posted in Cookbook Reviews

If You’re Into Food Photography and Styling…

If you have your own blog, especially one that features food, you’re likely dabbling in a bit of photography.  I do a lot of it myself.  I’m definitely no expert.  I’m constantly learning from others– nibbles and bits and tricks of the trade.  I shoot with a Canon 40D and a variety of lenses.  Sometimes I use a tri-pod and sometimes I shoot hand-held.  I read, I go to workshops, and I test things out at home.  My blog is about food first, and if I happen to capture a good photograph, that’s great too.  Here are a a few of the things I do to help me along with my food photography and styling…

I saw an awesome tutorial on the blog Love & Olive Oil for making your own background boards.  I didn’t follow the tutorial exactly, but I decided to make some of my own.  I purchased 6 large scrap boards from Home Depot (about $6.00 each), brown wood stain and various colored paint samples.

The wood stain goes on dark but then it tends to fade.  I used a throw-away sponge applicator to apply the stain.  It gets pretty sticky on a paintbrush and is tough to clean.

To create an old “washed” look on one of my boards, I took a brush and randomly brushed gray with the grain in smooth, soft strokes.

And here’s what I did with the rest of my boards- I painted both sides of each board to create 12 new surfaces on which to shoot my food.

Here’s my usual set-up in natural light.  I have a set of French doors in my kitchen that let in great natural light from 10am until about 4pm.  I set a table up next to it, place a board on top, and sometimes I place a white board behind my subject (if needed) to bounce the light back onto the food.

These awesome clips (also at Home Depot) help a board to stand up and stay in place.

I have a zillion white dishes of every shape and size.  I have several bookshelves in my kitchen, dining room and office, and they’re all filled with dishes.  HomeGoods and Crate and Barrel Outlet are my favorite places for finding new pieces.

A colorful array of dishes and bowls line my shelves too… as well as an assortment of utensils.

Fabrics in all shapes and sizes and colors and textures are nice to have around too.  I pick those up at fabric stores, usually scouring the remnant’s section for some good deals.

Piles of single placemats can be found around my house.  I’m not sure what I’d do with them if I ever chose another profession, but it’s fun to be able to use a variety for photos.

I also keep a good number of rolls of ribbon- hanging on hangers so they’re easy to access.

When natural light is cruddy- on cloudy days or at night, I pull out the Lowel EGO lights.  If you don’t already have these on hand, they’re worth purchasing on Amazon.

And for inspiration and tutorials, I go to websites like White on Rice Couple, Matt Bites and  And now there’s a book that compiles all kinds of fabulous tips for digital food photography and styling, and it was written by Hélène Dujardin from the award-winning food blog Tartelette.  And it’s the book that currently resides on my bedside table! :)

Here’s what you’ll find in Plate to Pixel:
*Discover how to use natural light to capture stunning images
*Learn how to work with your camera modes and settings
*See how to fine-tune exposure
*Discover how to compose the most appetizing photo
*Tell your story with light
*Add pizzazz with herbs, sauces and easy styling techniques
*Learn trade secrets for photographing items such as ice cream and stews
*Develop an after-capture workflow process to improve your food photos

Hélène generously shares her knowledge of photography in this new book, there are a ton of helpful, beautiful photographs, and there are tips galore for anything and everything related to food photography and styling. It’s simply the book to have if you are in the business of photographing food.

I’m giving away FIVE copies of Plate to Pixel to RecipeGirl readers.  This giveaway is open to everyone- worldwide, though if you’re outside of the US, it may take a while to reach you.   This giveaway is now closed!  Randomly selected winners are commenters: #23, #118, #103, #242 and #274.  Thanks to all for entering!


370 Responses to “If You’re Into Food Photography and Styling…”

  1. postedJun 11, 2011 5:18 AM

    Lori…omg this post just speaks to me, soooo much! Thank you!!!! I love your dishes, and the board trick…from painting them and HOW you did it, sizes, etc to those clips, love it!

    I makeshifted some white boards with L-brackets taped on after attending a workshop with Matt of Matt Bites and Adam and put the tutorial on my blog.

