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 12:16 PM

    Tweeted it.

  2. postedJun 11, 2011 12:28 PM

    I love using different shaped plays and bowls. I would love to learn more about lighting and good styling. This book looks great!

  3. postedJun 11, 2011 12:31 PM

    I tweeted! (@mezalkb)

  4. postedJun 11, 2011 12:43 PM

    If you’re having trouble with flash this simple trick can help. (if you don’t have any other lighting setups, it’s a time-saver!) If your light is coming off too harsh or washing out your photo, simply hold or tape a piece of white or pastel-colored (your choice of color, and this can even be used to adjust the coloring in your photo) paper to the flash. Then simply bend the rest of the paper in the direction you want your light source to be, and voila! Easy light diffuser! :]

    Shared on twitter as well @9ezekiel :]

  5. postedJun 11, 2011 12:52 PM

    I try to take pictures in various rooms until I find the perfect lighting for that day. It definitely does change day to day depending on the time and weather. I’ve also used a kiddie table by our front door opened for some shots – works like a charm when the rest of the house isn’t so bright.
    BTW love seeing your setup and seeing your stash of food props! I’ve got to start a place to keep them all – they’re starting to clutter up my regular cabinet!

  6. postedJun 11, 2011 1:02 PM

    While mine is not half as sophisticated as yours, I set up a little mini studio to photograph food for my blog too. I like to call it my “foodio.” 🙂

    The two best pieces of advice for food photography I ever got was to use natural light and to use the macro setting on the camera. I use a 6 year old point and shoot, but I can still get some pretty decent shots that way.

    My food photography skills have improved so much since I started blogging. I want to go through the early posts and redo all the photos!

  7. postedJun 11, 2011 1:35 PM

    I would absolutely love to win that book, I’ve been eying it up for a while now. I also love your suggestions, I’m going to make some wooden boards like that in the future. I love how they look! My favorite tip or trick for pictures is using something to reflect the light. That is so important!

  8. postedJun 11, 2011 1:48 PM

    I shoot on a piece of barn wood provided by my brother. Look for odd props; they look great through the lens.

  9. postedJun 11, 2011 1:53 PM

    I have been wanting to make a few boards, but haven’t been able to find the time yet. But yours are so beautiful that they might be making their way to the top of my priority list!! My biggest thing that I’ve learned lately is to move back a bit – you don’t have to get super close up on the food. Let it tell a story!

  10. postedJun 11, 2011 1:56 PM

    My most successful photos happen when I use natural light. It’s tough in the winter to get recipes tested before the sun goes down, but that natural light makes all the difference!

  11. postedJun 11, 2011 2:08 PM


  12. postedJun 11, 2011 2:16 PM

    I have slowly moved from shooting on automatic, to taking photos on Aperture setting. The next big change will happen this summer – I will switch to manual, which will enable me to control everything myself. It’s a slow process, but I am enjoying every little lesson.
    Thanks for sharing your “photo studio”, Lori:) I love your boards:)

  13. postedJun 11, 2011 2:17 PM
    Northside Jill

    Thank you so much, this is very useful for me and for some of my twitter followers (tweeted!).

  14. postedJun 11, 2011 2:17 PM

    I Tweeted about the giveaway:)

  15. postedJun 11, 2011 4:04 PM

    Really liked the boards you made, I will have to try to make mine ;o)
    My best tip is to close up to see the texture of the dish, specially when something is nearly falling of the plate or bowl…
    But I really need to improve my technique!
    Shared on FB!
    Crossing my fingers!

  16. postedJun 11, 2011 6:00 PM

    I’d like to learn more about focus versus fading. I’m not sure how to keep the food in focus, but the props in the background faded. I see pictures like that a lot of food blogs, but haven’t figured it out myself.

  17. postedJun 11, 2011 6:04 PM

    I have a point n’shoot Canon, even though it’s maybe not the best camera, but I’ve managed to get some really nice pictures after learning that you can control “white balance” to give more life and warmth to your photos. I really would like to win a copy to keep learning. Also great post & it’s amazing that you do a worldwide giveaway. Thanks! (:

  18. postedJun 11, 2011 6:26 PM

    I prefer to shoot in natural light, but when that isn’t possible I’ve found that when I use a bounce flash I can get decent results.

