Food Photography Must Know | Let's Have A Coffee Chat

I was once rated one of the six best food photographers in San Antonio, TX which I am positive was a clerical error, or an assignment given to someone who was looking to slip out of the office early that day. While I'd like to think that I could hold my own among the best, it's certainly not what I have branded myself as, well, to be fair I am terribly  and niching  down to begin with, but especially since I pulled the plug on the anna angenend blog, I rarely play with and photography my food anymore. 

Every type of photography is so different, and each requiring their own skill set. Posing newborns is a whole set of skills not everyone may have. The stamina  and organization to shoot a full wedding day is no joke. Helping families and individuals feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera for a session that is fun and capture genuine emotions is also its own skill set, and requires practice.

There are certain types of photography that I know are not meant for me. But capturing  families  most important memories. I LIVE for that. Taking crazy silly mom life photos, it's a part of me. Food photos? It's writing a story with an image, creating something  just  for the sake of being beautiful. It doesn’t  have to be totally realistic, it just needs to create a FEELING and make someone want to jump into the photo. It's literally playing with my food. Photographing flatlays, products, or food wraps me up in a fantasy of a whole different life I imagine I could have one day, just photographing food or products...with feeling.

dark moody food photography tips SATX food photographer


Anyway, without further ado. Here are the simple and basic five tips to keep in mind when you're playing with your food. 


1) What you need:

  • a table
  • a window
  • a backdrop
  • one off camera light source or some really cool windows
  • camera
  • staging props

Possibly why food photos is one of my favorite things, is because it's like creating a micro reality. You can turn just two small square feet into a dreamy fantasy. You can totally fake it. Scroll the aisles of home depot, or the thrift ship to find interesting textures and colors that can  be used for backdrops and props. Grab laminate, tiles, and poster boards to turn your table into a mini studio. For props, think of the flavors you are photographing and what they remind you of; Summer days? Being at the each? Cozy cold mornings? Use textures, props and colors to enhance the details for that story. 

dark moody food photography tips SATX food photographer

2) Setting your lighting

Often people use one large window, and face the table and props towards that window to photograph the items from various angles. This works, especially for bright and airy photos, or for creating  some fun shadows angle the table sideways to the window, and play flowers between the light source and the props to create artsy shadows. Often there is a need do bright, simple, photos. But, these can appear very one dimensional and I gravitate towards the moody and dark imagery. 

For this, I put my table by a window in evening light (it was super diffused low light) and used my ring light on the left side  as a key light-this hits the coffee pour, and the sugar just right to add pops of highlights and dimension. I used a box on the side of the table opposite  of the light, to block out any light pollution and subtly bounce some light back onto my props. The background? Just a chalkboard I pulled off my wall. 

dark moody food photography tips SATX food photographer

3) Camera settings

  • Adjust ISO necessary for light source, but I always try to keep it lowered to avoid a lot of noise. 
  • use an aperture of f/10. or above so that everything is in focus when you're shooting an overhead image. Play with aperture to focus in on one smaller item at a time. 
  • I adjust my shutter speed based on what I wanted to capture. To get images of steam, or a steady coffee pour, I lowered my f stop to 1/80 sec as long as my camera was on the tripod - anytime my camera is handheld, I keep my shutter speed at 1/200 of above. 
  • On the canon 5D Mark IV I used the interval shooting setting with my camera on my tripod, so it would take 10 photos, one ever two seconds, while I poured coffee or sugar. 

dark moody food photography tips SATX food photographer

4) Staging

  • In the world of commercial food photography, nothing is what it seems. Bowls of cereals are often just cereal floating in glue. Burgers have invisible slips of cardboard in between each ingredient. Some items are made out of clay or plastic to be able to withstand hours and hours of shooting. None of the food is edible by the end of their shots. For us home cooks, I like to photograph real food as often as possible, and use natural elements to make it look mouth watering, finger licking, good. Texture is a big part of this; Condensation on the edge of a drink (you can use a spray water bottle) steam coming off food (you can use piping hot food, or blow out a tea light candle behind your item to create more smoke). Create movement, make big splashes or drop a biscuit and let the buttery crumbs tumble off of it. 
  • use silverware, towels, dishes, flowers, food items, etc. that draw attention to the main item, and bring continuity to the story. 

5) Editing

I do the bulk of my editing in lightroom, and only use photoshop if i need to remove certain prop items, blend backgrounds, or move stuff around. In lightroom I use one of my custom presets to start. Then I do detailing with brush edits. For these photos, around the edges I darkened the exposure, lowered the texture and brightened the shadows. This pushes the light and focus to the center of the images. On the main items, I turned up the clarity, texture, sharpness, and brightened shadows to make those areas pop out. 

dark moody food photography tips SATX food photographer


I hope you picked up some new tricks to inspire you! Please tag me in the food photos you take, I love to look at dreamy food images. 

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What's your favorite food photo hack?






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