Food Photography Secrets, Revealed

6 years ago

Note: BlogHer originally syndicated Dawn's piece in 2010. It's such a gimme for our Month of Photo Tips that we've added it to the series! You'll note comments from a while ago below. -- Julie

Everyone seems to be spilling their food photography secrets these days, and honestly, I'm so glad they've shared because it's helped me become a better photographer.

Despite three years of photography in art college, I was never any good at it. I'm great at editing photos, and a wiz at Photoshop -- I once built a tweed jacket lapel to cover up a nametag on the photographed jacket, years before Photoshop had enhanced their cloning tools.

But using one of my photographs, especially food photographs, with minimal editing in the computer, was unheard of until recently. It took me about 6 months, but I think I finally got the hang of it.

Paying it forward, here are my {wicked good} photography secrets, spilled and shared

Shooting inside my house, using natural light, proved to be futile. Our house faces north with the majority of windows in the front and back of the house. With the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, the only natural light available was in the bathroom -- not an option.

After much trial and error, I figured out the best spot for photographs is on my back porch, after 1 p.m., when the sun starts to warm the west side of our house. Here I have about 7 hours of full daylight and two hours of twilight.

I started taking photos on a small stool, but the stooping was killing my back. I found an old rolling microwave cart tucked away in the garage, which turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the process.

Here's my usual set up -- I place the cart just under the door overhang so I have light, but not direct, harsh sunlight. A couple of my chef aprons provide a neutral background and hide the hot tub. I usually add additional white tableware or glass behind the plates to create the illusion that the table is full:

I was able to style most of the food directly on the cart, in my air conditioned kitchen, store everything I needed for the photographs on cart shelves (sauces, herbs, props), and roll the entire thing outside when I was ready to photograph.

The other advantage of using a cart on wheels is that I'm able to rotate the food around and shoot from all angles, in addition to physically picking up the plates and moving them, creating infinite options.

Now that I've found the perfect spot and the perfect light, I've been able to concentrate more on composition and personal style. You never would have guessed from that set up, I was able to get this shot -- not bad for guerrilla-style photography, eh:

Recipe for the potato salad above is coming soon! In the meantime, take a stroll through some of the sites that helped me get my food photography groove on:

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