I often get asked about the photos on Simple Provisions. I take them, and I’m a self-taught photographer. I bought a camera when I started this blog and taught myself to use it in manual mode, as well as how to prop and style food and how to edit photos using software. I’m learning and improving as I go.
Here’s a little guide to the things I’ve learned along the way, and some of the resources that have helped me. I’m not a photography expert, and there’s plenty of resources on the web to teach you to take better photos, but here’s what helped me produce photos of food that people want to pin and share. I hope it helps inspire you to pick up a camera too.
Top Three Tips
- Shoot in the best natural light in your house, even if that’s in an awkward spot like the front door
- Learn how to use your camera in manual mode and learn basic photo editing
- Study the composition, lighting, props and backgrounds of food photography you like to get inspired.
I started with an entry-level DSLR camera and I’m still using it, though I’ve got my eye on this Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM lens as my next step, as it’s what all the pros use. I’m still learning how to use my tripod well, and tend to shoot without it if the light is good. Here’s what I use:
– Canon EOS 550D/Rebel t2i with the standard 18-55mm lens (I purchased this a few years ago now, the Canon EOS 600D seems to be the latest entry-level option)
– Velbon tripod
– NEEWER 60cm 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector
– Macbook Air
– Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 (for photo editing)
– Pixelmator (a cheaper, simpler alternative to Photoshop)
– Canva (to create graphics like the ones for this post)
I shoot with the camera tethered to the computer. This means that the photos appear immediately on the screen in Lightroom. This helps me adjust my camera settings, lighting and composition as I go, making sure I get the best shot.
Tasty Food Photography by Lindsay Ostrom
Read more and buy here
Lindsay from Pinch of Yum has written a comprehensive ebook specifically for food bloggers wanting to improve their photography. There are loads of examples and photos of Lindsay shooting and there’s a great section on editing including videos to help you learn to use Lightroom or Photoshop. Plus, it’s an ebook, so you can get started straight away!
Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling by Helen Dujardin
Buy on Bookworld (AUS) or Amazon (US)
This book covers the basics of photography as well as the specifics of food photography. I read it cover to cover, dog-eared a bunch of pages and made notes. It’s an excellent resource.
Find the best natural light in your house.
If you’re lucky, it will be in your kitchen, but it’s highly likely that it’s not. The best light in my house is just inside my back door. In my New York apartment it was in the bedroom and I used to stand on my bed to get the best shot. In the photos to the right you can see my large back windows, my backgrounds on the floor, a flat cardboard box holding up a back drop and a chair to rest my computer and reflector on while I’m shooting.
A clear space is important, no one wants to see your dirty laundry (this is a very real problem for me, because I shoot right next to my laundry).
I’ve found that the best way to learn styling is to pay attention to the photos you like in food magazines and blogs. I worked on marthastewart.com, which meant I was looking at gorgeous photography all day long – this helped! Start a Pinterest board or tear out pages from magazines and analyse what you like. Is it the lighting? Is it the composition? How has the stylist made the food look attractive? Work out why you like it and then incorporate those principles into your photos. Experiment with different styles and find your own way.
I have a small stash of plates, cutlery and fabric that I use for my photos, as well as my everyday pots, pans and crockery from the kitchen. The best tip I learned was to reserve small bits of the ingredients you’re using in your dish to help prop a shot. Herbs, grated cheese, garlic bulbs, chocolate chunks all add interest, texture and give a hint to what the dish is all about.
I can’t walk past an op shop without checking for potential props and always keep an eye out for beautiful fabric offcuts as they make great backgrounds and add interest to compositions. I’ve recently started using craft paper for backgrounds, which is very inexpensive and offers lots of variety. I also use large bathroom tiles I found in the shed. If you don’t mind a bit of DIY, you can make backgrounds using pieces of timber and paint.
Here’s some ideas of where to look for inexpensive props:
– Op shops (thrift stores)
– Antique and vintage shops and markets
– Your mum or grandma’s cupboards
– Ebay (this article gives great tips on search words to use on Ebay)
– Craft stores
– Fabric stores
– Sales at department stores
– Hardware stores
Here’s a great list of household items that can help improve your food photography on Pinch of Yum.
Learn from the Pros
A short course in food photography, even if it’s a one-day course, can offer great insight into how professional food stylists and photographers approach a shoot.
I did a one-day course with Béa from La Tartine Gourmand. Béa was extremely generous with her knowledge and helped me understand some basic principles that I still use today.
If you can’t find a course in your area, try an online course. There are some interesting ones out there. I recently found this one on Skillshare which is not expensive and looks like it covers some great topics (I haven’t tried it yet).