Food photography – props and my advice

One of the hardest things about starting my own blog was the food photography side of things. I had no experience or training whatsoever and barely even took photos with my phone, so I hadn’t really considered just how difficult this would be. Every article I ever read about starting your own blog began by emphasising the importance of taking good photos, particularly when working with food, so the pressure was on to learn fast and get good at it!

I saved up for a while and bought myself a very basic yet (I think) brilliant camera that can capture good quality images of the recipes I was creating, but not break the bank. In my eyes, there was little point in spending several hundred pounds on a super expensive camera when I had no idea what I was doing with all its clever features. I settled on one deemed a ‘beginners’ camera and decided I will upgrade when I out-grow it. For now I’m just learning on the job and reading article after article about what makes a good photo. I’ll get there!

As I continue to stumble through downloadable PDFs about aperture, white balance and studio lighting, I have turned my attention to props. Sourcing some gorgeous food photography props is the second most prominent piece of advice I’ve come across and has become something I really enjoy doing. What I love about it is that a prop for a food photo doesn’t have to have anything to do with food! My favourites are a big wooden trunk kept in the hallway which I tend to drag into the kitchen and use as a table; two sheets of A2 card, one in black and one in grey that I use to create different coloured surfaces; and a large sheet of hessian I bought from a gardening website. Obviously I use plates and bowls and other utensils too, but you’ll be amazed how many things can double up as a table when you need them to!

So my advice to anyone starting out, just like I was only a few months ago, is this:

  1. Don’t be afraid to learn on the job – sometimes you will cook an amazing meal and take a hundred seemingly brilliant photos, only to learn when you upload them that they just haven’t worked out. Don’t panic and definitely don’t give up. Save the recipe for another time, google an article or two to help with the problem you’re facing, and try again another day.
  2. Use what you’ve got, camera wise – yes, a £500+ DSLR will take better photos than a £150 point and shoot, but if the budget doesn’t allow for that then just find your next best option. Do some research before you buy the camera – read the customer reviews and google the features it lists so you have a better understanding of what it has to offer – and then go for it. At the end of the day, all you need is something to take pictures with and you can always upgrade when you get better.
  3. Food props can be found anywhere – sometimes the things you least expect can double up as a prop in a photo. Have a quick walk around your house, your parents’ house, your grandparents’ house and see what you can find (ask before you take, obviously). A large piece of wood or some leftover tiles can create a lovely surface on which to set up your photo, while a piece of brown string and a couple of sprigs of a garden plant can lift the image significantly. Keep all your props in a big suitcase or box, like I have, and sift through them for inspiration before you’re due to take the photo. And again, just do your best, because that’s all that anyone can ask for!

Here are some articles I return to regularly to help improve my photos:

Food photography for beginners

Serious Eats guide – food photography

Samantha x

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