  19. postedJun 11, 2011 7:28 PM
  20. postedJun 11, 2011 8:48 PM

    Those tips on creating different backgrounds using boards are really cool. I have done up a couple of boards that way, but not using the wood stain. Can’t wait to try that next. Your prop collection is pretty extensive.

    Plate to Pixel is a neat item for a giveaway. Keep my fingers crossed. Hope I get it!

    I use triple fold foam core boards for reflectors, they are very handy while covering several angles.

  21. postedJun 11, 2011 8:59 PM

    I would love a copy of this book. I don’t blog but I’ve been wanting to make a book as a present for my mom and aunts with my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s recipes but my photos just don’t have that vibrancy- would love to learn more about depth of field. One tip I do have success with is trying to shoot from different angles- simple but it really helps sometimes.

  22. postedJun 11, 2011 9:06 PM

    This is great info!! I always use natural light too and white boards to reflect the light.

  23. postedJun 11, 2011 9:13 PM

    I’m new to the blog world, so I’m still pretty laid back about it still. I usually take food pics on the back patio table. The lighting is decent and it works most of the time. I love your ideas!

  24. postedJun 11, 2011 9:25 PM

    Well, I’d love to be able to make decent ice-cream photos. So far, it’s been really tough.
    Great idea this giveaway, and I am using your tip on photo surfaces.

    I’d love to have one copy of Helene’s book. I would patiently wait all the way the book would have to reach Spain 😉

    You can see my comment on my FB: (in Spanish, but with your link)


  25. postedJun 11, 2011 9:30 PM

    Ups, sorry, my profile in FB:

    Tengounhorno Ysécómousarlo
    There you’ll find my link to your post.

  26. postedJun 11, 2011 9:49 PM

    I have a food blog and I am always looking for tips to photograph my food!

  27. postedJun 11, 2011 10:31 PM

    Thx for sharing all of these tips. You will be seeing some put to use shortly when I launch my aahsome blog.

  28. postedJun 11, 2011 11:30 PM

    I use a point-and-shoot and have tried to maximize it’s capacity by using the wide-lens feature and by using “white balance”. I’m still training myself to get my subjects closer to the natural light. I feel like I’m faking it if whatever I’m shooting isn’t where it really is in my house. I need to get over that and get my subjects closer to a window.

  29. postedJun 11, 2011 11:45 PM

    What a super fab post this is! I’m almost embarrassed to say what tip I learned only a year ago- shut the flash *off* when photographing food. My photos improved greatly once I did. I still have a longggg way to go though!

  30. postedJun 12, 2011 1:59 AM
    Meredyth H

    I like to always have a utensil of some sort in the photo to offer size perspective. But I have a LOT to learn about food photography!!

  31. postedJun 12, 2011 2:53 AM

    I love this. I am so new to blogging and digital photography that I just finally learned to shut the flash off on my little point and shoot. Would love to win this book. I am linking this post to a post I am doing on Help for New Bloggers. Thank you so much.

  32. postedJun 12, 2011 2:53 AM

    Always looking for resources to help make blog photos better! Thanks, Arlene

  33. postedJun 12, 2011 3:08 AM

    Being a new blogger and an old photographer, I am learning how to re-think how I approach the subject with my first ever digital camera. Food is a new genre for me, as I am used to photographing people and animals with 35mm film (and a flash boot at night). ‘Am finding that I love using only natural light and I am seeing food in a whole new and delightful way. Helene has an airy and clean style with white which allows the food to stand out, as it should. I could compare her to Mowielicious … both are artists with the food styling, and both use white, yet there is a difference in their own personal touches. I am not looking to copycat Helene, and I am unable to go to her seminars, and so I will have to learn what she has to teach from her book. If I were to combine my own tricks with her “eyes”, there would be great improvement in a shorter amount of time. I need to do this.

  34. postedJun 12, 2011 3:36 AM

    What great ideas! Especially the boards. I get so tired of shooting on the same 3 surfaces in my house. I would love to learn some more styling techniques for the food. I feel like I am not always that creative or mine just looks boring.

  35. postedJun 12, 2011 3:43 AM
  36. postedJun 12, 2011 4:52 AM

    I am hoping to learn how to use the settings on my camera if I win!