    I am also taking a photography trip with Todd & Diane and can’t wait!

    And also one with Penny De Los Santos.

    And regret not going on Helene’s last trip. I would LOVE to win her book!!!

  2. postedJun 11, 2011 5:22 AM

    Thank you so much for this information. I’ve just recently started a blog but most of my cooking, therefore photography, is done in the evening and I’m having a lot of trouble with lighting — daylight isn’t usually an option for me. I’d love to have some suggestions of what type of REASONABLY PRICED solutions you have.

  3. postedJun 11, 2011 5:25 AM

    Oh my goodness! Lori, this is the first time I’ve visited your blog and I’m going to bookmark this post for sure because I think it’s great!! I love all of your photography “props” and you have such beautiful photos! The book sounds fabulous and I’d love to see what kind of tips it has to offer. Even though my photos aren’t great at the moment, they’ve certainly come a long way since I started my blog just over a year ago. I’d love to learn how I can make them even better!

  4. postedJun 11, 2011 5:26 AM

    What a perfect giveaway! This book is wishlisted on Amazon for me. I am planning on starting a blog as soon as I figure out what I want to do with it technically (e.g. self-hosted, where to buy my domain name, etc.) I’ve been carrying my Nikon D40 around and trying to figure out what makes my photos different from the ones that I love. This book would give me some fundamentals about lighting and styling that I just don’t have yet as a beginner, and I’d love to have it in my arsenal when getting started!!

  5. postedJun 11, 2011 5:26 AM

    This is very helpful. I am hoping to learn as much as possible to vastly improve my photos.

  6. postedJun 11, 2011 5:26 AM

    Wow, I’m impressed with all your props! I would love to have this book, I’m hoping to learn more about Helene’s beautiful food lighting techniques.

  7. postedJun 11, 2011 5:27 AM

    And I tweeted!!

  8. postedJun 11, 2011 5:28 AM

    I am like you and it is all about the food first and if I happen to take a good photo all the better… and yet I envy the stunning photos that many photographers take that make you want to take a fork and dive in. When I was at Eat, Write Retreat the stylists suggested having a spray bottle with water to make your salads, etc look freshly picked from the garden and not dried out. They also suggested brushing meat with olive oil to give it that glisten.

  9. postedJun 11, 2011 5:34 AM
    Alan Cooke

    I would love to get into food photography and styling. This would be a great resource to get started!!

  10. postedJun 11, 2011 5:35 AM
    Alan Cooke

    I tweeted this contest for you!

  11. postedJun 11, 2011 5:39 AM
    Emma Jackson

    Hi! I’m a super newbie to the wonderful world of blogging in general, and while I absolutely love to cook– I have absolutely NO background in “dressing” food for its pictorial debuts on my website. My husband left me his amazing digital camera with all the fancy features when he deployed, but as I always had him to take pictures, I know little to nothing beyond “point and shoot”. This is a huge deal for me to figure this stuff out on my own. I will be most excited to learn about these camera features, using natural light, and staging appetizing dishes. Thank you in advance!

    Needless say, I not only shared your post on Twitter (@emmajxn), but I also bookmarked this page for personal reference.

  12. postedJun 11, 2011 5:43 AM

    A trick I use is to almost always use a white plate, and have some sort of garnish, because it makes the colors of the food look all the more amazing!

  13. postedJun 11, 2011 5:45 AM

    I tweeted about it!

  14. postedJun 11, 2011 5:49 AM

    I would love to learn any tips on photography. It has become an interest over the past couple of months that I have just started messing around with but I would like to learn more about it.

  15. postedJun 11, 2011 5:50 AM

    I’m hoping to learn how to take pictures that don’t look flat….just pictures that really pop!

  16. postedJun 11, 2011 5:51 AM

    I shared on Twitter!

  17. postedJun 11, 2011 5:59 AM

    Great post! Laziness is my biggest problem. But yes, we can get great results at home with a little preparedness and patience. Love the idea of the boards with different finishes! I have the same problem Nelly does and I have a good camera, so I know it’s me, not the camera. Someday… We’re all a work in progress.

