Brown/Food [Nurture Photography]

I love to cook when the air is beginning to get colder outside, when you start to be able to see your own breath on the air. Spending afternoons in the kitchen with something bubbling away on the stove top or the oven warming the whole apartment. It follows then that warm, comforting fall and winter foods are my favourite.

I enjoy food photography a whole lot too, especially when I have the chance to spend a whole afternoon cooking and photographing in my kitchen.

Food Photography Tips

Food Photography Tips

Food Photography Tips

One of the things that people worry about when it comes to food photography is that they perhaps don’t feel as though they have a nice enough kitchen or good enough dishes to photograph food. Your kitchen doesn’t matter so much, you don’t need anything fancy so long as you are able to work with what you have. I am lucky enough to have a large window in my kitchen which usually has great light for me to be able to photograph food. I’m very limited on space in my apartment kitchen so I set up a stool just in front of the window and use that for the majority of my food staging. If your kitchen doesn’t have good enough light, then you can just as easily set up in an area of your home that has better light, or even take it outside.

As with any kind of photography, light is important in food photography. On days where the light in my kitchen isn’t so great, I like to also set up a reflector in there too, to catch as much light as I can. You don’t need an expensive reflector, you are in the kitchen so use what you have. A piece of foil wrapped around a cutting board would work just as well.

Photograph the Process

One thing that is often forgotten about when it comes to food photography is photographing the process of cooking and the ingredients. Sometimes the ingredients look great enough for you to be able achieve some beautiful photographs before you even begin cooking. Try photographing the food before it is cooked, as you are mixing and chopping and then the final dish.

If possible, you can even photograph the process of buying the ingredients, especially if you visited a farmer’s market, a farm or even picked your own ingredients from your backyard, but it can even be something as simple as a shopping basket full of your ingredients. With food photography you are trying to tell the story of how the dish is made.

Food Photography Tips

Food Photography Tips

Setting the Scene & Styling

Before you begin cooking, you should think about the food you are going to be photographing. Are any of the ingredients particularly photogenic? Could you use them in the staging of your final dish? Here I’ve used the pretty spices and sliced oranges from my mulled wine as “props” that add a little more colour and texture to the photograph.

You don’t need to go out and spend a lot of money on fancy props, look around and see what you already have available. Old wooden chopping boards add great texture, mismatched dinnerware adds a sense of realism. If the dish you are photographing is seasonal, think about the props you can use in the photograph to evoke the feeling of that season. The props don’t have to be edible, you can place some pretty autumn leaves next to a plate of winter squash or Christmas lights behind a cup of mint hot chocolate.

If you decide to forgo props in exchange for a simpler composition, you need to pay attention to colour and texture. Use backgrounds and dinnerware that compliment the colour of the food, and different textures to create interest in the photograph.

Food Photography Tips

When you actually plan on eating what you photograph

Sometimes food photography can be difficult because you are actually photographing your family’s evening meal, or something that will be eaten right away after it is cooked. Perhaps it is already getting dark by the time your family want their dinner, or you feel rushed because they want to eat right away and you are still photographing the dish.

The main key to this is to properly plan out your photographs before you even begin cooking. Make sure you give yourself enough time to photograph each stage. Set up your props and lighting while the final dish is cooking so that you can plate the food and photograph it right away, with minimal fuss.

Photographing food can be messy too, planning beforehand helps a little to cut down on that mess. I know that in my small kitchen, it starts to feel messy and crowded very quickly. I like to designate certain parts of my kitchen for certain things when I’m shooting in there. Dirty dishes go straight to the sink, food props and ingredients that I am going to use have their own areas so that I can quickly find them. Then I have enough space to take photographs of the cooking process and final dish.

Food Photography Tips

photography challenge, photography challenges, online photo contest, photography tips,

I’m teaming up with Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud to bring you the Nurture Photography Autumn Challenge – a photography challenge aimed at capturing the beauty of fall.

Just a few details:

All are welcome regardless of skill level, camera equipment or geographic location.