  37. postedJun 12, 2011 4:59 AM

    I am hoping to learn more about Lighting!!!! It’s so key to great photos and I find that it is the area in which I can use the most help!!!

  38. postedJun 12, 2011 5:00 AM

    I shared your article on Facebook!

  39. postedJun 12, 2011 5:28 AM

    What an excellent post! I struggle with my pictures because I really dont know how to use the features of my camera. I also love this because I am tired of my work island or dining table being the background for my photos!
    Thanks for the tips and offering this super-cool giveaway.

  40. postedJun 12, 2011 5:32 AM

    We are working on our website for our dinner delivery service – dinners on the porch and need to start tweeting and FB photos of our food so all tips are great!

  41. postedJun 12, 2011 5:41 AM

    MY photos are improving all the time, but still have a ways to go. Using light is my major problem. Need help there.

    Thanks for these tips.

  42. postedJun 12, 2011 5:45 AM
  43. postedJun 12, 2011 6:17 AM

    I need to learn some ways to quickly get good food photos. I don’t have the patience for elaborate setups.

  44. postedJun 12, 2011 6:25 AM

    Great post!
    My usual technique is to shoot a gazillion pictures on my kitchen table or chairs until something looks good. It’s pretty random.
    I love the idea of the background boards. I also love all your dishes!

  45. postedJun 12, 2011 6:32 AM

    I have a great desire to learn everything I can about food photography. These were some great tips. My first step will be to get a better camera as the one I have now is a little on the cheap side.

  46. postedJun 12, 2011 6:53 AM

    I make martingale dog collars for big dogs when I am not baking. I created a white box for photographing them. I bought a large square plastic cube box from Target and added a clip on LED light.

  47. postedJun 12, 2011 6:57 AM

    I want this book so bad! I wish I had a great tip or trick, but really, the only thing i know is that practice will eventually make perfect, even if it takes hundreds of shots to get there!

  48. postedJun 12, 2011 7:04 AM

    My trick to good photos? Um, can I share my tricks to mediocre photos?? 🙂 I try to use natural light. 🙂 Great giveaway!!

  49. postedJun 12, 2011 7:15 AM

    I rarely use my flash. I don’t have much natural light in my kitchen so I try shooting at all times of the day in various spots in my kitchen until I find just the right place. I have found that the kitchen over my sink is the best source I need to make some of those boards to sit on the sink! that would work perfect!!!

  50. postedJun 12, 2011 7:19 AM
  51. postedJun 12, 2011 7:20 AM

    I need to make up some of those boards too 😉 Right now most of my shots are coming off of two places, an oak table, and a cedar hope chest, if its in the morning, we are on oak, if it is past noon we are on the hope chest.

  52. postedJun 12, 2011 7:22 AM

    I don’t always serve the recipe “as is” for my food shots; for example, if basil is supposed to be torn, I place an intact leaf here and there because it’s infinitely more attractive than a little green/brown shred … 🙂

  53. postedJun 12, 2011 7:24 AM
    Nadine Bernardo

    Omg I have to join. Can I just say that I love your site and I’m trying everything on it! 🙂 ok the one tip I can share is that you always have to set the white balance. People don’t do this that’s why they end up with photos that are darker, yellowish or not the right color. Always check that you get the right white balance to get the perfect photo! 🙂

  54. postedJun 12, 2011 7:27 AM

    I learned to use macro to take better pics. I need*, want to use light better!

  55. postedJun 12, 2011 7:48 AM

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post! I know what’s on my agenda when the kids are back in school.

    My helpful tip is to practice, practice, practice. Try shooting at different times of day, in different lighting and MOVE around the food.

    I’ve been hoping to get read this book and would love to win!

  56. postedJun 12, 2011 7:50 AM

    I tweeted the post too 🙂 Happy to share such wonderful info and giveaway!

  57. postedJun 12, 2011 7:54 AM

    Yay for an international giveaway. Photography is something that really eludes me, I’m just not too into it. This was an awesome post though, it really helped me understand. I’ve been seeing those painted boards everywhere!

    I’d love to learn more about angles, I never get it right!

  58. postedJun 12, 2011 7:58 AM

    Great post! I love all of the tips you gave and can’t wait to try some of them out!

  59. postedJun 12, 2011 8:03 AM

    i always try to shoot in natural light but since I only have one window in my apartment and theres a building 5 feet away from it my natural light is scarce. so i guess i would like to learn how to take good photos in these circumstances.

