using a 7.1-megapixel point-and-shoot camera so I need to make my photos sharper.

I’m only using Adobe Photoshop 7 for editing all of my photos and it does the job very well so I don’t think I’ll be in need of an upgrade to CS4.

Just take a look at some before and after of some food photos I’ve posted on our food blog:

Before and after photos of Shepherd's Pie turned Cottage Pie -

Before and after photos of my quesadillas -

I’ll be sharing with you some of my post-processing techniques that I’ve been using since I learned how to edit photos on Photoshop. And, I’ll also feature some of the helpful Photoshop actions I’ve been using over the years. Keep posted for that.



Tip #13: Place Watermarks. Use Them Wisely.

Yes, place or add watermarks on your photos! There’s a rampant copyright infringement all over the web today and you have to protect your own photos from that. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a photo hobbyist. That’s why all the photos I took myself and are published on my blogs or anywhere else (including Facebook), I add a watermark with my blog’s address or just my online name, blankPixels. That way, people would know that those are my photos and they can see more on my blog.

Food photo with a 'proper' watermark -

Some people, however, (including me when I first started) are too paranoid about others copying and using their photos without their permission. They end up over-watermarking (if there’s such a term) their photos to the point that they lose their essence or beauty. Just look at the photo below. It’s the same photo as the one above, but I moved the watermark to the center. I mean, you can still see the food, but that watermark really affected the overall effect of the food photo. It’s simply distracting. It’s like you’re saying, “This photo is MINE! In your face! Don’t you DARE steal this!”. Seriously.

Food photo with a centered watermark -

I’ve been there, done that. I’ve experienced people stealing my photos and publishing them as their own. I did the whole centered watermarking, but decided to stop doing it ’cause it makes my food photos look ugly. But, I still place a watermark just to make it harder for those image thieves (from search engines or somewhere else) to copy and publish my photos as their own.

All I can tell you is if I really love your photo and want to steal and claim it as my own, even if you have a watermark on the middle or anywhere else, I could do all kinds of editing to get rid of it. It’s easy for those who are really into that. I know how to edit photos to remove watermarks, but I don’t do it ’cause I respect others’ copyrights.

So, please, try not to place your watermark right smack in the middle of your photo. Place it on any of the corners, wherever it’ll look good or will blend in perfectly.

Over-watermarking your photos can turn off some of your readers. Your food photos may lose their yummy effect on your visitors, especially when the opacity of your watermarks is at 100% – meaning they’re VERY visible.

Watermark in full opacity on this photo of churros I made at home -

If you really NEED or want your watermarks touching the main subject of your photo, you can move it to the corner of the plate, slightly placing it over a small part of the main element. It’s like a compromise between protecting your copyrights and keeping the beauty and feel of your photos. Like this one:

Another way to put watermarks on your food photos -

Anyway, like what I mentioned earlier, for me, watermarks just make it harder for image thieves to steal your photos and post them on their blogs. Some of them, when they see photos with watermarks, they turn around and search somewhere else. I’ve seen a couple of my photos being posted aside from my sites, and I didn’t really mind ’cause the thief didn’t even take the time to remove my watermark. I know. I literally LOL’d when I saw that.

If you don’t want other people saving your photos, use a plugin (or a script for Blogger users) that would disable right-clicking on your image. There are still other ways to steal your images, but at least, you’re making it really hard for them to do it. Right? πŸ˜€

Plus, there are hundreds of more popular food bloggers out there who DON’T place watermarks on their photos. Don’t be too paranoid. Place an unobtrusive watermark on your photo just so people can still see the subject and appreciate your photos. And, do not post the original photo or a larger version unless necessary. Resize, watermark wisely and then publish your photo.



Tip #14: Invest on a Good Camera.

Update: I’m now using a DSLR – Nikon D3100 – and it does the job pretty well. If you’re starting to learn about food photography, I recommend this DSLR camera or the D3200, which my brother is using.

Well, if you already have a good camera with macro features, that would do. You don’t really need a high-end or camera with higher resolution. You’re going to do okay with a 7-megapixel camera. You just have to know how to use it and what’s the best way to make the most out of your camera. Anyway, with good lighting and a little post-processing, you’re good to go.

You can even use your mobile phone’s camera. I’ve done this before and with a little post-processing, you can end up with a nice-looking photo.

But, if you have the money, you can invest on a decent point-and-shoot camera you can bring easily anywhere. I’m actually saving up for a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3.

My dream point-and-shoot camera - Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 -

If you’re not satisfied, then, save up for a DSLR, like me! I want at least a Nikon D5000 camera. My dream DSLR, however, is the D90. Not sure when I can afford it though. Hehehe.

My dream DSLR - Nikon D90 -

That’s it for my tips. I’ll try to update this when I come up with more tips. Or maybe I’ll just post a new article. So, keep posted.

Food photography is really fun. I love it! And I hope that these tips I shared with you would help you love food photography more.

If you’re not satisfied with everything I’ve explained or shared here, there are a ton of other resources for tips and guides on food photography. Google is your friend! πŸ™‚

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

Note: The watermarks on most of 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? πŸ˜‰

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