  18. postedJun 11, 2011 6:01 AM

    I tweeted it! And I didn’t even realize there was a book giveaway. I just thought the crafty folks that follow me would appreciate the great visuals you gave.

  19. postedJun 11, 2011 6:03 AM

    I have several TOTA lights with optional softbox’s for them. They’re great for creating natural light.

  20. postedJun 11, 2011 6:03 AM
    Rasha @ PBAddiction

    I loved reading what your process is like!
    I’m hoping to learn more editing techniques to really make food pictures stand out.

  21. postedJun 11, 2011 6:06 AM

    Awesome chance — I think the processing of the photo is just as important! You can really make a difference by editing to create a look of pop!

  22. postedJun 11, 2011 6:06 AM
    Rasha @ PBAddiction

    I also tweeted about this (@pb_addict)

  23. postedJun 11, 2011 6:21 AM

    awesome giveaway! my best pictures happen in the summer when i can keep our door open and get natural light in the kitchen even at 830 PM. or, on weekends when i have light from outside. i definitely want to get some folded cardstock or foam board for backgrounds, i don’t seeing my chairs or edge of table in my photos. i wish i had more room so set up a mini studio with some lights (on days w/o sun) or placed in front of a light filled window!!

  24. postedJun 11, 2011 6:28 AM
    Jill H

    I’m still a newbie at food photography. My biggest thing I learned so far is to use natural light. :)

  25. postedJun 11, 2011 6:55 AM

    Oh Lori..I soooo need this book. You think after 3 years of having a food blog I would know about food photography..but nope. I need to learn more about composition!!!

  26. postedJun 11, 2011 6:57 AM

    omg, would love to win that! I’ve been thinking about making those backgrounds, but haven’t made my way to home depot yet….

    my tip is to go to stores like Crate & Barrel, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc, and look at the clearance aisle: you can spot great dishes in sets of one or two to use as your props. Those are the only dishes I have in my kitchen :)

  27. postedJun 11, 2011 6:57 AM

    Sent a tweet out!!!!

  28. postedJun 11, 2011 7:05 AM

    I love seeing how you are making the boards. I’ve been thinking about doing something like that myself. (I already have the book so you don’t need to enter me in the giveaway.)

  29. postedJun 11, 2011 7:05 AM

    Definitely use white plate and also do not use house lighting, natural lighting is the best.

  30. postedJun 11, 2011 7:05 AM
    Wendy @ Celiacs in the House

    Lori, this post is so helpful for those of us who need a picture to really get it. Seeing your background boards and the process just clicked for me. I need a copy of this great book for more of those ‘I get it now’ moments.

  31. postedJun 11, 2011 7:10 AM

    What an awesome giveaway!
    I haven’t heard of this book before.
    Please enter me:)

    I struggle with light….I have NONE hardly in my kitchen. Sometimes I get so mad, I just put away my 5D and use my (((GASP))) iPhone! (shhhh)

  32. postedJun 11, 2011 7:11 AM

    I tweeted!

  33. postedJun 11, 2011 7:17 AM

    I have used an afternoon light source successfully (for me), as well as an area of my kitchen. A bit of knowledge could only enhance my efforts!

  34. postedJun 11, 2011 7:19 AM

    I have issues with lighting – although much of that is because I have a day job and thus am rarely home when the light is best. I’d love to know how to use artificial lighting. Haven’t invested in that yet but I’m thinking about it.

  35. postedJun 11, 2011 7:19 AM

    Thank you so much for the tips!!!! I have shared it on Fb and Twitter!!

  36. postedJun 11, 2011 7:20 AM

    My tips are to shoot at different times of day to see what light is best for your photos. That and take LOTS of shots, trying different angles, different spots of the dish to focus on, and from different distances.

  37. postedJun 11, 2011 7:23 AM

    I always shoot in daylight with no flash.
    Great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  38. postedJun 11, 2011 7:31 AM

    Wow, good tips! i wonder having a house as yours to place all the nice pottery and complements for the pictures. I live in a small apartment in Barcelona with not much natural ligth or space. Anyways I try to do my best, even that I really need a photography tutorial for my blog’s pics!

