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 12, 2011 12:06 PM
    Mike Hamm

    Nice tips. I’ve been dabbling in food photography. It’s kind of fun. I’d like to get good at food styling too. Seems like they really go hand-in-hand. I always shoot from several different angles. Sometimes the picture looks flat at one angle and then it will suddenly pop at a different angle.
    I’m always looking to learn more.

  2. postedJun 12, 2011 12:08 PM
    Mike Hamm

    Oh, shared on Facebook too. 🙂

  3. postedJun 12, 2011 12:12 PM
    Laura Scott

    As one that loves cooking and used to do a great deal of photography, this truly intrigues me. I always want to have the tools at hand to do my best. This book would be such an asset!

  4. postedJun 12, 2011 12:18 PM

    Love all the tips. I’m just trying to learn as I go. I don’t have a photography tip but I have one for cleaning paint brushes that have dried paint or stain on them. Take white vinegar and heat it up to almost boiling. Set brushes in the vinegar and let it soak for awhile. You will ba amazed at how it works.

    Love your blog

  5. postedJun 12, 2011 12:23 PM

    FYI: A few quick tips if you use natural lighting and don’t have a backlight and would like to increase the lighting on an object try using a small adjustable mirror. It can be positioned to reflect lighting to the backside of an object reducing any shadows. Another trick if you have no mirror or backlight try making a cheap reflector using tin foil mounted to a piece of cardboard.

  6. postedJun 12, 2011 12:28 PM

    Photography has always been my passion and I’ve always loved good food. So, when I combined the two I found something I truly love.
    Tip: shopping thrift and second hand stores for utensils keeps things cheap and lets you look for unique items.
    Shared this on Facebook as 5ive $ Feasts.

  7. postedJun 12, 2011 12:33 PM

    i am no food photographer but would love to learn how so i can incorporate some pictures into my family recipe book, i would love to learn what the best settings on the camera are for photographing food. I would love to win the book!

  8. postedJun 12, 2011 12:48 PM

    I’d really like to learn more about lighting when natural light isn’t available.

  9. postedJun 12, 2011 1:11 PM

    Wow this post just blew me away. I have wanted to start a blog but know I need a better camera. I’m going to look into the one you use. Also thanks for sharing all your ‘props’ photos. I have so much to learn.

    Would LOVE to win a copy of the book. I have photographed some of my dishes but they don’t look all that great. I know this and your blog post will help me greatly. Thanks NJ

  10. postedJun 12, 2011 1:20 PM

    When I do take pictures of food or anything in general I always try and use natural light. I’ll take it outside and if i have to to make it look nifty set it right in the middle of my garden with all the plants ive used to create it surrounding it.

  11. postedJun 12, 2011 1:21 PM

    tweeted about this as well:0

  12. postedJun 12, 2011 1:31 PM

    Wow!! You make food photography look easy! I would love that book to help my skills develop!

  13. postedJun 12, 2011 1:32 PM

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this site by way of a tweet on twitter (which I retweeted!) and I posted a link on my facebook page too. I’ve got no tips to share since I’m still pretty new when it comes to sharing on my blog; but I’m really interested in this post and the tips you’ve provided here, I’d love to learn more about better showcasing the food and items I share. I’m off to read through the rest of your blog, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far!

  14. postedJun 12, 2011 1:36 PM
    Christine J

    I love the board ideas! Your prop collection is pretty nice. And what a great giveaway — this one is on my Amazon wish list! 🙂

  15. postedJun 12, 2011 1:58 PM

    i try to take a picture before my boyfriends eats the food!

  16. postedJun 12, 2011 1:58 PM

    that comment sounded bad…it should have been a singular boyfriend…not plural!

  17. postedJun 12, 2011 2:02 PM

    I would love to learn more about maximizing my camera’s settings for awesome food photography.

  18. postedJun 12, 2011 2:50 PM

    Tweeted it and also brought it 2 attention of some photo students I know.
    PS I am married 2 a pro fotog. U do very good job of explaining things to the artistically challenged !

  19. postedJun 12, 2011 3:16 PM

    Hi Lori, I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now and particularly love your photos… If, after reading this book, I’m able to take half as good (ok, lets be honest, 10% as good) photos as yours are, then I’ll be very happy 🙂

    Regards from Serbia 🙂

  20. postedJun 12, 2011 3:18 PM

    I put glycerine on some of my food to make it look juicy and fresh.

