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Guest Post: Food Photography Before & After: Easy Tips for Improving Your Photos

Over the past few months, my blog, Oh My Veggies, has transitioned into being a food blog. While I had always posted recipes, I came to realize that those were the posts I really enjoyed and everything else kind of felt like a chore. Of course, the key to success as a food blogger is to post pictures that look appetizing. This? Was something I had to work on. My early photographs were not the bizness. Shockingly terrible is a better way to describe them. But the best way to demonstrate this is to show you. These are two photographs of the same recipe, my Over-Stuffed Baked Potatoes.

This, I’m sad to say, is actually one of my better early photos. Here’s what I did wrong:

I did nothing about the lighting and white balance.

I used regular indoor light and, since I was using my phone to take the photo, I couldn’t control the white balance. If you’re using your phone to take photos, you can still take better pictures than this–check out my post on iPhone Food Photography. And if you have a higher-end point-and-shoot camera or DSLR, familiarize yourself with the white balance settings! You can also take photographs in RAW so you can change the white balance after taking your picture if need be.

I treated this photo (and all of my photos, really) as a snapshot.

I put the potatoes on the plate exactly as I would serve them. I didn’t think about what else was in the frame. Do you really want to see my cluttered countertop in my food photos? Probably not.

The shadow takes up almost as much space as the potato.

The shadow is so harsh, it’s distracting. It’s important to watch for shadows in your photos. If your lighting source is behind you, for example, you might end up taking a very lovely picture of a shadow of your head on your plate of food. I had to train myself to start looking for shadows, but now I notice them in every photo I look at!

No editing.

I uploaded the photo as-is. Digital photos usually benefit from being “developed” in Photoshop or another photo editing program. I probably could have improved the color tone and sharpness of this photo had I done a few quick adjustments in Photoshop.

Now here’s a photo I took last week:

What’s different?

I spent time staging the photo.

I used a plate that has some visual interest, but isn’t distracting. Rather than taking the photo on a cluttered kitchen counter, I took it in the dining room. Instead of having miscellaneous kitchen items in the background, now I have objects that set the scene and help tell a story. That story is: “I’m going to eat this delicious potato! I might put some salt and pepper on it too!”

The lighting looks more natural.

I used an umbrella light for this photograph, which I bought for around $20, and then set the white balance on my camera to Fluorescent, as that’s the kind of light I use. Although natural light is always best, I love my studio light now that it’s winter! While there are still shadows here, they’re not as harsh and noticeable.

I spent time editing my photo.

The original was a little bit dark, so I made it lighter. I sharpened the image as well, something I now do with all of my pictures. If you have Photoshop Elements, the consumer version of Photoshop, you can do this really easily by playing with some of the options in the Enhance menu.

I’m not a photography expert–everything I know is from my camera’s manual or from food photography books. While I still have a lot to learn, I’ve definitely come a long way in the past few months. And seriously, if I can do it, you can too!

 

About the Author:
Kiersten creates delicious vegetarian recipes and showcases them with her beautiful photography on her blog, Oh My Veggies. Make sure you follow her on Pinterest as well!

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Comments

  1. Great tips! I never take the time to get good pictures of my food. I normally remember right as I begin eating that I need a photo of the finished product.

  2. What a great post! I need to learn about staging (and I can’t believe how many photos I still post with awful or cluttered backgrounds). How did you get the photo to focus on the foreground and blur the background? My camera doesn’t do this.

  3. These are really wonderful tips! I do not have a DSLR, yet but I am enjoying trying to learn to take better photos with the Nikon P100 I do have. While not as awesome as a DSLR, it is capable of decent photos, I just need more practice with the manual controls that my camera does have. I love editing mine and need to learn to do that better as well.

    • I just got a DSLR–most of the photos on my blog were taken with an iPhone! While the DSLR is definitely better, I learned there was so much I could do to improve my photos just with lighting, staging, and editing alone. And using the manual controls will definitely help too–something I didn’t have with my phone. :)

  4. I need to get a nice camera one of these days! Your tips were great! I would love to learn to be a food photographer someday. I just don’t want to be the one making all the food! Maybe that’s not the best mix. :)

  5. Love this post. I don’t do many food posts but when I do, my pictures look less than appetizing. I need to work on that!

  6. Love your guest poster :) Beautiful edits…I need to take a lesson from her!

  7. Loved this lesson and tips on photographing food.

  8. Great post. I got a new digital for Christmas, so learning everything all over again!

  9. Hi, my name is Heather! Please email me when you can, I have a question about your blog!

  10. Great food photography!.

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