    Thanks and regards from Spain!

    I Shared it at Facebook!

  39. postedJun 11, 2011 7:31 AM

    I use the white board trick and it works great! I love the textures and colors of your boards. Great job!

  40. postedJun 11, 2011 7:35 AM

    This is such a wonderful post,Lori! It is very helpful,Thanks!!

    2 things that I have learnt:

    Switch off the flash
    Shoot in Natural light

  41. postedJun 11, 2011 7:39 AM

    LOVE the boards! Thanks for showing us how to make them!

  42. postedJun 11, 2011 7:50 AM

    Just started to focus more on food photography for my little german food blog and hope to learn more how to use the light in the write way, and how to make my own backgrounds (well your post already helped with that)

  43. postedJun 11, 2011 7:50 AM
    Amy B

    I would love to learn more about the food styling side of food photography!

  44. postedJun 11, 2011 8:03 AM

    thanks for this wonderful tutorial!

  45. postedJun 11, 2011 8:09 AM

    What a fun giveaway! I don’t have any tips or tricks for photographing food that you haven’t already talked about here. The best thing I know of is to use as much natural light as possible, even if that means you have to shoot on the floor of your dining room. Artificial light casts weird glows and reflections on the food, and rarely reflects true colors.

  46. postedJun 11, 2011 8:10 AM

    I shared on Facebook!

  47. postedJun 11, 2011 8:18 AM

    I’d like to learn how to use natural light in a small apartment. If that is possible. Also I rt your post!/cupcakessundry

  48. postedJun 11, 2011 8:19 AM

    I love your piles of dishes, fabrics, and placemats!

    The technical side doesn’t worry me so much as the styling aspect, which I why I want a copy of Helene’s book. The Penny de los Santos workshop with Creative Live was amazing, but I think having a reference book would be sooooo helpful to me.

  49. postedJun 11, 2011 8:20 AM

    I started baking last year…and now I wanna learn how to take beautiful photographs of them! I wanna have a copy of this book!

  50. postedJun 11, 2011 8:21 AM

    And I tweeted about it. =)

  51. postedJun 11, 2011 8:24 AM

    Wow, this is a nice giveaway, the book sounds great and I would simply love to learn more about how to take nice pictures for my blog!
    I only have a point and shoot and my tip is to never use flash, it just makes my pics look terrible. See, from my tip you can get how much I actually need this book! :-)

  52. postedJun 11, 2011 8:25 AM

    I’d love to win! I still have much to learn, but I am using more white dishes. Also, I’m going to play around with film again and I bought a Diana F+ camera. We’ll see what happens.

  53. postedJun 11, 2011 8:25 AM

    I tweeted the giveaway! Food Photography and Styling | via @AddThis #giveaway
    I am @KitchenspaceAna

  54. postedJun 11, 2011 8:25 AM
  55. postedJun 11, 2011 8:28 AM
    Miriam G

    I found your post via Tartelette, I’m a baker and small business owner, I’m trying to learn on food photography, thanks for tutorial! I shared on Twitter!

  56. postedJun 11, 2011 8:39 AM

    i love hélène… so incredibly talented. a couple of my tips would be to pay attention to composition, look at lots of food photos for inspiration of angles and shots, and to familiarize yourself with a good post processing application (just in case).

    thanks for this post!! great ideas and tips

  57. postedJun 11, 2011 8:39 AM

    tweeted your post as well!

  58. postedJun 11, 2011 8:50 AM

    I use white foamcore as a bounce, but I usually just balance it against the wall or some books — will be looking for those clips! Lara Ferroni had a tip on her site a while back about using inexpensive canvas painters’ drop cloths (well-ironed) as backgrounds. They work beautifully. Thank you for the board ideas! I see a weekend painting project in my future….

  59. postedJun 11, 2011 8:52 AM

    I’ve taken the pictures for my cheesecake website ( I have used both flash and available light. Kitchen counters, marble, stone, etc, make great background, but you have to watch what’s in the background. Watch your apperature to control depth of field, as use selective focus and throw the rest out of focus. Use a tripod, particularly when using available light.

