Food photography 101

Sep 11, 2012 at 3:13 p.m. ET

Whether you have a food blog or just want to capture those perfect cupcakes, food photography is a great skill to master. Improve your culinary shots with these basic tips.

Roasted potatoes

Although pros rely on fancy cameras and lots of bulky equipment, a simple point-and-shoot and natural light can work wonders. If you are getting serious about photography, then investing in a DSLR (or digital single lens reflex) camera might be worthwhile. Of course, the old adage of "practice, practice, practice" holds true here and is the best food photography tip of all.

Learn how to 5 Fast tips for better photos >>


One of the most important things to keep in mind when photographing anything, and especially food, is the lighting. Even with all the fancy lights out there, a lot of professional food photographers prefer to use natural light. Morning and late afternoon are the best times to take pictures since the light is nice and soft, as opposed to midday when the sun is very harsh. Place food on a table next to the window or otherwise out of direct sunlight. If at all possible, avoid fluorescent kitchen lights.


If you are shooting in low-light situations, then a tripod can be a big help. It helps to stabilize the camera so the picture of your food will come out crystal clear. You don’t need a big, clunky tripod, either. Try a cute tabletop tripod that works great with point-and-shoot cameras and fits in your purse.


The composition, or way the photo is set up, is crucial as well. Think about how much you zoom in and zoom out, what else is in the photo, and where the food is in the camera frame. Try positioning the food slightly off-center for a more interesting composition. If your camera has grid lines, use those to help make a good arrangement.

Learn more about composition with the rule of thirds >>


Play around with the angle at which you take the photograph of your food to get the best effect. A three-quarters angle is often favored, but also try shooting the food overhead and straight on.


Finally, the way you style or arrange your food can make a major impact. Little touches, like adding an herb garnish to roasts or colored sprinkles to cupcakes, can make the food pop.

More photography tips

Mom's guide to photoshopping pictures
DSLR photography tips for beginners
5 Camera features that improve your digital photos