Hello FitFluential friends! My name is Davida and I blog over at The Healthy Maven. The main focus of my blog is healthy recipes, as well as tips for eating a nourishing and balanced diet.
Part of my job as a food blogger is making my recipes look equally as appetizing on the screen as they are in my kitchen. People eat with their eyes after all!
When I first started blogging I had no clue what I was doing and my pictures reflected this. Unfortunately this meant that many of my recipes went unmade by my readers because they just didn’t look all the appetizing. Eventually I got my act together and started doing a little research on how to improve my food photography.
It’s crazy to look back on some of my old pictures and see how far I’ve come. I promise you, if I can learn to use a camera and take delicious-looking pictures of food, so can you. It just takes a little patience and a lot of practice.
Plenty of factors went into improving my photography skills. I thought I would take some time today to share 10 of these tips with you today.
1. You have to WANT to improve. This means accepting that you will end up spending a decent amount of time and money. That’s just the reality of it.
2. Invest in a good camera and learn how to use it. I bought a Digital SLR (DSLR) two years ago and rarely touched it until I started the blog. Even then it intimidated me so most of my first recipes were shot with my iPhone. When I finally picked up my DSLR I was only shooting on landscape mode because the manual setting overwhelmed me. Eventually I sat down with my camera manual and googled everything I could on aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Once I came to understand how my camera worked I started practicing a TON. Eventually I figured out which aperture and ISO worked best in different lights.
Don’t ever shoot on auto mode or anything with a flash. There’s no point in using an DSLR if you do.
*Note: When you feel comfortable with your camera I highly recommend investing in one or two quality lenses and a tripod. I use a 50mm lens most of the time and it’s the most affordable and efficient lens on the market. Curious what I use to photograph my recipes? Check out my shop HERE!
3. Get reading. There are so many guides out there on how to improve your food photography. I highly recommend not only taking the time to understand your camera, but also food photography in general. These three books and courses have been life-changing in helping me to improve my food photography skills.
4. Always ALWAYS shoot in natural light. Find a window and set up shop. If you’re working 9:00-5:00 this news kind of sucks for you, but there are ways around it if you are seriously dedicated. Before I started blogging full-time I would cook and shoot 3 recipes over the weekend or cook recipes the night before and do an early morning photoshoot before work. Don’t get caught up on the idea that you have to photograph in your kitchen. I actually shoot everything in my living room and carry the food over.
Also, don’t bother with those fake artificial lights that allow you to take “natural” pictures at night. There ain’t no competition for the sun. Avoid taking pictures at night if at all possible.
5. Start stalking. My friends used to joke how I majored in “foodgawker” because I spent the majority of my college years perusing Foodgawker instead of paying attention to lectures. Years of Foodgawker, Tastespotting, and Healthy Aperture browsing have totally paid off. I’ve also created a “Food Photography” inspiration board on Pinterest. Watch for the angles other food photographers are shooting at and the food props they use. Look for text placement, garnishes and backgrounds. Eventually you will absorb these things and develop your own eye.
6. Buy some decent food props. You don’t need to go crazy or spend a ton but have some staples. I recommend a black slate board, white bowls, pretty spoons or forks, colourful ramekins and a small collection of dishtowels and napkins. I buy most of mine at the dollar store, Home Sense (Home Goods in the US) and my mother’s basement. I should add that you shouldn’t go crazy with food props either, let the food speak for itself.
7. Get to know your angles. I’ve seen about a million bloggers do tutorials on how to make your own lightbox, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend it. For the first few months I used one but eventually I found it very limiting in terms of the angles I could achieve. Even cheaper (and easier!)— just buy two pieces of white poster board and two pieces of black poster board. Place one on the bottom and prop one up behind. Set it up so that your food is side-lit where the window is at the food’s side and on the other side another white board or piece of styrofoam can act as your “bounce.” I always recommend shooting “side-lit” to less skilled food photographers as it is an easier angle to manipulate. Eventually as you improve you may start exploring back-lit, which is another post in itself!
8. Take more pictures than you could possibly imagine. I take at least 30-50 pictures (and sometimes more) for each recipe. It usually takes me a while to get into the groove and I rarely use my first 10 pictures. Odds are that if you take enough pictures a couple will turn out well.
*Note: I now take fewer pictures because I am more competent with my camera.
9. Get Photoshop or some editing software. 90% of food bloggers use some form of editing software. I personally don’t like PicMonkey ( a common online editor among bloggers) but some bloggers use it with great success. I highly recommend Photoshop (or Lightroom) as it allows you to fine-tune the lighting and saturation to make the food look as accurate in pictures as it does in person. It also gives me an array of fonts that PicMonkey does not offer and it’s incredibly beneficial when creating graphics and collages.
10. You’re going to suck at first and you will still have sucky days. Every food photographer will admit that they have bad days, and that’s okay! Accepting that not every picture will turn out well is part of the process. But you will 100% improve with practice.
None of the above matters if you don’t start putting it to use. So pick up those cameras and start clicking!