  21. postedJun 12, 2011 3:19 PM

    I tweeted about this article and giveaway.

  22. postedJun 12, 2011 3:19 PM

    I shared this on my Facebook.

  23. postedJun 12, 2011 3:40 PM
    Kim- Liv Life

    What a useful post! I’ve recently been reading about painting the boards and have that project on my summer to do list. Currently I use simple scrapbooking papers that I found at Michaels for backgrounds, my favorites are some of those with texture.
    Funny, I’ve seen people use those board backgrounds and was alway envious of the really neat weathered tables that they had! Thanks for sharing the secret!

  24. postedJun 12, 2011 3:57 PM

    I’ve been working hard on my photos and agree that natural light is the way to go. Unfortunately it’s usually dark when I’m cooking but I’ve tried to make a few more things on weekends. I did buy a small tabletop photo studio which has helped!

  25. postedJun 12, 2011 4:14 PM

    I have been trying to take photos of food for my blog and I seem to be NOT good at it! I have tried many different things, such as: different kidns of bowls, plates, using EVERY light in the kitchen plus flashlights to make sure the lighting is sufficient, I have tried tilting things to get a good shadow to light ratio.
    I don’t know what to do to take better photos and so I would love to learn some better ways to take incredible food photos so that I can take pictures of the things I create for my blog. I don’t have many readers…only one person ever comments and so I want to get more people to check out my blog! I feel this would help.
    Does the book teach about finding time to create fun things and take pictures of it? Time is hard for me!:)
    I also want to learn how to take action shots of food…such as pouring things. I don’t have a tripod and so to take pictures of things as I pour or mix is really hard to do one handed!!!
    I’m so excited! I never win, this would be the icing on the cake for making fun food fotos!

  26. postedJun 12, 2011 4:21 PM
    Tamara B

    I love to bake and people are always telling me to sell my cookies, muffins etc. Now if I could learn how to photograph them to look as good as they taste….maybe I could sell some of my baked goods. My favorite way to shoot is with natural light. I’ve taken workshops on landscape photography, but haven’t had the opportunity to take any workshops for food photography. I definitely shared this link on my FB page as I know some very talented photographers who are always wanting to learn!

  27. postedJun 12, 2011 4:21 PM

    I facebooked about it!

  28. postedJun 12, 2011 5:07 PM
    Laura O.

    I’m just starting out as I’m opening a bakery and cafe in the fall and am trying to shoot my own photos for my menus and website. Thanks for all the great tips!

  29. postedJun 12, 2011 6:00 PM
    Janelle King

    My problem when I try to take pictures of my food it always come up looking terrible. I would love to learn how to take better pictures.

  30. postedJun 12, 2011 6:25 PM

    A tip to good photography is to practice!!

  31. postedJun 12, 2011 6:44 PM

    I am so happy I came acoss your post through my reader! I have been battling for months on starting my own blog but because I don’t know how to use my camera that well, I haven’t done so yet! I am willng to learn everything and soak it all up!

  32. postedJun 12, 2011 7:03 PM
    Melissa Liberatore

    For the past couple of years I’ve been dabbling in the hobby of food-ography as I call it. I use a variety of tableclothes but have found it is especially fun using satin/cotton scarves as a background for images – they are very inexpensive at yard sales and Goodwill and come in a wide range of colors and patterns. Thanks for this great post on painting your own backdrops – love that idea!

  33. postedJun 12, 2011 7:15 PM

    I shoot most of my pictures on our sun porch. It does get tough in the winter months, though. I usually don’t get the food ready before the sun starts going down. I do have a light set up in the basement, but sometimes I get lazy and don’t want to lug the food down. The book looks fantastic and I would love to check it out.

  34. postedJun 12, 2011 7:25 PM

    Thank you for posting this info!!! This is something I really want to learn about! I’m currently using a roll of wrapping paper as my back drop and just trying to use the natural light or lights already in the room. I have a couple different colors that I use depending on the food. Thanks again for all the great info!

  35. postedJun 12, 2011 7:27 PM

    Posted on Twitter @whatchamakinnow!

  36. postedJun 12, 2011 7:38 PM
    Manette Gutterman

    I’ve got more to learn about aperture. I also need to practice using different lenses. Thanks for the chance to win this great book!

