Learn food photography
A comprehensive guide to food photography
Learn food photography
How to get started in food photography in 6 simple steps
Whether you want to create mouthwatering photos for your Instagram or food blog, kickstart your career or enhance your stock library, these six steps will help guide you on your food photography journey.
A huge part of daily life, food is imbued with cultural significance. It has the power to evoke emotion, stir memories and bridge divides. As photographers, we can take advantage of this through careful use of narrative. It’s therefore important to learn how to tell a story with your food photography and create imagery that doesn’t just appeal to people, but also resonates with them.
When photographing food, it’s important to make sure that not only does the food look good, but also that the props and background compliment the dish. These ‘little’ details can make a world of difference and help set the scene for your story. You can find props and backgrounds online or at second hand stores (or, if you’re feeling more creative, you can make your own from scratch!).
Whether you’re photographing your own freshly prepared dish or simple store-bought produce, preparing food properly is a crucial part of any shoot. Whether it be keeping herbs fresh by covering them with a damp towel or cooling tea before shooting, knowing how to correctly store and prepare different types of food items is key. Simple steps like this will immediately add a level of professionalism to your work.
Styling is an important part of food photography and every dish requires a different approach. Think about concepts like colour, composition and form and how you can use these to guide the viewer’s eye. Experiment with different props and accessories and their placement, as well as different combinations of form and colour. This is a step that can’t be rushed — don’t underestimate the time it may take to get the styling just right.
Suitable to almost any level of photographer, food photography can be done with natural light or studio light. But regardless of what you’re using, you have to understand light and how to control it. This can be done once you understand important lighting concepts and how to use different modifiers or even affordable accessories (like mirrors or coloured card) to shape the light. Once you’ve grasped this, you’ll be able to create a variety of creative results simply and easily.
Identify your hero image
At the end of the shoot immediately download your photographs from your camera to your computer to ensure they are backed up and can be reviewed clearly. Keep in mind, it is not always the last captured image that is necessarily the best one. Spend some time sieving through the shoot and pick out the strongest images. It may be good to revisit those you shortlisted with fresh eyes before making the final decision on your hero shot. The final stage would be to add any polishing touches in post production - follow our extensive post production courses for all levels!
Food photography tips
Food photography is about more than having the latest camera or equipment. Keep these simple food photography tips in mind next time you’re shooting to help you improve your images.
Keeping Food Fresh
A single, wilted lettuce leaf is enough to completely ruin what otherwise would have been a great food image. Before you start thinking about what props, background or lighting you’ll use, make sure that you’ve correctly stored and prepared your produce so that it stays fresh for shooting. For example, herbs can be kept fresh by covering them with damp paper towel and storing them in the fridge, raspberries should never be washed before shooting and pasta should generally be slightly undercooked to get the best shape and form.
Keep it simple
Many aspiring photographers are often put off when they see professionals working in large studios with fancy equipment and extravagant lighting setups, but the truth is that this isn’t always the case. You don’t need a large studio or the latest lighting to create mouthwatering food images. You can shoot food from your own home using nothing but natural light and simple accessories; anything from tinfoil as reflectors to napkins as backgrounds. You may be surprised to learn that many shots can be achieved with minimal lighting and basic equipment!
Making Food the Focus
Telling a story with your food photography is important, but equally important is ensuring the food remains the focus. Don’t let your backgrounds, props or accessories distract from the hero of the shot — your dish. Experiment with different styling combinations and compositions before shooting the final dish to see what works best. Use stand-in items instead of the final product during this stage of the shoot as this will allow you to take your time without having to worry about the product loosing freshness or quality while you finalise your shot.
Get started at any level
Whether you’re new to food photography or already working for a multitude of clients, use only natural light or love studio lighting, we have just the class for you.
Our natural light classes are ideal for beginner photographers and show just how creative you can be with minimal equipment. These achievable examples demonstrate the planning and styling and show how you can control and make the most of availible light using affordable accessories.
One Light Studio Setup
If you’re looking for simple studio setups for food, our one light classes are just the thing. You’ll learn how to create a variety of creative food images using just one light. You’ll also see how to make the most of your light by using basic modifiers and affordable accessories such as mirrors, flags and reflectors.
Advanced Studio Lighting
Aimed at photographers already familiar with studio lighting, these classes demonstrate more advanced lighting techniques for food photography. Karl shows you how to use professional modifiers and how, with a little creativity, you can even use DIY modifiers to achieve truly creative results.
Meet your tutors
Karl Taylor is a professional photographer with over 20 years experience and is known for his precise attention to detail and exquisite control of light. Working closely with Anna, he shows you a variety of different ways to light food — from using only natural light to one light studio setups and even how to use DIY lighting modifiers. Guided by his expertise and inspired by his passion, you’ll find no better tutor. Learn more about Karl here.
Visit Karl's website at
Anna is a professional food photographer based in Moscow, Russia. Anna fell in love with food photography after working as a marketing manager for a restaurant company and has since gone on to have her work featured by numerous magazines, cook books and commercial clients. Multi-skilled, Anna does all the cooking, food styling, photography and retouching for her images. Read our exclusive interview with Anna.
Visit Anna's website at
Karl Taylor Education
The best all-inclusive online photography training platform
Excellent series of tutorials – Your unsurpassed virtuosity with the lighting and Anya’s excellent food preparation and styling skills together with her obvious understanding of the photographic process made an excellent combination. A really enjoyable and educational series.David Bragg, KTE Member
Start your food photography journey today
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