10 Food Photography Tips for the Home Cook


SteveHansenPhoto_1SteveHansenPhoto_2SteveHansenPhoto_6SteveHansenPhoto_3SteveHansenPhoto_5SteveHansenPhoto_7SteveHansenPhoto_4We’re super excited to have Seattle-based food photographer Steve Hansen sharing his 10 food photography tips for the home cook! We’re big fans of his splash and crash series as well as his styling and overall aesthetic! For any of you who love food photography or have blogs, these tips are excellent for creating stunning photos! Take it away Steve…

1. Use window light from the side or from the rear.
When you photograph food, window light is the quickest and simplest way to achieve appetizing results. I do recommend holding a piece of black foam board over the top of the set which gives the light more drama and direction and keeps any unnatural overhead lights in the kitchen from being reflected in the shot.

2. Arrange the food from the cameras point of view.
Photography is a two dimensional medium and the only way to know if your food is going to look good on camera is to continuously look at your plate from the angle the camera will be located. You will quickly find that pushing the food towards the front of the plate when shooting from the side and styling just the side of the food that will face the camera will help you a great deal.

3. Use the manual settings on your camera.
A camera setting of ISO 100, an aperture of f/5.6, and a Shutter Speed of 1/25th of a second is a good starting point but the intensity of window light varies quite a bit. If the image is too dark, lengthen your shutter speed.
This is the camera setting I use in the studio but I am constantly using a variety of devices like my phone or antique film cameras to capture images in a unique way. Vision is more important than gear!

4. Don’t be afraid to shoot JPEG.
So many photographers will immediately tell you to shoot in the RAW format and from a professional standpoint this is a must. If you are just enjoying the act of capturing images of recipes to share online, a RAW file will simply get in the way of your enjoyment of the process and will take up too much space on your computer.

5. Shoot from above or from the side.
The quickest way to improve your food photographs is to capture the image directly from above or from the side. An eye level image is possible but doesn’t tend to look as dramatic. A sandwich or burger can even look great when shot from just below the subject for a heroic look!

6. Five second food styling.
Food styling is an incredibly complex subject and requires years of practice just to master the basics. If you simply wanted to dramatically improve your food and still leave it edible, use a light brushing of canola oil to add a sheen to poultry or any other meat, and a spritz of water on fruits, lettuce and any other ingredient you feel would benefit. Again, when you style your food, understand only one side of the food will face the camera, keep this in mind and use it to your advantage.

7. Keep random props on hand.
No you don’t need a full prop room, but having a tub full of random napkins, plates, and silverware goes a long way to improving your images. Make sure any props compliment your food but don’t steal the show with wild patterns or intense colors.

8. Don’t cook your food all the way.
Food tends to look its best on camera when it’s not cooked or prepared all the way. Chicken looks plumper when cooked half way, lettuce looks better when the dressing is sprayed or drizzled as opposed to tossed, and vegetables look brighter.

9. Use a tripod.
Whether you use a small tripod for your Iphone or a full-blown camera tripod, stabilization is an absolute must. When photographing anything in window light, the shutter speed is usually insufficient to allow you to capture a sharp image handheld. Instagram is an exception but once you share the image on Facebook, the apparent sharpness will disappear in a hurry.

10 Don’t forget to process your image.
Whether you post your image to a blog, Instagram, or other outlet, make sure to take the time to compose and process your image before showing the world. Choose your best image, crop it the way you like, and correct the color by visually checking that what was actually white in the scene appears white in the photo. You also want to make sure the shadows aren’t too dark and that the saturation isn’t too high. Otherwise this is a good chance to have fun and experiment!

When you are making all of the delicious recipes on Sugar and Charm be sure to keep these tips in mind!

Steve Hansen is a Seattle food photographer who specializes in capturing images of food and beverages for advertising and packaging. To see more of his work click here!

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2 responses to 10 Food Photography Tips for the Home Cook

  1. Laura Pendergraft
    February 17, 2015

    Wow! Steve’s photography is incredible. He is very talented and I think it is great that he is willing to share these tips.

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