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Techniques for Better Food Photography

Updated on October 5, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years. Hope you enjoy my hubs!

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Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Food photography is a business all unto itself. There are those that day in and day out spend their time photographing food to be used in commercials, print adds, posters, menus, for packaging, cookbooks, and recipe books.

But this is not a simple and quick endeavor. Photographing food involves several steps, and time to plan the shoot. The photographer is rarely the only person there and seldom in control. If the photographs are commissioned by a company or publisher or a large client, you can expect to see a director, a food stylist, prop-men, and the photographer.

Most ingredients are carefully arranged by a food artist/stylist and ingredients are cut by hand to precise standards all to make them ever so more appealing.

Their job is to make the image of the showcased product, dish, food appear as delicious and tempting as humanly possible. Remember this is being done with out the reader or viewer having the benefit of smell and touch. All of this has to be accomplished in a two dimensional format.

Ever noticed that some foods which you see on print and media advertising look great, then you go to the restaurant ,order it and somehow it looks different? This is because there are several tricks that photographers use to enhance appearance, and we are not referring to Photoshop, although that is also heavily used.

For dishes to look fresh, for sodas or drinks to look refreshing, water mixed in with glycerin or other wetting agents is constantly sprayed as a fine mist unto soda can, glass or the product itself. Little bubbles that seem to last forever in the shot of a cold refreshing soda or drink are made by applying small drops of soap liquid. Dishes, especially soups, are propped up; use of conclave dishes that raises the contents of the dish.

For any dish that is supposed to be served hot and consumed as such, the number one tool used is dry ice to give the effect of smoke emanating from it. Nebullizers are also heavily used to create steam. Sometimes you will see products that are presented in such as way that you wonder why it does not fall of the table. They are nailed, glued or screwed into place. The use of artificial props is also very common.

Things like plastic ice cubes, fake cakes, fruits are commonplace. Most foods are prepared on site just before being photographed, so they always look tempting and fresh. Meats and vegetables are usually undercooked since cooking them fully browns them too much to look appealing.

The studio can get very hot due to the lights set up. Products that are required to be kept cold, such as ice cream are not really made from "ice cream" for the shoot. Think of lard, hungry yet?

Cereal adds have always been my favorites since I did some years earlier. The secret was in using heavy cream so that the cereal would not become soggy or sink to the bottom of the plate. Fruits and vegetables can be photographed by themselves, but the shinny fresh picked appearance is done by misting them with a water glycerin mixture along with a healthy application of wax.

Are those tempting dishes eaten once they are photographed?, Rarely to almost never. The amount of handling and in some cases chemicals used to enhance appearance makes their consumption unlikely.

The market for such photographs are advertising agencies and food publications. Start by building your portfolio and submitting samples to them along with a price range for your work. Start with smaller agencies and local food publications and build your business up as you gather references.

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Do research to scope the type of work that is being done. Read books that offer tips on food photography.

The best research still remains to look at many food photographs. Only then can you gauge the level of expertise that is being used and learn new techniques as well as ways of photographing food. that is used by commercial entities.

Browse several food publications to get an idea of their type of coverage. Inquire about pricing for this type of work and submit only the best samples of your work.

Be familiar with the necessary equipment that is commonly used and also familiarize yourself with the latest recipes and serving/presentation trends before attempting to undertake this type of work.

Do not overlook contacting an established food photographer and offer to work as an intern until you feel comfortable that you have learned all that there is to learn from them. By the way, try to have fun!

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Kim M Gregory: Thank you. I didn't know about many of these tricks until I started doing some food photography and spoke to a friend who is a specialist in this type of imagery.

    • Kim M Gregory profile image

      Kim Morgan Gregory 

      6 years ago from The Coast of The South Carolina Lowcountry

      Wow, I'm stunned! I know there are specific food photographers out there, and know that they go to a lot of trouble shooting their food, but geeze... I shoot all my photos for my hubs and web site at and have never used any 'props' for my food photos. I kinda wonder if they would look better if I did, but on the other hand am kinda proud that I don't use anything and get the results I do... you always have great hubs...straight forward and full of tips...again, thanks.

    • DaveysRecipeRead profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent info for those of us who cook (but aren't photographers) and want to share the results of our work in an attractive manner. Many thanks!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Gabby0506; there are at least 30 styles of photography, with subcategories. Example Style-Photojournalism Subcategory-Feature photography.

      Nature photography is very competitive, always submit you best , most technically sound shots which have the least amount of digital manipulation. Publishers do not look favorably on digitally altered images with the exception of dust and scratch removal.

    • gabby0506 profile image


      7 years ago from Bangalore

      Nice hub! I wonder how many types of photography are there. I am a nature photographer though I'm still a beginner

    • Katharella profile image


      7 years ago from Lost in America

      I'm not a food photographer, although I have plenty of photographs of food I've made. I once saw a documentary about this. They were making that hamburger in the window we commonly see! The lady took a real slice of cheese, but to make it appear as if it were 'just starting' out to melt, she held it gently in the palm of her hand, and swooped it under a sink with hot water, then carefully laid it on the, "fake" meat, and it looked as if the warmth of the burger was melting it. I never look at the photo in the window anymore the same! :) although I know it's not what I'm getting. Love your hubs, so informative. I kind of get a silent giggle when I hear someone say "it doesn't look like the picture." :) vote up!

    • theprintcenter profile image


      7 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      Very interesting hub, and lots of great advice! Thanks so much for posting this one! Voted up & useful

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      7 years ago from Sweden

      Oh, thanks for this interesting hub! Even though I can’t do quite the same I can try and accomplish something similar using your excellent advices! Thanks for this photographing food-tricks, rated up/useful


    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Great hub with some great advice...thanks for sharing your knowledge with us...voted useful

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      7 years ago from Southern Spain

      Interesting hub ! I like taking food photos ,Found you while hub hopping -voted you up!


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