  60. postedJun 12, 2011 8:03 AM
  61. postedJun 12, 2011 8:04 AM

    Thanks for sharing your tips…for myself I depend on natural light a lot and I feel that the right props and backdrops are essential to a good photo. I am learning to be more creative in my composition and excited as there’s just so much to learn about food photography and food styling!

  62. postedJun 12, 2011 8:08 AM

    Just tweeted..:D

  63. postedJun 12, 2011 8:10 AM
  64. postedJun 12, 2011 8:12 AM

    These are some really great tips! I had actually just resolved to stop caring so much about the photos on my blog. I found I wasnt blogging because the photos just took too much time!

  65. postedJun 12, 2011 8:37 AM

    I’ve found that taking multiple pictures of the food from different angles helps. that way when I write something about it, I have many pictures to choose from!

  66. postedJun 12, 2011 8:39 AM

    I just shared this on facebook!

  67. postedJun 12, 2011 8:40 AM

    Hi Lori – great post – it’s always interesting to read about how great food photographers compose their shots!

    I always struggle with my food photography though I think a large part of it is that I get frustrated too quickly with it – I don’t have alot of space in my house (as would otherwise buy lots more props etc!).

    However, I have a big collection of different coloured/patterned scarves which I often use to sit my dish on when taking photos! I don’t know if you could call that a proper ‘tip’ but it’s a trick I certainly use to try and make for a more interesting background to my photos!

    Thanks for the useful post and the giveaway – have retweeted!

    Hungry Jenny x

  68. postedJun 12, 2011 9:17 AM

    What a fantastic giveaway! I’m new to food blogging and have been learning a lot every new post, including one of my most important lessons – turn off the flash! I’d love to learn more about props and styling and have read posts on your site for some inspiration in the past. Thank you for the great tips!

  69. postedJun 12, 2011 9:23 AM
    Naomi Bussinger

    !!! My facebook page is overwhelmed with all my ameture attempts of taking pretty pictures of the food I make. I JUST purchased my very first digital SLR and would LOVE to have this book, I think it would help me a lot. I’m currently working on setting up my own food blog and would love to have this book so that I can take better pictures for it. 🙂 Shared on facebook!!

  70. postedJun 12, 2011 9:24 AM

    Shared this! loving the tips … Thx

  71. postedJun 12, 2011 9:25 AM
    Naomi Bussinger

    Shared on facebook 🙂

  72. postedJun 12, 2011 9:36 AM

    Love love LOVE this! I’ve recently started photographing my gluten free recipes and posting them on my blog, but I don’t have a terribly fancy camera. I can definitely do the backdrop boards, though – that’s a fantastic idea. I’ve found that brightly colored plates make everything pop visually, and I’ve started experimenting with fabric as a backdrop. Thanks so much for all your tips!

    Shared on Facebook:

    and Twitter:!/patti_wigington/status/79947748119552000

    outside the lines

  73. postedJun 12, 2011 9:38 AM

    I would love this book! I’ve just recently started adding better pics of food to my blog. It sure helps to make it look more appetizing 🙂

  74. postedJun 12, 2011 9:41 AM

    I tweeted your giveaway!

  75. postedJun 12, 2011 10:11 AM

    I love natural lighting, other than that Im just learning. that book would help! thank you

  76. postedJun 12, 2011 10:17 AM
    Dottie W

    Posted this on Twitter already! Great blog, thank you for showing us your amazing collection of props – very jealous! I just started in food photography (I had always done landscape or portraits before), but my natural calling came back to food (as my love for cooking did as well). My only trick is my little soft box with a strong, hot light on each side to soften any shadows. I also try and wait (if I can bear it), for the food to cool down to avoid any steam.
    My biggest drawback right now is my lack of dishes 🙁 Will have to attempt to change that 🙂

  77. postedJun 12, 2011 10:50 AM

    I recently ventured into food writing.. and I recently bought an awesome camera… would like put these two together and create awesome pics and lovely food…. and finally an international giveaway… something long awaited!!!!!!!!!1

  78. postedJun 12, 2011 10:52 AM


  79. postedJun 12, 2011 11:04 AM

    I suck at photography! I want to take a course later this summer. This book might greatly help my photography skills until then! Thanks for a chance to win!

