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 14, 2011 10:52 AM

    I tweeted!

  2. postedJun 14, 2011 11:21 AM

    to take a good picture of the food i cook i always go outside
    gonna have to learn how to take good pictures

  3. postedJun 14, 2011 11:23 AM

    i just shared in facebook

  4. postedJun 14, 2011 12:29 PM

    I have to get myself those clips and Helene’s book, I have so much to learn about lighting and depth of field.

  5. postedJun 14, 2011 12:46 PM
    Elizabeth McKenzie

    As a beginner in photograpy and in food blogging, this book would be AWESOME!! I shared on facebook, too!

  6. postedJun 14, 2011 1:13 PM

    I’m so happy to have discovered your blog. I am a lawyer gone mom fantasizing about going confectioner and food/photographer. Tips and sites like yours help immensely!! Thanks for sharing!
    Going to post on FB now! Be right back.

  7. postedJun 14, 2011 1:20 PM

    Posted blog address and give-away on FB.
    I guess I should specifically add what I want to learn about food photography. I want to learn about lighting!!!

  8. postedJun 14, 2011 2:14 PM

    I’m fairly new to this, and my only tip is to use natural light as much as possible. I hope to learn how to master my exposure settings and to really learn how to use strobes.

  9. postedJun 14, 2011 2:16 PM

    Okay, I just shared the link. 🙂 Thank you.

  10. postedJun 14, 2011 2:33 PM

    I’m hoping to learn how to use the manual setting and photo editing.

  11. postedJun 14, 2011 2:45 PM

    I want to learn how to use lighting correctly! Seems like I’m always fighting with it!

  12. postedJun 14, 2011 3:35 PM
    Melissa J

    I like to use natural light and contrasting plate or towel

  13. postedJun 14, 2011 4:56 PM

    I found this VERY interesting! I hope to start my own blog soon, so this really was very useful!! I take pictures of people now and love doing that. I love to capture moments with candids, but also take great posed photos. Food pics are new to me, so I really need to read up on it. I find that the tips that you give and other food photographers are VERY helpful! Choose me, choose me, choose me!!! 🙂

  14. postedJun 14, 2011 7:35 PM

    I’m working on improving my photography techniques (for food and everything else!) so this book would be really helpful. I love your idea of buying just 1 or 2 dishes at places like HomeGoods and TJ Maxx – I do like having lots of dishes, both for serving food (eclectic is good!) and photography.

  15. postedJun 14, 2011 9:25 PM
    Jessica S

    I don’t do much food photography yet but I’m trying to break into it… such fun! But so much to learn!

  16. postedJun 14, 2011 11:34 PM

    I’m hoping to learn more about the types of lighting/bulbs and how they affect color…thanks!

  17. postedJun 15, 2011 12:52 AM

    I love baking and taking photos of the baked goods. I found that natural light is the best to photography food. I’m hoping to learn how to add “accessories” to the photos to add that special touch.

  18. postedJun 15, 2011 4:00 AM
    Christy taketa

    I don’t know much about photography but I bought a 50mm lens and it’s been my favorite investment yet……well actually it was a cheap investment but the one item I’m so happy I purchased

  19. postedJun 15, 2011 5:08 AM
    Kelli Reppert

    Just learning about blogging and food photography. Love your blog and as of right now I have a Canon Rebel that I love!! oh and I shared you on my FB page!!!

  20. postedJun 15, 2011 7:13 AM

    I’m working on confidence with my photography. That and experimenting with light and color.

  21. postedJun 15, 2011 8:02 AM
    Mayuri Jivan

    A very big foodiegroupie hello all the way from chilly South Africa…

    Firstly, let me just curtsy and say to her royal highness the queen bee of food and photography, YOU ARE MY INSPIRATION!

    My name is Mayuri and I am currently standing at a cross roads in my life with regards to my chosen path/destiny. My heart lies in food, photography, colour, fabrics, sunlight, sparkles and a little bit of magic, however my head tends to disagree and is presently living in a world of black suit clad attorney ninjas who do nothing but talk and type all day long in an airconditioned, stuffy, fluorescent light (*yuck) environment, worst of all eating toasted sandwiches and boring greek salads all day. blegh*.

    Yes, I am an attorney, and as fun as that sounds lately I just find myself putting my foreign exchange deals files aside to catch up on the enchanting, magical world of food blogs. I find myself wishing i had an oven next to me at this very minute to quickly whip up something from your site. YOU ARE FANTASTIC!

    Any-hoo long story short I decided to get off my ar*e and do something about making my heart happy! Screw the head!!


    I have not started a blog as yet, to be honest I feel so intimidated by all the fantastic blogs out there. I did not even know where to begin. So i am taking baby steps. I started by signing up to the foodblogforum site, asked a few of the blogger-gurus how to get started so im slowly learning. One of the things I know that personally draws me to food blogs are the wonderfully tantalising pictures you all post! WOW!