  60. postedJun 11, 2011 9:04 AM

    I bought that book about two weeks ago. I havent finished it yet, but I’ve already seen a huge difference in my photos. I’m so grateful to Helene for sharing her wisdom!

    I’ve been wanting boards like that for ages, but my home depot only sells practically wall-sized pieces of wood.Ridic.

  61. postedJun 11, 2011 9:05 AM

    What a great post- thank you for sharing your amazing collection of props with us! I have to go get some of those clips for sure! Thanks again!!

  62. postedJun 11, 2011 9:09 AM
  63. postedJun 11, 2011 9:10 AM

    Me ha encantado tu idea de las maderas pintadas a dos caras, yo tengo una de color blanco que me hizo mi hermano pero te voy a copiar la idea, que cantidad de platos y de objetos de decoracion para las fotos que tienes, gracias por compartir con todos.

  64. postedJun 11, 2011 9:18 AM
    D McDade

    I tweeted about this! I love new books! :0)

  65. postedJun 11, 2011 9:22 AM

    I’m not sure this is really a “trick”, but use whatever Mother Nature throws at you. I didn’t have the best light outside one day in the middle of Winter, but I used the snow as my setting. What I lacked in light, I think i made up in “story”

  66. postedJun 11, 2011 9:26 AM


  67. postedJun 11, 2011 9:41 AM

    I need to learn everything about lighting!

  68. postedJun 11, 2011 9:43 AM

    I tweeted..!

  69. postedJun 11, 2011 9:44 AM

    I’m new to this photography and blogging thing so it’s been hit and miss with pictures for me. I did take my projects outside last week and used natural light and it was amazing what a difference that made! I used a bamboo table as my background and it really changed the whole feel of my pictures. Thank you for the tips on making your own board backdrop and thank you for the chance to win the book!

  70. postedJun 11, 2011 9:45 AM

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me!! I have recently been getting super frustrated with my lack of camera skills! Lighting seems to be my major problem but I think I could do with advice in all areas!! I love your painted boards – up til now I have just been using fabrics so its such a great idea – thank you so much! I will without doubt be following you from now on for more great advice!

  71. postedJun 11, 2011 9:45 AM

    Nice to see your setup Lori…I was just looking at my dining room this morning and thinking about my promise to myself to not let this hobby/addiction take over out there but I fear I’ve done a terrible job. Poor dining room table is getting moved further and further into living room space so I have room for table, storage, lights, etc. The good news though is that the room is actually being used; guess I’m making up for 19 years of only going out there twice a year?

    I have the Lowell lights too; it is nice to have something to call into action if Mother Nature is not cooperating isn’t it?

    Nice post and fun to see another food blogger’s ‘studio.’ I have the book already so not in the running for it…just wanted to simply comment!

    I use a water spritzer bottle and keep olive oil handy too but one thing that I love is copied from Tami with Running With Tweezers. A great big set of tweezers is so nice for setting up or changing small items without disrupting the dish. I got mine from Amazon; love these:

  72. postedJun 11, 2011 9:46 AM
  73. postedJun 11, 2011 9:47 AM

    I tend to shoot mostly with a 50mm portrait lens, on aperture priority usually at f5.6. And I am always checking my white balance. Oh and I shoot between 1/2 and 2 stops underexposed. I find that most Dslr light meters overcompensate and want things to be a bit darker than they should be.

  74. postedJun 11, 2011 9:56 AM

    I’m not really good enough yet to have any tips, but I absolutely need help with the set-up to get natural light.

  75. postedJun 11, 2011 9:57 AM

    What a fantastic giveaway! I’m not terribly gifted when it comes to photography but I am keen to pick up more tips on lighting.

  76. postedJun 11, 2011 9:58 AM
    Sephasaurus Rex

    Posted on facebook :)

  77. postedJun 11, 2011 10:01 AM
    M. @ V. Gourmet

    This is such a wonderful, instructive post — your creativity is inspirational! Having just recently begun a website for vegetarian recipes, I am new to the process of capturing food on film, but these suggestions want to make me run out to my local craft store and get cooking! I shared this on both of my social networking pages —!/VRecipes (via Facebook). Love it!