  80. postedJun 12, 2011 11:04 AM
    Shani Ablicki

    What a great idea for a book. I’m not an expert in photography but using your ideas and tips could make my photos even better. I look forward to reading more of your ideas. 🙂

  81. postedJun 12, 2011 11:07 AM

    Shared the contest on my Facebook Profile!

  82. postedJun 12, 2011 11:07 AM

    Thanks Lori!
    I do pretty much the same for the backgrounds.
    And with my photography, I try different angles, move around the subject, move props around, try different color combinations… Sometimes what I had in mind does not work, sometimes yes… that’s why trying different things helps me to find the right picture.

  83. postedJun 12, 2011 11:07 AM

    Wow, great blog post! I’m a caterer just starting to blog! The book would totally help!

  84. postedJun 12, 2011 11:07 AM

    I have SO much to learn about food photography. I just got a new camera and would love to learn more about all the different settings. I need to open the manual and start reading 🙂

  85. postedJun 12, 2011 11:07 AM
    Amanda Thompson

    I would love to learn more about the different modes and settings on my camera and which lenses are better for different types of shots.

  86. postedJun 12, 2011 11:08 AM

    Can never take too many photos! I take approximately 4-10 photos of anything I make, in different angles, so I can have options of which photo comes out the best. Still looking to learn, so hoping this book with help me since I LOVE to cook and bake and share photos with my friends and family!

  87. postedJun 12, 2011 11:16 AM

    I just bought a new camera to take pictures of my cakes I bake (hobby I don’t sell them)… I would love this book and the tips.

  88. postedJun 12, 2011 11:18 AM

    My trick is to just take lots and lots of shots. Out of 100 pictures, 10 turn out pretty good. Out of 10 shots, I’m lucky to get 1. I’d love to learn some food styling tricks!

  89. postedJun 12, 2011 11:22 AM

    Lori, thanks for the great post. I am absolutely dismal when it comes to photographing my baked goods – in real life they look delicious, and then I shoot these one-dimensional, flat looking photos – sometimes with camera glare and bad backgrounds you can’t even tell they’re cookies! LOL Some great ideas in this post – why didn’t I ever think to use fabric to spice up the photo shoot?
    And btw, love your blog. 🙂

  90. postedJun 12, 2011 11:35 AM

    Great tips on making the boards! I use a lot of place mats, too, but I love the idea of the different colored boards. I have a ton of stuff that I’d love to learn about food photography so I would LOVE to win this book.

  91. postedJun 12, 2011 11:35 AM

    This is awesome! I just lugged a bunch of wood back from Home Depot recently to do this exact same thing!

  92. postedJun 12, 2011 11:37 AM

    Looks like your having fun Lori..I’ve been doing this for years..a great source if anyone wants to save a few bucks check to see if there is any construction going on in your area. Usually most new construction sites have scrap plywood laying around on the ground from roofing that you can use at basically no cost. Try using old water based latex paints, primers or water based stains some you can mix together for custom colors simply thin them out with water. Try weatherizing the wood to give it an interesting look.

  93. postedJun 12, 2011 11:37 AM

    I just tweeted the post! 🙂

  94. postedJun 12, 2011 11:40 AM

    I’m so excited to learn new tips. I’ve been following you for a while now and your food is delicious and easy. You’ve inspired me to start my own thing on FB. I can’t wait to post some super pics! As far as pics go, I love contrasting colors such as white on black, light on dark, etc. I think color and angle are everything!

  95. postedJun 12, 2011 11:41 AM

    PS… i share your tips all the time so naturally, i shared this one! 😉

  96. postedJun 12, 2011 11:46 AM

    I use natural light when I take my photos and prop a foil covered board up next to my food arrangement, so that the light can bounce back and create a brighter photo. Photoshop always helps too ; ) I would love to learn more photo staging tips!

  97. postedJun 12, 2011 11:57 AM
    Martha Lee Asarisi

    I love your facebook page and you publish the most amazing recipes too!

  98. postedJun 12, 2011 12:02 PM

    Tip…I take my food to different rooms in the house to get different backgrounds and lighting. i set the dish on the piano top (great reflection), chairs, tables, wood & tile floors, marble bathroom countertops, etc.

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