How to Photograph Food (sponsored)

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When I started the Eat Well series with my mom, I had no idea what I was doing. Neither of us did. My original plan was actually to film a little cooking show with my mom in the kitchen. She comes up and hangs with me often and we take regular weekend trips to my parents' house, so our plan was to shoot several videos at a time and then I'd edit them together c/o my most impressive editing & production experience at La Costa Canyon High School, go Mavs, but twenty minutes into filming, we still had half our tutorial to go. Clearly my "Eat Well: the video series" idea was a terrible one. My mom was too thorough and I didn't have time (or wherewithal) to edit thirty minutes of footage into three. We decided posts + photos would be the way to go. Of course, making food look photogenic, let alone appetizing can be tricky, especially where certain foods are involved. Peanut sauce, cough. Enchiladas, cough cough.

Here are some tips we've learned for taking appetizing photographs of food for your blog.
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1. Never use a flash. This seems obvious but most tutorials involve dinner food/planning which one typically prepares in the evening. But a flash instantly makes food look insane - like those wax crepes outside your favorite creperie. (There is nothing less appetizing than fake food covered with dust. Or worse! Food that's ten hours old trying its damndest to tempt customers with its hardened sauce and flies.) So, stay away from flash photography, prepare your food in the late afternoon or early evening, when natural light is plentiful.

Do: Vegetarian Thanksgiving + natural light
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Don't: Quinoa Stuffed Peppers + flash photography
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2. Never shoot into steam. This also seems obvious but my mom and I have both made the mistake, now, several times. Action shots tend to call for pouring steaming hot water into a colander, or ingredients into steaming hot concoction - be sure to stand back, use your zoom as not to muddy the shot. Or just bypass the "pour" shot entirely.

Don't: Quinoa + steam
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3. Try not to shoot alone. Many times I was able to take photographs of my mom in the kitchen but mainly my dad fills in. My mom cooks on the weekends for the posts (in the afternoons for good light!) so when necessary my dad can stand in to take photos. Aw.
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4. Add a side dish or garnish to course. Adding a pop of color is a must, especially when your tutorial involves a main course (most of which aren't as photogenic as say, a salad or some fresh fruit). Also, a side dish is key to distract from foods that although delicious, aren't particularly beautiful to look at. ED: Some foods cannot be helped.
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5. Shoot on WHITE PLATES ONLY. This is probably the most important tip I have to offer today. Because it makes ALL the difference. My mom has these beautiful floral plates and every time she sends me a photo using them, I'm like, "NOOOOOO!!!!" because simply put, they look amateurish. They take away from the food. Show me a gorgeous food blog and you will see solid plates, mainly of the white or black variety. This way the food stands on its own, as it should in a foodie photograph foodograph.

Do: polenta with greens on white plate
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Don't: Gluten Free Matzo Balls on decorative plates
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6. Up the contrast and saturation (ever so slightly!) in post - This way your colors will sing and your food will appear more textured, colorful and yes, prettier.
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7. Crop Responsibly. An a-symmetrical crop job can make a bland photo more interesting, so long as it doesn't distract from your subject.
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What about you guys? Questions? Concerns? Anything you'd like to add? Food blog that you adore? First six commenters (once again) will win code for a free 8x8 Shutterfly Custom Path photo book, so you can build your own photo adventure! (Cook book, perhaps?)

Don't forget to include your contact information and... GO!

GGC

23 comments:

Mrs. H @ My Happily Ever After | 10:58 AM

Love love love photographing food and love love love shutterfly!!!

B&B | 10:58 AM

I adore smittenkitchen.com...gorgeous photographs and I've used at least ten of her recipes to great success.

I LOVE your Eat Well posts as well...always great ideas and inspiration
!

email: ariel_johnson@hotmail.com

Mrs. H @ My Happily Ever After | 11:00 AM

oh and love love love you...obvies :)

mrs h
myhappilyeverafter0123@gmail.com

Elizabeth | 11:02 AM

this was extremely helpful. my sister is a chef, and i'm always trying to photograph her food in a flattering way. thanks!

email: elizabethannaknapp@gmail.com

duchessbelle | 11:04 AM

Great tips - thanks! (duchessbelles@gmail.com)

lonek8 | 11:05 AM

It's so funny that this entry is linked with the Shutterfly photo books because the other day I was thinking I how much I would like to compile all of your eat well pics and recipes into a photo cook book so I don't have to reference the blog every time I want to cook something.

ps: I was going to send you a copy as a present so you wouldn't think I was stealing all your good ideas!

jesse k | 11:07 AM

I love Orangette, simple and beautiful!

c | 11:08 AM

good tips!

Stacy | 11:09 AM

Love it! Thanks. I have thought about taking a class for food styling/photography...this helps.

Amber | 12:08 PM

I love your Mom's collection of eclectic dishware. I actually enjoy seeing what new pieces she uses. I know it’s not photographed at a five star restaurant; her non white plates don’t bother me.

Alexis | 12:47 PM

Great great great photos of food always on
http://foodiewannabe.typepad.com/foodie-wannabe/
also, fun to live vicariously through her fine dining adventures!

Amy | 12:54 PM

I second the vote for Orangette. Smitten Kitchen is absolute fabulous as well!

Clara Womack Barksdale | 1:44 PM

So helpful! Love the eat well series and photos!
Barksdalefamily@gmail.com

the actor's diet | 2:09 PM

great tips! as a food blogger i learned early on that natural light and the macro setting are my friends - as are taking LOTS of photos from all angles

AimeeDesiree | 2:18 PM

Haha - I always think the same thing when I see your mom's colored plates! But, wow, can that woman cook - so I totally forgive! ;)

Clara | 3:00 PM

I love 17andbaking.com and honeyandjam.com
Both young women making food, writing about it and photographing it, all beautifully.

The Penny Wise Chick | 3:11 PM

Great tips & yummy looking food! =)
~Penny Wise
http://thepennywisechick.com

Jack's Mama | 6:22 PM

Ahhh! I usually always catch your blogs soon after you post because you often post during nap time on the east coast, wahh the last two times my schedule has been different then my routine. Which i have finally learned im addicted to my routine, after being someone who always denied routine. Today I had training on my usual day off and I felt like i was going to die, and I was like duh thats because on Thursdays i'm usually in my garden, at the gym and doing errands. Anyways I'm just bummed I missed the 6 first posts! And I never win the random thing, oh well next time hopefully!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 7:30 AM

Thanks, guys! Can't wait to check out your foodie links and congrats to first six commenters! I'll be emailing you all later today with your codes. Hooray!

Melody | 10:35 AM

where are the Dos?

Kristen | 11:48 AM

Helene at Tartlette (http://www.tarteletteblog.com) is an amazing food photographer and just came out with a book on the subject, which I'm sure is gorgeous.

Orangette is lovely too - I'll add a vote there. :)

Anabelle Tess | 6:35 AM

Thanks for all the tips... I often take pictures of my food (I sometimes post pictures of food and recipes on my blog) and I know it is very hard to get a good picture. And yes, the problem is I always cook at night when there is no light and the pictures are then too dark or too light (because of the flash)...

Again thank you for sharing your experience with us, this is what I like the most about your blog...

Have fun with your pretty belly and family!

Rebecca | 8:52 PM

Not exactly a food blog, but my absolute favorite food website of all time: www.cookusinterruptus.com
You will like this. Check it out.