Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

How to Teach Yourself Food Photography | Simple Provisions

I often get asked about the photos on Simple Provisions. I take them, and I’m a self-taught photographer. I bought a camera when I started this blog and taught myself to use it in manual mode, as well as how to prop and style food and how to edit photos using software. I’m learning and improving as I go.

Here’s a little guide to the things I’ve learned along the way, and some of the resources that have helped me. I’m not a photography expert, and there’s plenty of resources on the web to teach you to take better photos, but here’s what helped me produce photos of food that people want to pin and share. I hope it helps inspire you to pick up a camera too.

Top Three Tips

  • Shoot in the best natural light in your house, even if that’s in an awkward spot like the front door
  • Learn how to use your camera in manual mode and learn basic photo editing 
  • Study the composition, lighting, props and backgrounds of food photography you like to get inspired.

Equipment

How to Teach Yourself Food Photography | Equipment | Simple ProvisionsI started with an entry-level DSLR camera and I’m still using it, though I’ve got my eye on this Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM lens as my next step, as it’s what all the pros use. I’m still learning how to use my tripod well, and tend to shoot without it if the light is good. Here’s what I use:

– Canon EOS 550D/Rebel t2i with the standard 18-55mm lens (I purchased this a few years ago now, the Canon EOS 600D seems to be the latest entry-level option)

– Velbon tripod

– NEEWER 60cm 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector

– Macbook Air

– Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 (for photo editing)

– Pixelmator (a cheaper, simpler alternative to Photoshop)

– Canva (to create graphics like the ones for this post)

I shoot with the camera tethered to the computer. This means that the photos appear immediately on the screen in Lightroom. This helps me adjust my camera settings, lighting and composition as I go, making sure I get the best shot.

 

Recommended Resources

Tasty-Food-Photography-eBookTasty Food Photography by Lindsay Ostrom
Read more and buy here
Lindsay from Pinch of Yum has written a comprehensive ebook specifically for food bloggers wanting to improve their photography. There are loads of examples and photos of Lindsay shooting and there’s a great section on editing including videos to help you learn to use Lightroom or Photoshop. Plus, it’s an ebook, so you can get started straight away!

 

plate-to-pixel-digital-food-photography-styling

Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling by Helen Dujardin
Buy on Bookworld (AUS) or Amazon (US)
This book covers the basics of photography as well as the specifics of food photography. I read it cover to cover, dog-eared a bunch of pages and made notes. It’s an excellent resource.

 

 

Location

How to Teach Yourself Food Photography | Location | Simple ProvisionsFind the best natural light in your house.

If you’re lucky, it will be in your kitchen, but it’s highly likely that it’s not. The best light in my house is just inside my back door. In my New York apartment it was in the bedroom and I used to stand on my bed to get the best shot. In the photos to the right you can see my large back windows, my backgrounds on the floor, a flat cardboard box holding up a back drop and a chair to rest my computer and reflector on while I’m shooting.

A clear space is important, no one wants to see your dirty laundry (this is a very real problem for me, because I shoot right next to my laundry).

 

Styling

Simple Provisions Pinterest

I’ve found that the best way to learn styling is to pay attention to the photos you like in food magazines and blogs. I worked on marthastewart.com, which meant I was looking at gorgeous photography all day long – this helped! Start a Pinterest board or tear out pages from magazines and analyse what you like. Is it the lighting? Is it the composition? How has the stylist made the food look attractive? Work out why you like it and then incorporate those principles into your photos. Experiment with different styles and find your own way.

Props

How to Teach Yourself Food Photography | Props | Simple Provisions

I have a small stash of plates, cutlery and fabric that I use for my photos, as well as my everyday pots, pans and crockery from the kitchen. The best tip I learned was to reserve small bits of the ingredients you’re using in your dish to help prop a shot. Herbs, grated cheese, garlic bulbs, chocolate chunks all add interest, texture and give a hint to what the dish is all about.

I can’t walk past an op shop without checking for potential props and always keep an eye out for beautiful fabric offcuts as they make great backgrounds and add interest to compositions. I’ve recently started using craft paper for backgrounds, which is very inexpensive and offers lots of variety. I also use large bathroom tiles I found in the shed. If you don’t mind a bit of DIY, you can make backgrounds using pieces of timber and paint.

Here’s some ideas of where to look for inexpensive props:

– Op shops (thrift stores)

– Antique and vintage shops and markets

– Your mum or grandma’s cupboards

– Etsy

– Ebay (this article gives great tips on search words to use on Ebay)

– Craft stores

– Fabric stores

– Sales at department stores

– Hardware stores

Here’s a great list of household items that can help improve your food photography on Pinch of Yum.

 

Learn from the Pros

A short course in food photography, even if it’s a one-day course, can offer great insight into how professional food stylists and photographers approach a shoot.

I did a one-day course with Béa from La Tartine Gourmand. Béa was extremely generous with her knowledge and helped me understand some basic principles that I still use today.

If you can’t find a course in your area, try an online course. There are some interesting ones out there. I recently found this one on Skillshare which is not expensive and looks like it covers some great topics (I haven’t tried it yet).