    I dont have tantalising tidbits on how to obtain the perfect picture, but I am a newbie to this world and would most definately like to make a full blown career out of it. My passion lies in beautiful things whether they look beautiful or taste beautiful. My life was meant for something bigger and more fulfilling than this black ninja corporate world I presently find myself in- temporarily.

    Anyway, from all South Africans I just want to say thank you to you for giving us something so beautiful to divert our attention from our temporarily-meaningless days!


    Lots of hugs,kisses and marshmallows covered in chocolate and then converted into scrumptiously squishy smores….


  22. postedJun 15, 2011 8:23 AM

    I can’t believe I never thought to stain my own “table top” for photos… Just brilliant!

    Lately, I’ve realized that I really need to step it up and work on breaking out of my “usual” photos… I take the same photo all the time, and I need to try new perspectives/angles/etc.

  23. postedJun 15, 2011 9:38 AM

    One thing that I use a lot is taking a black sheet as a table drape and using a piece of black foam board behind whatever I’m photographing. It gives a really nice background plus it isn’t too difficult to blend the seam in Photoshop 🙂

  24. postedJun 15, 2011 10:56 AM

    Oh wow! I am loving your props and set up. For me, natural light is the only way to go. I’m still learning and I really want to get some ideas for styling and lighting!

  25. postedJun 15, 2011 11:01 AM

    Thanks for the chance to win, I hope to learn how to control lighting in my food pictures 🙂

  26. postedJun 15, 2011 11:19 AM

    I’d really love to know more about how to use natural lightning in food fotography!

  27. postedJun 15, 2011 11:22 AM

    i tweeted!!

  28. postedJun 15, 2011 11:25 AM

    Just today I was telling my husband – I have to buy that book! Man, I hope I win! Especially because this is an international giveaway!

    Thank you for sharing your tips… I think one thing I’ve learned since I started blogging about 3 months ago – lighting lighting lighting! I’m still learning, but changing the ISO settings on my camera, especially in low light situations really changed my photographs! I’m still an amateur, though. I have a LONG way to go! Thanks for this fabulous giveaway! 🙂

  29. postedJun 15, 2011 11:27 AM

    Tweeted! Fingers (and toes) crossed!

  30. postedJun 15, 2011 11:31 AM

    As hot/cold as it gets outside, I always take my food outside under our oak tree to shoot. I don’t get very good natural lighting in my house, so all of the sweat/freezing fingers are with it for a great photograph! 🙂

  31. postedJun 15, 2011 11:32 AM

    thanks for sharing all your props and secrets! Love it 🙂

  32. postedJun 15, 2011 11:33 AM

    I shared it on twitter! @chocandcarrots Thank you for the giveaway!

  33. postedJun 15, 2011 11:33 AM


  34. postedJun 15, 2011 11:38 AM
  35. postedJun 15, 2011 11:46 AM

    To me the food is the easy part and the photography is the challenge. I have a light box that we built and I use it when the outside lighting is bad. I really could use some additional photo tips. Thanks for hosting such a great giveaway.

  36. postedJun 15, 2011 11:51 AM

    I tweeted!

    Great giveaway over at Recipe Girl – last day to enter. Win a copy of Plate to Pixel

  37. postedJun 15, 2011 12:06 PM
    Christy Clark

    I need all the help I can get! 🙂

  38. postedJun 15, 2011 1:11 PM

    I am an aspiring food blogger( an ardent bloghopper as of now)…. I had a lot to study from this post of yours… and would juss luvv to explore what the book has to offer…. 🙂

  39. postedJun 15, 2011 2:32 PM

    i’d love to learn more about the use of natural lightning in my pictures!

  40. postedJun 15, 2011 4:44 PM

    HI! I would LOVE to receive a copy of Plate to Pixel. I don’t know enough about photography to get fabulous professional results which is why I need to read this book! I’ve JUST finished my first year in high school and I would love to dedicate my summer to learning more about food photography. (It was only last summer I earned up enough babysitting money to buy my first dslr!)
    I am also a food blogger and I make videos about food (baking in particular) but my photography skills are not at it’s full potential. I am hoping to learn more about lighting, props set up and camera settings (there are so many!).
    Thank you again for this opportunity to win this giveaway 🙂

  41. postedJun 15, 2011 4:53 PM

    HI! I just posted for everyone to hurry and enter this contest so if they win they can give the book to me. just kidding. I actually explained why i desperately wanted to win this book similar to the comment I just posted. LOVE!

  42. postedJun 15, 2011 6:51 PM

    I would love to check the book for help on pictures of my cakes, I have to come up with ideas for some of the pictures to show off some of the cakes. I have used different table clothes to drape over some boxes to give a soft effect.

