Beginner’s guide to food photography

from this… (scroll to end to see my photography transformation)

written by a beginner, for a beginner

A lot of you have been asking me for my tips on taking and editing food photographs. I thought it might be quite a fun post to write, however I want to highlight that it is a beginner’s guide. This is purely because I myself am a beginner, everything is self-taught and nothing ever turns out perfect. In fact, 9 times out of 10 I’ll be disappointed with how a photo turns out. So yeah, I know I’m not instilling much confidence but keep reading if you want to hear some of my tips!

rule no.1 – get yourself a good camera

Honestly, if you ask me it’s all in the camera. I started out taking photos with my phone and was always disheartened when they turned out dark, grainy, blurry and all-round awful. No matter how beautifully you decorate your food, if you have a bad camera then you’ll have bad photos. This doesn’t, however, necessarily mean forking out thousands for a top-of-the-range camera. Whilst mine was an investment and took quite a bit of saving up, it wasn’t extortionate. Plus, I’m hoping it should last me a lifetime of food photos.

Copyright: Flipkart

My camera: Canon 1300D (click here for example buying details – not affiliated at all)

rule no.2 – natural light

Great for the summer months, not so great for winter when daylight hours are limited. Unless you’ve invested in a special, photograph-friendly artificial light source (which I have no experience with), then natural light is your go-to. I’ve tried using lamps in winter and they just don’t work. Again, I’m no professional, but the optimum set-up is somewhere inside but next to a large window. Sometimes outside can seem ideal, however the glare of the sun can give your final photo a yellow hue if not balanced well with the other colours in the shot. If you prefer shooting outside, a bright but slightly cloudy day is optimum (apparently!).

Here, I’ve: used some frozen raspberries to set the scene, chosen the white background to no clash with the chocolate pancakes and used vintage cutlery (and yes there is a hole in the plate…)

rule no.3 – buy a background board

Unless your house is full of Insta-worthy backdrops right next to a source of natural light, then you’ll want to buy a background board. Ever noticed how I mostly switch between my blue and my white wooden backdrops? My parents gave me this for my birthday and it really has transformed my photos if you ask me. It’s double sided so I can mix it up depending on the colour of my food, and big enough to set a scene with. I want to branch out and get a few vinyl ones which are cheaper and more versatile, as mine was quite pricey.

using the blue side of my board

My photography board – from Soularty (again not affiliate)

B&Q sticky back surfaces (have seen other bloggers use)

rule no.4 – colour coordinate

Once you have your selection of backgrounds, you have to start putting more thought into which to use when. For example, I have my blue background which is a) quite niche and b) only to be used with certain colours. Chocolate-based foods don’t look good, neither do many beige-coloured ones. However, if you have a more neutral backdrop then this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Just make sure to think about all the different colours going into your dish; if it’s looking dull, add some frozen berries for a pop of colour; if it’s already bright and vibrant, go for a neutral topping. Have fun with it and don’t get too stressed about colour clashes (sometimes they can even work!), but it’s definitely something to think about!

green & blue are a classic colour combo

rule no. 5 – set the scene

Very rarely do I simply share a photo of my food with nothing in the background. Instead, you want to “tell a story” through your photo. Scatter a few ingredients that went into the dish around the plate. Go for an action shot, such as the famous “pouring” one (think maple syrup on pancakes), or the digging in one. As with anything, you don’t want to overdo it, but a little bit of background storytelling goes a long way in the final product. Other popular props: napkins, vintage cutlery, chopping boards, herbs/ spices, notebooks, quote cards etc.

the elusive pouring shot

rule no. 6 – don’t be afraid to edit…

… but don’t edit too much, either. As I said above, less is more. I know there are lots of editing apps out there, but personally I just use the Instagram editing tools which are sufficient for me. Typically, I’ll add a bit of brightness, contrast and saturation but lower the warmth. This will vary from photo to photo, but keep experimenting until you find what works without going overboard.

rule no.7 – have fun with it!

*cringe x3748294*

Seriously, I mean it though. I, for one, know that food photography can be pretty stressful. Especially when you’ve worked so hard on a recipe; it can be gutting for the photo to let you down! Nevertheless, don’t have sleepless nights trying to figure out how you’re going to style tomorrow’s breakfast. Trust me, I’ve done it and it is not worth it. To be honest, my best photos are often the least planned! You want to be quick and spontaneous, so try not to dwell too much on the decorating and just get down to the photos.

to this (N.B. not the same dish)


Thank you for reading, as always, and I hope you’ve found something useful that will help you with your food photography. If you have any more tips or try one of mine, do let me know!

Emma ♥♥