  37. postedJun 12, 2011 7:40 PM

    A terrific post! Off to HD to get some board! Tip: I sometimes use salt cellars (footed) and “baby spoons” to shoot puddings/ice creams/bread puddings etc – it’s much easier to handle/style something smaller (IMO) – and it gives the reality of a “grown up” serving! Would love to explore the book!

  38. postedJun 12, 2011 7:41 PM

    I would LOVE to know how to take some amazing pictures of my creations! Thanks for sharing your tips on creating boards. I’ve always wanted to know how to make food look “commercial ready”!

  39. postedJun 12, 2011 7:56 PM

    Such an info-packed post, thanks! I would love to have a copy of Helene’s book – it’s definitely on my list. I just plain need to dig into my camera more, and know this book would help.

  40. postedJun 12, 2011 7:59 PM

    I tweeted, too!

  41. postedJun 12, 2011 8:55 PM

    Thank you for your great tips in your post! Such helpful info!
    I hope to learn more about food styling and lighting.

  42. postedJun 12, 2011 8:56 PM

    I’m suffering horribly from food composition and positioning.. I would love to learn how to get the most light as well.

  43. postedJun 12, 2011 8:58 PM

    I tweeted

  44. postedJun 12, 2011 8:59 PM

    I need this book! I read photography books but they never seem to be what I am looking for, since they normally focus on landscapes and portraits. I need a book that focuses on food.

  45. postedJun 12, 2011 9:01 PM

    I think these board are ideal background for photos since they all seem to be a matte finish, I really struggle with glares on countertops. White dishes are the way to go.

  46. postedJun 12, 2011 10:21 PM
    Nicole @

    I’ve just published my own recipe book and have no experience in photography. I have an Olympus camera and am such a novice that I don’t know how to use it properly. I love taking photos of my food and need some great tips on how to do this for beginners, this is what I would like to learn more about. Your information about creating own boards has provided me with so much inspiration, thank you, I believe I can learn these tricks too. Have re tweeted your tweet.

  47. postedJun 13, 2011 3:29 AM

    I would love to learn how to deal with the awful lighting in my kitchen!

  48. postedJun 13, 2011 3:30 AM

    It´great!! i´d like to learn more about stylish photo to take better photos to my blog!! I´m from spain (santiago de compostela) and, i´d love to have a copy of this book!

    I shared this in my facebook (

    my blog


  49. postedJun 13, 2011 4:19 AM
    The Little Welsh

    This is a fantastic post and it’s really shed some light (excuse the pun!) on some of, what I’ve considered to be, the mysteries of good food photography. I’m a passionate food blogger and love food photography but always feel frustrated at not having the right props, lighting or knowledge even to take good pictures. One thing I learnt early on and still practice is using a large A3 piece of white paper and proping it up on my laptop – this provides the perfect angle for the paper to bounce the light back on to the food! Plate To Pixel would be a huge help to me and make my love of food photography a lot less stressful!! This has been a fab post too by the way and I found the tips on fabrics and crockery especially useful. I’ve just tweeted this too (@TheLittleWelsh)

  50. postedJun 13, 2011 5:17 AM

    I love that you were painting your own backdrops. I’m definitely going to try that. I don’t only take food photos but also photos of my painted items. I think that interesting backdrops will add to whatever feeling I’m trying to convey. Also love your stockpile of dishes and fabric swatches. I’ve recently started doing that and found out what a difference it makes in taking an interesting shot. I hope to keep improving as time goes on. I never suspected that I would also become a lover of photography. Sweet! Thank you for the post Lori!

  51. postedJun 13, 2011 5:22 AM

    I’ve shared this post on twitter and my Facebook page as well!

  52. postedJun 13, 2011 5:56 AM

    I am just getting started with food photography and would like to learn the best way to get the best pics of my food.

  53. postedJun 13, 2011 5:58 AM

    I hope to learn how to better use artificial light sources when photographing food. I do most of my cooking on weeknights after dark so I don’t have the option to use natural light.

  54. postedJun 13, 2011 6:46 AM
    Jean | Delightful Repast

    Lori, this sounds like something I could really make good use of! Here’s hoping!

