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Secrets to Food Photography Revealed

Food photography can be a difficult thing to master when you're trying to create consistent photos for your business. Professional food photography takes a lot of time, lighting, tools, patience, and usually a chef on set to make sure everything continues to look fresh and appetizing.

I've photographed food for over 15 years now. Most of what I've done is on location for small business restaurants that don't have the time or budget to deal with you being there. Most of the time 5-8 plates are sent out all at the same time and then the expectation is that the photographer needs to make the 8th plate look as fresh and appetizing as the first. I'm here to tell you, is doesn't work like that! Food falls in its looks, very fast! Especially anything made of milk, such as melted cheeses and creamy soups.

Commercial Food Photography Salmon

Talk, talk, talk!

If you're a restaurant owner and are looking to have some photography done, talk with your photographer ahead of time. Let them know what you are preparing. Also, it might be a good idea if you are working with a new photographer, to ask them to scout the location where they would like to shoot the photos ahead of time. Discuss things with them such as details of plates, drinks and textiles that might be incorporated into the photos.


Once you figure out the look you are going for, make sure you have props on hand. Multiple plate styles and colors, multiple textiles of texture and color, options for different drinks, silverware, ingredients and anything else that might tell the story of your business can possibly be incorporated. Although, most of the time, I find that it's best to keep it simple.

Food Styling.

Just have food styling tools on hand. Don't rely on your photographer unless it's in your contract with them that they will be bringing food styling tools. Plus, it's always good to have them on hand no matter what. Things such as a spray bottle of oil, tweezers, rubber gloves, something to prop things up with (I have little sand bags, but sugar packets will work in a pinch), a food brush, paper napkins, chopsticks, and toothpicks. Now you might not need all of these things but you just never know.

Say What?

Did you say tweezers and chopsticks? You can probably understand a spray bottle of oil, it makes food shiny if it loses it's luster. Even toothpicks for holding things together and napkins to wipe off little crumbs and messy runny sauce. But tweezers and chopsticks you say. Maybe the chopsticks if you're shooting sushi. But NO! Chopsticks are the most amazing way I've found to bring the head back up on beer. Beer can be touchy, and the head can drop quickly on some beers, especially if they are put in the wrong type of glass. Yes, a glass can be better for one beer than another, it will hold scent and the head better. But the bamboo used in chopsticks has a chemical reaction with beer that makes the bubbles almost as perfect as when it was first poured. Be careful though, it's a quick reaction and the head on the beer can overflow in a hurry. Now for those tweezers, you never know when you will need to move small objects into just the perfect location. Tweezers make it so you don't have to get your big fat fingers into a tight spot as well.

Patience Young Padawan!

The one thing that helps the most when shooting food is patience. Set up the scene with patience, and use a blank plate so you aren't setting up the scene and adjusting any lighting while the food is just sitting there getting gross. Take your time and make sure a few test shots are taken. Plate the food at the location of the photo being taken.

Let there be light.

Light is the most important thing in food photography! Know that food can look fantastic and delicious or it can look disgusting and unappetizing just with a difference in lighting. First and foremost, never use interior lights to light food only, EVER. In fact, if the food is being shot near a window using that light, turn off the interior lights all together. Never use warming lamps, yeah they look bright, but the color is horrible and the light is so bright and strong that the food just looks awful! Big soft light can do wonders for food, even though it isn't the only way to make food look good. When in doubt, get near a window on a cloudy day or in a location with indirect light.

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