*Update* Dang, you guys had a LOT to say about this on social media. Apparently you prefer the photo on the left, and that’s your opinion, no worries! This post was never about these two photographs, it was meant to be easy advice from professionals that any of us can use, so my apologies if it came off as something other that. It was not. <3, Natalie
I learned a lot of lessons while writing my book. 1) Cookbook editors do not approve of phrases such as “F cookbooks” and “cock blocked”. 2) Intro descriptions should have at least a small amount of info about what the dish tastes like, and not just a rambling story about how badly you want to hang out with Hillbilly Jim. 3) I am very terrible at food photography, and food stylists are worth their weight in gold.
On the left is my own downright embarrassing photo of mac n’ yeast. On the right is the photo of the exact same recipe that Celine Steen took for my book. Which one makes you want to make this recipe at home? Oof, yeah.
So what are those of us who are not just naturally gifted food stylists and photographers supposed to do? Well, you could just give up and accept that your photos will always be cookingforbae material, or you could try these tips from Chef Apple-Elgatha. Oh, and you don’t need fancy equipment unless you’re shooting photos for print – Chef Apple has examples on her site of beautiful images she shot with her iPhone.
Five Steps to Better Food Photos
- Let the food cool before snapping the pic. Spray it with olive oil to make it glisten.
- Use natural light. A flash will ruin the picture. If you can’t get near a window or door, turn on the lights and make sure there are no shadows near the plate.
- Think of the entire image. What’s in the background? Throw in some unique, colorful plates and bowls or towels.
- Try a few different angles. Shoot the bowl from the top, then from the side, but at an angle. Try showing the food half eaten with some crumbs on the plate.
- Throw in a garnish or some drizzle to show that it doesn’t only taste good, but looks good too.
I really can’t stress the lighting enough – even though I am still not up to Celine’s standards, my photos have improved leaps and bounds since I stopped using cruddy overhead lighting and jesus lord, not the flash! If it’s too dark to take a nice photo, I wait. I’d rather have no photo that a bad photo.
Tip number three reminds me of another thing I picked up from Celine when she was shooting for my book. I love bright, flashy colors (in case currently being on my extremely obnoxious looking website didn’t clue you in), so I asked Circa Ceramics to make hot pink, electric blue, and neon green plates and bowls to use for my food photography.
Luckily, Celine stepped in and changed my custom order to include soft yellow, off white, eggshell blue and other subtle colors I wouldn’t have thought to choose. Subtle dishes make the color of your food pop. Just look at how nasty my bright blue plate looks against the orange mac n’ yeast. Then look at how beautifully that soft blue dish Celine chose sets off that cheesy, orange color. Night and day.
Do you have any tips for better food photos? Leave them in the comments!