  43. postedJun 15, 2011 6:55 PM
    Kristina Boroff


  44. postedJun 15, 2011 6:55 PM
    Kristina Boroff

    Shared on Facebook.

  45. postedJun 15, 2011 8:18 PM

    Oh my!! As a new food blogger, what is there NOT for me to learn about photography??? I’m just fumbling through it right now …

  46. postedJun 15, 2011 8:19 PM

    Shared on The Kitchen Is My Playground’s Facebook page. Thank you!

  47. postedJun 16, 2011 6:12 AM
  48. postedJun 16, 2011 5:59 PM

    Making your own props is a great idea. That’s definitely something I want to work more on with food photography. I should set aside a weekend for some of these crafts projects.

  49. postedJun 16, 2011 6:15 PM
    Elle Sort

    I’d like to learn how to take more photos without using natural light. Most stuff I do ends up being at evening/nighttime.

  50. postedJun 16, 2011 6:20 PM

    I use a laminate sample to set my white balance.

  51. postedJun 23, 2011 8:02 PM

    Lori I love this post! I finally got Hélène’s book in the mail today and I can’t wait to read and learn and read all over again. Great post!

  52. postedJun 24, 2011 2:05 PM

    Lori, this post is so helpful–I have been trying to find the “Firm Grip” clips you show here and I cannot locate them anywhere (I tried Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.). Do you have any idea how they were listed? Would love to find some.

  53. postedJun 30, 2011 7:52 AM

    Awesome post Lori! love the idea of painting the boards!!! i bought the book a month ago and am learning a lot!!! thanks

  54. postedSep 15, 2011 9:29 AM
    Carrie Pacini

    I can’t wait to make my own boards – so much inspiration thanks Lori!

  55. postedJan 6, 2012 5:42 AM

    I never realized you had this post until now. So informative & helpful for all of us. Pinning & facebooking now 🙂

    • postedJan 6, 2012 6:20 AM

      Thank you Sweetie!

  56. postedJan 6, 2012 6:15 AM

    I just came across this since Marla shared it on FB. I received Plate to Pixel for Hanukkah and I’m loving it!

    I made some of those boards (well, one 2-sided board) using the instructions from Lindsay and Shawnda (Confections of a Foodie Bride) and I’d love to make some more but I just haven’t had the time. I see you’ve managed to make them look great on a single board, without gluing planks together (which I did the first time around.) That seems so much easier, I think that’s what I’ll do next time!

  57. postedJan 6, 2012 6:16 AM

    oh, one more thing – did you stain all of the boards before adding color? Or did some just get painted without staining first? Thank you!

    • postedJan 6, 2012 6:21 AM

      I think I did both- some I just gave a good base coat of one color and then did some swishing with another. Re-visiting this post again makes me want to make some more of these!

  58. postedFeb 28, 2012 6:00 PM

    Great ideas! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  59. postedAug 24, 2012 12:52 PM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  60. postedOct 30, 2012 2:33 PM

    Thank you for such a great post!! Being somewhat new to blogging, I’ve found the taking photos of food is the hardest part! Your post has such great ideas to help me and I’m ordering the book,. Thanks Lori….
    ~A Southern Soul

  61. postedDec 27, 2012 3:03 PM

    So glad I’m not the only one with a ridiculous amount of props, place mats, and ribbons (especially after reading 2012 trends that must go haha). I do love your version of buying a piece of wood without having to glue.

  62. postedFeb 21, 2013 1:34 PM

    THANK YOU! I am seriously in love with this post. I’m always looking for ways to improve my photography, and this has some really great tips.

    Next time I visit home depot I will definitely pick up some wooden boards. They look great and sound SO easy to make.

  63. postedMar 22, 2013 4:22 PM
    Mike @ Food Blog Life

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing. I’ve been looking for some ideas to add some variety to my food photos. Looks like I’ll be heading to home depot this weekend 🙂

  64. postedMay 18, 2013 2:23 PM

    Thanks for much for posting your tips on food photography. I struggle with this the most on my blog because it takes me hours of editing 100’s of pictures per post because I am not taking good photos to begin with . Love your blog.

  65. postedMay 19, 2013 10:40 PM

    Thank you so much for this information. I have just recently started my food blog and always looking for great, inspiring ideas.

  66. postedJun 13, 2014 5:37 AM

    Thank you so much for the great tips! I have trouble with lighting because most of my cooking happens at night when I get home from work. These ideas will help tremendously. I already bought some boards and stain to start having a nice background. Thanks again for all the recommendations!!!!

  67. postedSep 21, 2014 2:02 PM

    Great tips, thank you!

  68. postedNov 25, 2014 8:04 AM

    I just start my own way with food photography and I catched your blog. I find it helpful and beside me is a ‘ready to prepare’ wooden floor wood pieces to make my table-board 🙂

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