Food Photography 101

I’ve told you before how everything has started. First stage, trying to feed ourselves to survive, second, mastering a little and trying new things and final stage becoming a foodie and kitchen nut, improvising and experimenting continuously. Meanwhile, it was obviously inevitable to get the food porn bug. Actually, this is why I started blogging in the first place.

The compliments and questions about my photographs made me do my happy-dance each and every time, I cannot get enough of it. So it has been a while I wanted to post about food photography. I’m by no means a photographer. But I can always share the things I’ve read and learned by trial and error. At first I was planning to write one post only. But there is too much information to share, so, I will keep posting about food photography.



First you need to know everything about your camera. DSLR or point-and-shoot, it does not matter, it is all about learning curve. Understand light, shadows, composition, aperture, ISO, white balance, and other basics. Try all the camera settings, different light angles etc. I have Nikon D60 and 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G lens. Besides, I have Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S makro lense, which is really good for food photography. (Well I had :( , gone now).


Light either makes or breaks your photos! It is probably the most important key to good pictures. People who are good at food photography are known to be using natural light. You cannot even mention the name of integrated flashes. If you really need to use flashes go with external ones. I always shoot on day light. Next to a well lighted window, or at the balcony work for me the best.

By natural light, we do not mean direct sun light. Direct sun light is a kind of hard light and it produces harsh shadows and high contrast, which are not wanted most of the time- some artistic images might call for harsh light, for example to render vivid colors. But generally, what we want is soft light- indirect, diffused light.

Diffusers and reflectors are widely used even by the average food blogger. Diffusing direct light produces a softer light, and reflecting lets you fill in the darker areas of a composition that may otherwise be heavy and distracting. You do not even need fancy expensive equipment. As a diffuser you can use thin white bed sheets if you do not want to buy professional scrims. To use your diffuser, position it against the window or near it. As a reflector again you can use professional reflectors or just DIY! A white thick foam board, or a board covered by foil are good options. Just bounce the light to the dark side of the composition.

Camera Modes:

Automatic, Manual, Aperture, Shutter Speed Priority; there is no best one. It is all about personal choices, pick the one you’re most comfortable with. But prefer not using auto mode, you must be the chef here, you’re in charge.

Mostly in food photography, manuel and aperture priority modes are used. Shutter speed mode is good if you want to capture a flow, like dripping chocolate sauce from a spoon, pouring wine to a glass etc.

Aparture priority mode makes it easier to control depth of field- either shallow depth of field where only a small portion of your photograph is in focus and the rest is in blurry, bokeh; or a deep depth of field, where everything in the composition is in focus.

Manual is, well, manuel. Choose ISO, set aperture and shutter speed yourself. The best way to learn is practice. Practice, practice, practice. The best thing about digital gadgets today is that you can shoot the same composition 100 times until you like what you get.


Aperture refers to the size of the opening of your camera lens and determines the amount of light that gets to your camera and it affects the depth of field. It is like our eyes: When there is little light available, our pupils expand to gather more light; and when there is too much light, pupils constrict to allow less light. It is measured in f/stop (f/1.8, f/3.5 etc). The higher the f/stop number, the smaller the aperture and the less light comes in.

In low light situations low f/stop numbers (thus, larger aperture which lets more light in) are ideal. But the down side is it creates a very small area of actual focus. Plus, at low f/stop numbers even the smallest shake is enough to blur the picture. So it is essential to use a tripod. (I use Manfrotto 055XPROB model tripod)

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed refers to the length of time camera sensor stays open and is exposed to light. It is measured in seconds. (1/80, 1/100, 1/400 etc.) The lower the number, the slower the shutter speed, which allows more light to enter your camera.


ISO shows how sensitive a censor to the light. Low numbers indicate less sensitivity and a finer grain and crispier pictures. As ISO numbers get larger picture becomes noisier and less sharp. There is no general rule. Again it is all about the light conditions and artistic image you’d like to capture. But, it is advised to start at 100 and not to go beyond 500. I most of the time keep my ISO at 100.

Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling, Helen Dujardin
Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots, Nicole S. Young
Digital Food Photography, Lou Manna, Bill Moss

To be continued… Stay tuned.

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