  55. postedJun 13, 2011 7:26 AM

    I’m hoping to start a blog about Soul food and how to prepare it healthy. High blood pressure is one of the number one silent killers in the African American community. I want to show how I lowered my weight, and blood pressure, and still enjoyed those “home-cooked” recipes passed down from generation to generation.

  56. postedJun 13, 2011 7:27 AM

    Great ideas! I am just beginning, but this would be so helpful to get started. Thanks!

  57. postedJun 13, 2011 8:07 AM

    Thanks for the tips. I am a food blogger too and am constantly trying to improve my pictures, can’t wait to try some of your tips. The biggest thing I want to learn is how to capture the natural light better and to improve my styling! Hope I win 🙂

  58. postedJun 13, 2011 9:01 AM

    I would love to learn more about using light. It’s hard because I’ve heard the best time to snap pictures is during the day around 2 p.m. and I’m never home at that time with a full time job during the day. I also want to learn more creative ways to display my food.

  59. postedJun 13, 2011 9:39 AM

    I have started my own little baking blog about all the receipes I bake. So far I haven’t included any photos, as I am still learning about the different techniques. This post you put up, was full of so many good ideas and tips and I will forsure be using them for my little blog. The biggest thing I want to learn more about is capturing the photos with the right amount of light.
    Thanks fo your tips.

  60. postedJun 13, 2011 9:51 AM

    I would love to learn more about lighting and placement. I’m not too creative when it comes to plating food and making it look pretty!

  61. postedJun 13, 2011 9:52 AM

    I tweeted about this giveaway. My handle is @mannadonn

  62. postedJun 13, 2011 10:36 AM

    That book looks awesome. One thing I do often is use my custom white balance setting. It is a life saver!

  63. postedJun 13, 2011 10:41 AM

    I find when I use my 200 lense on my Nikon that i get the clearest shots. But what I would love to learn more about it creating a great pic when you dont have all of the lights and backdrops. Just using natural light and what i have in my kitchen or backyard.
    I also ‘liked’ and linked on my facebook page!

  64. postedJun 13, 2011 11:10 AM

    I am no good at photography although I would love to be! I want to learn to use natural lighting. I LOVE pictures that use a lot of natural lighting.

  65. postedJun 13, 2011 11:12 AM
    Holly H.

    Thank you for the tips – I keep wanting to start my own blog (after stalking so many of you) and appreciate the small tips in photography – thank you for the great post!

  66. postedJun 13, 2011 12:27 PM

    I’ve been very interested in this book, and I’ve seen the board tip in a few places lately. The best thing I do is go outside to shoot – the light in my place is terrible for photography, so I take my food out onto my patio. Otherwise, I just do the best I can with what I’ve got, and sometimes play with a light box.

  67. postedJun 13, 2011 12:29 PM

    Wow this is great information and ideas! I just bought this book not long ago and love it. Thanks for the interesting tips. This is my first visit linked from Bakerella. Have a great week and happy cooking.

  68. postedJun 13, 2011 12:37 PM

    I’m still a point and shoot camera user, but I love the macro setting – it makes my photos look like I’m a beginner using a better camera!

  69. postedJun 13, 2011 12:52 PM

    When my kids were born, 9 yrs. ago I took almost all my pics with an old 35mm my father-in-law got from a pawn shop. I didn’t even know how to use most of the settings, but I really liked how many of the pics turned out. I’ve since learned from PW’s blog the effect I achieved is called bokkeh (spelling? pronunciation?) . I now have a digital but I like those old pics best, more character to them. I would love to get an even better camera and learn to take great pics of peoples faces!

  70. postedJun 13, 2011 2:30 PM

    I desperately need to spend some time learning about how to use natural light!

  71. postedJun 13, 2011 2:31 PM

    I still have a lot to learn, but I’m getting better. For indoor shots, I bought a cheap poster frame from Wal-Mart, covered it in waxed paper, and use it as a diffuser for my lights. I would love to be able to have all the background and dishes, but I have nowhere to store them!

  72. postedJun 13, 2011 2:35 PM

    Ha! I have no good photography tips, which is exactly why I am probably the target audience for that book! I’d love to learn how to better plate food so it looks better in photos.

  73. postedJun 13, 2011 2:52 PM

    Really, aside from crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, all I do at present is take advantage of any natural daylight streaming in through the kitchen window depending on the time of day. I need lots of help since I don’t actually plan my cooking/baking BASED ON what time the good light comes in. 😉

  74. postedJun 13, 2011 2:56 PM

    I shared this post on Facebook. Thanks for the opportunity!

