Food Photography: The Basics

By: Isabel Freedman

Food Photography

                      Food photography is essential for cookbooks, magazines, advertisements and commercials. The photographs that are placed in the pages of a cookbook determine whether or not you will actually want to make this food. If the chicken in the photograph looks gray, greasy and unappetizing, you might as well throw out the book altogether. Here are some basic tips on photographing food that will assure some quality images.

First off, make sure that you are capturing all of the foods best traits. Just like a model, you want to enhance all of the best qualities of the food, and capture the right angles.

Natural Light

Natural light is essential for food photography. The best time to shoot is on a sunny day, in a shady spot. This will give your food a nice natural glow, without the tint of indoor lighting. Never place your food directly in the sunlight, this will only give it harsh glare and it will wash out all of the texture and shape. If you are shooting indoors, find a spot by the window where natural light floods in.

Natural light, Design, Food, Photography, Apple

The natural light in this image captures the smooth texture of the apple

Flash vs. No Flash

Do not use your in-camera flash, not matter how bad the lighting it. A flash will create a glare along with harsh reflections. The flash can also make the food look fake, or not as authentic as it should look on a page. Sometimes, a flash can make the food look like it is floating in mid-air, throwing off the entire composition of the photograph.

Photography, Flash, camera, design

Although this Pizza looks appetizing, the flash creates an odd glare, and it does not look professional


Composition in food photography is essential, and it includes elements such as angle, focus and rule of thirds. The focal point of the photography should always align along the sides or the intersections of the rule of thirds. If you are photographing multiple apples, you may want to just focus on one, by creating a shallow depth of field. This will create a sense of depth, and allow the viewer to see the texture and color of the apple.

Depth, Apples, Design, Elements, Food, Photography

This image of apples is a good example of composition, specifically by using a shallow depth of field


Angle is an element of composition in food photography, and it can either sell or destroy an image. Depending on what the subject is, the angle must be manipulated to make this dish look appealing. For example, a hamburger should be shot at eye-level, so that you are able to see the actual hamburger. If it was shot from a high angle, you would lose the content of the burger. If you shot a flat pizza at eye-level, you would not be able to see the pizza. Flat food should be taken at high angles. If the food has dimension, such as this tower of ice cream, it should be taken at an angle that compliments the round shapes.

Food, Photography, Ice cream, Angle

The angle of this image compliments the sphere shapes of the ice cream

Be Creative

Have fun with food photography. There is a lot of room for creativity and interaction. It is okay if the image does not come out the way you intended it to be, and you will probably have to take multiple shots with a variety of different elements.


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