Food Photography is Still Hard but then along came “Learn Food Photography”

Cheese and Crackers and Pickles
Cheese and Crackers and Pickles

There’s certainly a ton of food blogs out in the blog-o-sphere and our blog, We Call Him Yes!Chef!,  is one amongst millions.  People are always interested in good recipes that they can try at home or with guests.  And then they want to share their recipes or restaurant experiences with their friends on the blog.  The best way to do that is with a photo.  However, in some cases, it might not be the best way to share your food if the photo is all dark and blurry and weirdly colored.

When Yes!Chef! looks for a good recipe he’s not so interested in the photos.  I know that because sometimes I look at the recipes he pins on Pinterest and the pictures do not make the food look appetizing in any way, shape or form. He looks more at the ingredients and doesn’t care too much about the photos.  My daughter, on the other hand, will not make a recipe unless the photo looks good to her.  She wants cookbooks with a picture for every recipe…and they must be good photos, too.

So, it seems to me that not only is there much interest in the food that we eat at home and in restaurants, but also in food photography.  We are usually very proud of the food we prepare (there are a few exceptions, like my unfortunate cupcake catastrophe. Move along here, there’s nothing to see.) We want other people to appreciate the hard work and tastiness of our creations.  My food photography could stand some improvement, so I’m not throwing stones, but have you taken a look at some of the food pictures on the net lately?  Even on the very popular recipe sites, the photography makes me cringe.  It certainly doesn’t make me want to try the recipe.

As I’ve said before, “Food Photography is hard.”

At any rate, the people over at Learn Food Photography saw that there was a need for good food photography and so they have created a 30 day intensive on-line participation tutorial on how to photograph food for blogs or other purposes.  It started on April 1 and runs for 30 days.  I signed up and I’m hoping to keep up with the group.

The first day we looked at really great food photography.  One of the examples that LFP (Learn Food Photography) provided was a food photographer named Lara Ferroni.  I have taken a class from her before and she is quite excellent.  Take a minute and go drool  look at her website.  Do remember to come back, but please linger over her photos.  I love her photos and I feel very lucky to have learned from her.  Another food photographer we were encouraged to visit was Beatrice Peltre.  Go ahead and look.  I’ll wait…  And another one I really like is Teri Campbell.  I’m not going to recommend any more food photographers because I know you will not be back.  You will run to your kitchen to start cooking something yummy that you have seen on one of these websites and you will whip out your phone camera to take a picture of all the wonderfulness that you have created.  I will not discourage you from doing that, but I think if you tarry here a bit longer, you might be able to improve your food photography to make your food look as good as it tastes.

I will look at this photo until you come back…

Yes!Chef! enjoys his fried pickles
Yes!Chef! enjoys his fried pickles

(Honestly, I could look at this man all day long and never get tired of him.  Sigh.)  And his food is great, too.

There were several other food photographer suggestions and I spent quite a bit of time looking at wonderful photos to complete the first day’s assignment.  We were asked to pick two photographers and several photos from each.  Then we were asked to write down how we felt about those photos that we picked.  This was a most excellent exercise because I discovered the type of food photography that makes me the happiest and that I relate to best.  So now I have a direction.

Food photography is hard…but everyone can certainly improve their skills if they are interested.

The first photo above (crackers and cheese) was taken for Day 3 to help us understand camera angles.  I am a photographer by trade, so I am aware of moving around my subject…getting low on the ground, standing on a chair, crouching, walking around the subject, etc.  But it seems there is something a little different about my attitude about food photography.

Overhead view
Overhead view
Low View
Low View

I get a little stuck.  I spend a lot of time making one arrangement of the food and because the food may start looking old, dry or wilted pretty quickly, I pick a spot to shoot and stick with it.   I do try different angles and different depths of field (blurry backgrounds vs. non-blurry backgrounds), I don’t usually move my food around or rearrange it too much once I start shooting.

Trying different camera angles can really open up some possibilities.  Most people shoot their food from their eye level as if they were sitting at the table ready to eat.  Or, they hold their camera over their plate, for a bird’s eye view (see my second photo.)  But not many people shoot their food from plate level (see above photo “Low View”.) Each photo provokes a different feeling.  Some foods, such as sandwiches look best shot from a low level because everyone wants to see what is in the sandwich.

ZackJack-92-Edit logo web
Salmon and melted cheese sandwich from ZacJack’s restaurant in Cameron Park, CA

I mean, if you think about it, this is really the best angle for a sandwich.  A top view would just show the bread.  The bread is an important part of the sandwich but it is not the most important part.  So, the low view is the best view for a sandwich.

ZackJack-88-Edit webSee what I mean?

It looks like French Fries with some sort of sandwich with toasted bread.  Doesn’t look nearly as yummy.

Here’s a few more example from the same restaurant.  You decide which angle makes the food look best.

ZackJack-80-Edit web ZackJack-82-Edit logo web

Here’s a couple of examples of wine.

wine side by sideSide views work best for this.

And last, I give you a view taken from a low view…

Mr. Moon
Mr. Moon

It would be tough to have a top down view of the moon (which kept me awake this particular night because it was shining in the window right into my eye.)

I will probably post a few more tips that I am learning from LFP as we go along. I hope this helps.


Published by

Karen Schmautz


8 thoughts on “Food Photography is Still Hard but then along came “Learn Food Photography”

    1. I get that, too, from both tastespotting and food gawker. But I just keep trying. I study the pictures that are accepted and try to make similar photos. Sometimes I’ll get accepted from one and not the other. It’s a challenge. I hope these tips help

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