Share your favorite images inspired by our weekly prompts each Friday and grab our lovely button while you’re at it!

photography challenge, photography challenges, online photo contest, photography tips,

The linky will remain open from 9am Friday – 9am Thursday CST. Link to your Nurture Photography blog post or Flickr photo, not your blog’s home page or Flickr photostream. Don’t forget to visit and comment on the previous entry in the linky list.

We’ll be showcasing some of your lovely photos by pinning some of our favorites to the Nurture Photography Inspiration Board.

The Nurture Photography Challenge has taken to Facebook! Stop by, “like” our new Facebook fan page, ask questions and share your work on our wall as well.

Next week our finale begins! Simply stop by and link up your favourite fall photos, they can be photos you have taken for the challenge or any others that you have taken this season. There will be prizes! For a complete list of prompts, head on over to the Nurture Photography page.


  1. Pingback: Brown/Food {Nurture Photography: Fall} | Live and Love...Out Loud

  2. Excellent tips, Rebecca. I struggle with food photos.
    1. Some food is photogenic and some is NOT!
    2. I have limited lighting in the house and take a lot of picts outside. The weather plays a role in photographing outside and it takes longer to set up.
    3. I feel uncreative setting up my foodie pictures. Mostly due to limited space as I frequently set up in my grill.
    I will keep trying. Your indoor tips have given me a couple of ideas to try. Thank You!
    Robyn´s last post ..Nature Photo Challenge ~ Brown

    • Thanks Robyn!

      1. You are completely right. Some food is really not at all photogenic. I’m thinking particularly of the time I tried to photograph Cottage Pie!

      2. The apartment we lived in before this one had a very dark kitchen. I often moved or set up elsewhere in the house, carrying the food over there to take better photos. When working outside, if the sun is too bright you can find some open shade (a garage with the door open?) but obviously if the weather is just awful that can limit you a lot.

      3. Limited space can be difficult in regards to composition, try looking for interesting shapes in the foods and seeing if you can arrange a good composition that way. If not, then closeups are great for some foods (and you don’t have to worry about the lack of space then!)

      Good luck!

  3. Pingback: Nurture Photography Photo Challenge: Food | Veronica Armstrong

  4. great details – I don’t have one single window in my kitchen area – the photos are usually not the greatest – I must remember to use my reflector!

  5. Rebecca, you were so thorough in your tips! Thank you for taking the time to explain your process and the important points in food photography. I’ve tried a few times and it really is not an easy thing to do! Your photos turned out great and those drinks look amazing!
    Tish´s last post ..Brown

  6. Fiona

    Beautiful shots! I’ve seen this look quite a bit and always wondered how it was done. How do you get the matte, sort of dreamy look to your photos?

    • Hi Fiona, if you mean the post processing that I use, it’s a simple curves adjustment in Photoshop. I anchor all of the points in the curves adjustment panel, except for the one on the bottom left which I pull upwards just a little (about halfway up the first little box).

      Let me know if you need anymore help! 🙂

  7. Thanks so much for the wonderful tips…I especially love the foil on a cutting board as a reflector! I’ll absolutely have to give that a try, since good lighting is hard to come by here 😉 And, beautiful photos. I can almost smell the orange and spices through the computer!
    Tezzie´s last post ..Autumn Colour – Brown

    • Thanks Tezzie! You know, I do have a full size reflector that I sometimes use for portraits, and the only reason I don’t use it for food photos is that it is wider than my kitchen! So the kitchen foil wrapped cutting board works pretty well for me 🙂 and at least I don’t have a problem fitting it into the kitchen!

  8. Such beautiful pictures! I love photographing food as well. Aothough I do not have a “fancy” camera, my point and shoot and online filters have given me a lot of creative outlets to work with. I’m glad I discovered your blog and will be a reader!
    Sandra´s last post ..camera phone pictures: food edition

    • Thanks so much Sandra! I don’t think anyone really “needs” a fancy camera to take good food photos, just so long as you have all of the basic principles (like good light, focus, etc). I don’t always have my big camera to hand either, so I’ve started to use my phone a lot more even for food photos 🙂

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