  75. postedJun 13, 2011 2:56 PM

    I shared the giveaway on Twitter! (:

  76. postedJun 13, 2011 3:02 PM

    Since I’m still learning, I have no good tips to share. I really need to learn more about lighting. My photos tend to be either underexposed or overexposed.

  77. postedJun 13, 2011 3:04 PM

    I shared the giveaway on FB.

  78. postedJun 13, 2011 3:24 PM

    As a new food blogger, I am about the food, and the photography comes later. So far I haven’t learned the trick to how to do it right! What a great giveaway!

  79. postedJun 13, 2011 3:30 PM
    Sylvie Paquette

    Great article, thanks for sharing your tips! I would love to win this book since food photography is something I fantasize about being awesome at… 🙂 I re-tweeted!

  80. postedJun 13, 2011 3:38 PM

    I could really use a copy of this book! I started food blogging 5 months ago and though I absolutely LOVE food, I know nothing about photography. I am trying to work on my photos but I have a lot to learn.

    My tip is to make the food the star and not clutter the photo with too many props.

    I loved the tips you provided above, I bookmarked this post for future use!

  81. postedJun 13, 2011 3:52 PM

    I really want to learn about photo composition and using props to make the photos more interesting!

  82. postedJun 13, 2011 3:54 PM

    I tweeted! (@savvyjulie)

  83. postedJun 13, 2011 4:38 PM
    Nelson Cardoso

    Since I don’t have that many resources (lighting etc) I like to shoot in tight and with a narrow depth of field to take away focus from things around the plate.

  84. postedJun 13, 2011 4:55 PM

    I always use natural light, and I’m lucky to have a huge window in my living room, where I almost always shoot my photos.

  85. postedJun 13, 2011 5:45 PM
    Sephasaurus Rex

    My tip is… Turn on the lights! XD
    Just kidding. I have no idea what I’m doing– Books help 🙂

  86. postedJun 13, 2011 5:45 PM

    I put this on my facebook! Love the idea and the boards look so great!

  87. postedJun 13, 2011 7:59 PM

    I’d love to learn more about proper lighting. 🙂

  88. postedJun 13, 2011 8:06 PM

    Natural light is the way to go with food photography! I would love to learn more about composition and props. Thanks for the chance to win such a cool book!

  89. postedJun 13, 2011 8:09 PM

    Just shared this giveaway on twitter as well! 🙂

  90. postedJun 13, 2011 9:01 PM
    Patti S.

    Been thinking about dipping my toes in the blogosphere..this would so help!

  91. postedJun 13, 2011 9:21 PM

    I’ve only had my first DSLR camera for a few months so I want to learn the ins and outs of how to use all the buttons, settings, etc. So far I shoot mostly on auto (minus the flash)!

  92. postedJun 13, 2011 9:23 PM

    I shared the giveaway on Facebook!

  93. postedJun 14, 2011 6:19 AM

    I’d love to learn how to use my camera better. I have a nice camera but I end up keeping it on auto because I’m not sure how to adjust the settings.

  94. postedJun 14, 2011 7:11 AM
    Monica Henry

    I love your blog– I found it through a link on moneysavingmom. I love to cook for my family and enjoy trying new recipes. I am not a great photographer but I working on it. I scrapbook and always include food photos. I want the table to look pretty and take a photograph before we eat at family gatherings. My family cooks together so I take a lot of photographs of the process. It is really special to have photos of my children with my mom and even my grandparents in the kitchen together. So thanks for sharing all the great tips and will have to check that book!

  95. postedJun 14, 2011 7:46 AM

    Sometimes my indirect light is still too harsh.. I’m desperately trying to fix that!

  96. postedJun 14, 2011 8:05 AM

    I’m very much a novice when it comes to food photography but I’m learning along the way. I’ve found with some foods, that it’s easier to shoot when they are cold or frozen, believe it or not! Foods that are stackable are sturdier and I don’t have to worry about steam showing in my picture. This doesn’t work for all foods, of course.

  97. postedJun 14, 2011 8:10 AM
  98. postedJun 14, 2011 10:50 AM

    I want to learn how to use the camera setting on my camera. I’m clueless!

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