This page has a sponsor and includes links to that sponsor. The selection of products is not at all affected by the sponsor. The page also has some affiliate links on it, this means I get a small percentage of the sale if you end buying something. Not all the links are affilates and I only recommend things I use and find useful. These links will not make me rich! But they may help cover the costs of the blog. Thanks for your support.

41 thoughts on “How to Teach Yourself Food Photography

  1. PipLincolne says:

    Oh this is GREAT! Thanks for the rad tips!!! Much appreciated!

    1. Amelia says:

      Oh you’re welcome Pip – as if you need them! Your photos are always delicious.

  2. Snappystreet says:

    Thank you so much for all of these tips! I certainly need to start investing more in some props… I am getting sick of seeing the same plates/chopping boards etc in each shoot! I love your style 🙂

    1. Amelia says:

      Thank you! I don’t have a big collection, but a good set of different coloured side plates is very useful.

  3. toozesty says:

    Great tips! I don’t know why I haven’t thought of getting out of the kitchen to shoot my food. You are totally right, I should!

    1. Amelia says:

      Follow the light Too Zesty!

  4. Saskia (1=2) says:

    Great tips Amelia! Thanks so much. Have had Lightroom on my wish list for a while – off to check it out now.

    1. Amelia says:

      It comes into its own when you shoot tethered Sas, and the fact you can buy filters for it makes post-production much easier. I like these: http://vsco.co/film

      1. Saskia (1=2) says:

        Oh wow. Sold! Two months til my birthday. I’ll be dropping some serious hints in the meantime.

  5. Thanks a ton:) informative post

    1. Amelia says:

      Glad you found it helpful!

  6. Cucina Amore says:

    Thanks for the tips. Very helpful 😉

    1. Amelia says:

      You’re welcome

  7. Love it, great advice!

    Here’s my favorite tip: start shooting and keep shooting!

    Don’t make getting your fancy rig set up a requirement – you won’t get much practice if you only shoot when everything’s perfect. I got a ton of mileage out of practicing by taking snapshots of every halfway interesting meal I ate for a year. Lots to practice on, since another meal is always right around the corner!! And the best part is, the food photos I take now are like 5000x better than the ones I was taking a year ago.

    1. Amelia says:

      Awesome advice Mandi. Your blog has HEAPS of great tips – thanks for commenting so I could find it 🙂

  8. Thanks for the great advice! I’ll certainly be referring to this post regularly!

    1. Amelia says:

      Great! And I’ll have to start referring to your blog as my 6-month old just started solids, a whole new world awaits!

  9. ladyredspecs says:

    Great tips Amanda. I do chase the light around my house, and I curse winter and the early sunset!! I an always torn between close food shots and gorgeous props. When looking at the photos in a small format, I figure it’s the food my readers really want to see. I have always loved taking pics but the constant use of the camera for the blog has improved my skills out of sight. I love both Snapseed on the Ipad and PS Elements for editing.

    1. Amelia says:

      I haven’t thought of using the ipad, I’ll check out Snapseed, thanks.

  10. Good light in the kitchen?!! Hahaha never happens. I take my photos on the floor under my lounge room window and on my front porch! I must look so strange to the neighbours 🙂
    Thanks for the fab article 🙂

  11. thatsummerfeeling1 says:

    Thanks so much. I hadn’t thought about tethering my camera to the computer. Great idea! Must get a reflector 😊

  12. Tash says:

    Great tips! I use a big piece of white cardex as a reflector .. One day I’ll buy a real reflector!

  13. myplanbproject says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m struggling with time and light at the moment, takes me so long to set up and then the little light I have disappears! Might have to try the from door!

  14. Jenny says:

    Thank you! What a great post 🙂

  15. This is awesome thanks!!!

  16. Margot says:

    Some wonderful tips, tricks, ideas and links. Thanks Amelia!

  17. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have always admired your photos and I am so grateful to get some useful tips from you!!

  18. Very useful post Amelia! The world of photography can be quite daunting when you get started. I love looking back on my first blog photos to see how far I’ve come along since then. My tip – Practise practise practise!
    X jade

  19. chefjays says:

    Thank you so much for the tips! I also live in NYC and the natural light is very hard to come by. It’s nice to see someone making it work!

    Leslie

  20. love this! thanks for sharing! 🙂

  21. Bernice says:

    Great tips! I still need to build up my props. I was thinking about Adobe Photoshop – for me it is more about having the time. But isn’t that everyone’s problems! Never enough time! Thanks again for the great tips.

  22. Hannah says:

    Amelia, this post is enlightening. I have been an admirer of this blog for many years, the photography was part of what drew me in originally. I’m an amateur photographer myself and will definitely be drawing tips from the post. Thank you.

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks so much for reading Hannah! I’m happy you found this post useful.

  23. Very helpful article, thanks for sharing!

  24. I’m in the process of learning food photography myself and that’s (partially) why I set up Bakery Rebellion. Great tips here, keep up the good work!

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks! Best of luck with your blog.

  25. Emily says:

    Ooooo…thank you so much for the tips. Really appreciate the links to further resources. I too can’t go past an op shop without popping in, just to see if there’s a perfect plate, bowl, cutlery or something that would make a great back ground. Thank you for being so generous with your information

  26. Yes, I agree Plate to Pixel is a great book. I own it myself and continue to learn so much from it. Thanks for all the info! http://wp.me/p3mhPE-nP

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