I have always been a little in awe of my friend, Lisa.
She writes a blog with the most amazing photographs.
Not like a little amazing….like the kind of amazing where you study her photos and think to yourself, why didn’t I stack the plates on a cutting board and add a kind of fuzzy bottle of milk and finish off the scene with sprinkles?
Well…..today Lisa is going to tell us all about the why and the how and behind the scenes of brilliant photo styling. It’s just like a mini class with beautiful pictures. She’s going to share her top 11 tips for getting photos to look like the one I just posted above.
And one more thing. As you read the tips…you might notice the occasional aside in parenthesis.
And my two cents.
We can’t miss a blog post. 🙂
Take it away, Lisa.
When KariAnne asked me share a few food photography tips, I was honored and honestly a little nervous too because I’m not an expert. I still struggle with all the things about photography that you probably struggle with too. However, I have found a handful of things that work well for me and I’m happy to share 11 of my favorite tips with you today.
(total aside: See how sweet she is? That picture totally does not look like it’s struggling.)
1. Collect textured wood, cutting boards, crates, large floor tiles and trays
I think some of my most appealing photos include textures backdrops and accessories that compliment my food. It’s amazing how a little piece of wood peeking out from under a dish can make a difference in the photo.
(total aside: Note to self. Gas station pizza would photograph so much better on an antique cutting board.)
2. Shop flea markets, and specialty shops for vintage dishes and linens
Keep your eyes peeled at those flea markets for vintage bowls, plates or other unusual props and rustic fabrics, linens and lace that can be used to enhance your shots and add texture and interest to the overall presentation.
(total aside: I want that clock plate. Oh…and those stirrer things.)
3. Great props are right under your nose
I found a stack of old backing trays in my mom’s basement. You know the kind that has that fantastic burned-in seasoning? I’m so glad I got wind of them before she tossed them. Definitely raid your mom’s cabinet for gems like this.
(total aside: Seriously. This picture. Makes. Me. Sigh. Do you think it’s the tiny bit of blueberry dripping down the edge?)
4. Use white foam core and black foam core boards
You can find foam core at most office supply or craft stores. They’re like poster boards but thicker. I use the white boards to help throw light onto my subjects. Try using the black foam core as a dark background for your food photos.
5. Seek out natural light
Find a good window with streaming natural light. I have identified two windows in my house that provide great light at different times of day. My family looks at me like I’m crazy when they see me carrying fancy foods to an upstairs bedroom but that’s where some of the best light is located.
(total aside: Also remember that your rooms photograph differently depending on the weather outside. I have a dining room that never met a cloudy day it didn’t like.)
6. Invest in a diffuser
I also use a diffuser (available at any camera store) to help soften the window light which can be pretty harsh sometimes. You can also use a sheer, white curtain to get the same effect. A step stool will help you to position yourself directly above your subject for that overhead shot.
(total aside: Remember not to photograph yourself in the copper. Especially if you are having a bad hair day.)
7. Crumbs, spills and strategically placed berries are a good thing
Whatever food I’m shooting, I often take some of it and sprinkle a little on the side of the dish for a more natural, read-to-eat type of presentation.
If you’re featuring berries-drop some berries around the plate. If you’re shooting a dish with flour, sprinkle some around the plate for that natural, lived-in look.
8. Layer the elements in the photo
Try to imagine that the entire setting is divided into horizontal planes that build out from your main subject. These horizontal planes can in the front OR the back of your main subject. Fill-in these “planes” with small props, dishes, crumbs, pieces of fabric, etc. This layering effect will give your food photos, dimension and visual interest.
Depending on your lens and aperture the props within the “planes” that surround your main subject may be blurred but that can be a nice effect too.
(total aside: She made leaves from pie crust. Be still my heart.)
9. Use photo editing software
I used to think that using photo editing software was somehow cheating. Then I realized that just about every one of my favorite photographers edits shots. It’s OK to tweak your photos with programs like Photoshop, Lightroom and/or others.
In the photo below, I used Photoshop to adjust color, exposure and sharpening to make the finished picture more appealing.
Big difference in the before and after, huh?
(total aside: You can always use PicMonkey, too. Great place to start.)
10. Study food magazines and favorite photo/food blogs and even cooking catalogs
I’ll buy a cookbook or food magazine in a minute if I love the photos. Also, don’t toss those Williams-Sonoma catalogs until you’ve browsed them for styling ideas too.
Check out WS’s cheeseburger on the left and my pulled pork version on the right.
11. Use a tripod and practice often
Finally, a tripod will help prevent accidental camera movement which causes blurry photos. Use one whenever you can. Of course these tips won’t mean anything if you don’t practice, practice and then, practice some more.
(total aside: I am living proof of a tripod works. I owe all the pictures on my blog to my tripod.)
By the way, I’ve written quite a few posts on photography, styling, building photo backdrops and more on my blog.
Pop by for more easy tips and food styling inspiration.
(total aside: She’s right. You don’t want to miss these posts. I’ve listed some of my favorites below.)
PS Thank you, Lisa.
You are amazing.
You can find Lisa over at her blog, Celebrate Creativity, every day. If you get a minute, stop by and tell her hello.
Happy day friends. 🙂