  78. postedJun 11, 2011 10:32 AM

    Hi Lori-what a great giveaway! My husband does most of my food photos and he always has our point and shoot camera set on Macro with the flash off. We have a huge screened in porch that we use to shoot photos 3 out of 4 of the seasons…kind of hard to shoot photos out there during a New England winter. YIKES!
    His next investment-a DSLR camera……….but I have to admit he does really well with what we have now……….
    Also, I cover my folding cutting board that I use when cutting out sewing patterns with white fabric when photographing……..we can use as much or as little of it to wrap around the table we’re using for light reflection.

  79. postedJun 11, 2011 11:07 AM

    I want to learn about Helene’s lighting technique! Wonderful post.

  80. postedJun 11, 2011 11:08 AM

    I’ve been meaning to buy the book, Lori–thanks for doing a giveaway! My one and only tip: shoot from close range, rather than zooming in.

  81. postedJun 11, 2011 11:09 AM

    I tweeted about it! @journeykitchen

  82. postedJun 11, 2011 11:11 AM

    I always use a good lens!

  83. postedJun 11, 2011 11:34 AM

    I will like to shot good pictures of the thing I do like macarons, pretzels with chocolate, cakes… And more. Im a chef and photographer of my own work and creation.
    Definitely I will love to have this book.

  84. postedJun 11, 2011 11:35 AM

    Such a good post. I do need tips. My photos aren’t too bad, but I haven’t progressed on further with them.

    I take my photos in my conservatory for the best possible light and find a white plate can be a good way of showing off your food. The macro setting on my camera is oft used, but a macro lense would be good too.

  85. postedJun 11, 2011 11:40 AM

    I have tweeted @tinnedtoms

  86. postedJun 11, 2011 11:47 AM

    I’d like to learn how to take beautiful photos that will make my COOKIES look prettier… Thanks for the giveaway!

  87. postedJun 11, 2011 11:48 AM

    I’ve shared on twitter :)

  88. postedJun 11, 2011 11:52 AM

    I LOVE photographing food–and I hope to be able to learn how to focus in more on detail! SO excited about this post!

  89. postedJun 11, 2011 11:55 AM

    My tips: I use the lighting under the cabinets in the kitchen to get that just right amount of light. They seem to work really well. I usually also take about a 1/2 dozen pics or so turning and touching each foodie dish. My friends love my pics and I love my simple camera.

    Hope to learn: I hope to learn more since I am just all trial and error. Any foodie pics tips would be awesome! I am sure there are many foodie tricks I don’t know and would love to try.

  90. postedJun 11, 2011 12:00 PM

    Shared…. :)

  91. postedJun 11, 2011 12:02 PM
    k. douris

    Hoping for a win on your wonderful book! Fingers crossed. Here is my tip:

    Go with opposites. Food does not always have to be on a shiny glossy plate or bowl. This goes for colors as well! For example instead of putting carrot soup in a bowl (obvious) shoot it inside a halved coconut ! Then you have vibrant colors of orange white and dark brown. Also try putting a pink cupcake for instance directly onto a dark brown bamboo place mat. My best photos have been on organic sufaces. Tweeted@! and facebooked!

  92. postedJun 11, 2011 12:03 PM

    Ok here’s my tip. When I’m photographing something goopy, like lasagna or a mushy dessert, I pop it in the fridge to firm up a bit. Works every time!

  93. postedJun 11, 2011 12:11 PM

    If the light coming through a window is too strong, you can cut it down without changing the color temperature by using plastic garbage bags, either white or black depending on how much light you need to cut out. You can layer them too or cut a bag open if the double layer cuts out too much light.

  94. postedJun 11, 2011 12:13 PM

    I want to learn how to take beautifull and diferents photos of food!! My tip? I use a white t-shirt very light to simulate some textures!!

    I need that book!!

  95. postedJun 11, 2011 12:15 PM
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