Food Bloggers Confess: "The Tricks I Use on Every Delicious Photo"

We've all seen them, those showstopping, mouthwatering, hunger-inducing photos that make us all wish we lived next door to a food blogger and ask the question, "What tricks do you use to create such delicious photos?" From long tweezers to old baking sheets, I asked five food bloggers for their tricks that will take your food photography to the next level.

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Tip: Include Ingredients in the Shot

Brandy O'Neill of Nutmeg Nanny likes to play with her food. Brandy's tips:

  1. Use ingredients as props.
  2. I have a collection of filters that I use to bring a new perspective to my images.
  3. Embrace bold colors when setting the tone.
  4. For browns and grays, use dark-color bounce boards, but capture natural light using white boards. "I find that by lightening up your shots with the use of white foam bounce boards, and shooting on brighter surfaces, your pictures can really pop and give it that summertime sunny feel." A DIY bounce board is as simple as buying a sheet of foam board for a few dollars and either keeping it white to reflect the most light, or shading it from brown to black to reflect different kinds of light.
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Tip: Invest in a Toolkit

Sam Henderson of Today's Nest, and a professional photographer, has been compiling a photography tool chest that would make anyone jealous. Sam's tips:

  1. "For this image of Lyonnaise Salad, before I could get just the right shot, much of the yolk had run out of the egg and under the greens. I simply had another poached egg nearby from which I extracted the yolk with a childrens' medicine syringe. Then I added it to the hero egg just before my final shot." 
  2. "My toolkit includes a childrens' medicine syringe for adding sauce, long tweezers for moving things about where fingers won't fit, chopsticks for 'tszujing' subjects in tight places, a shaving brush for gently dusting away unwanted crumbs, dry paper towels for folding and placing under dishes for lift, wet paper towels for placing under food (like pasta) for lift, and a dulling spray to take the shine off of glossy plates or to add subtle frost to drink glasses." 
  3. New photographers should set up the shot with "stand-ins" before the hero is ready to make sure all the lighting and props are in place.
  4. Never, ever, eat the food until you are certain that you have that hero image.

Tip: Use an Old Baking Tray as a Backdrop

Coryanne of Kitchen Living With Coryanne sticks to consistent equipment and props. Coryanne's tips:

  1. "I rely on my favorite backdrop, a much-loved tattered and browned extra-large baking tray that tells a story of a thousand dinners. I use old baking trays to bring an old charm and a unique texture to my images, like this simple pesto recipe, but if you are looking for something more vibrant, spray-paint them for a bold color backdrop. Plus, these trays come with an added bonus: They make food photography cleanup quick and simple. I've even been known to hammer on mine or purposely leave coffee rings on them to bring a more rustic feel to a modern recipe."
  2. "I never take a photo on anything other than my 'Nifty Fifty,' or the 50mm f/1.8 STM lens for my digital camera."
  3. Wait for the afternoon sun because it has a warmer light.
  4. Only use props that are part of daily life.
  5. Stick with neutral tones and natural materials so that images have a consistent feel.

Tip: Find Comfort in Imperfection

Meg van der Kruik of Beard and Bonnet approaches food styling with a nod toward real life, rather than the untouched food stage. Meg's tips:

  1. Practice styling in everyday moments because, like every art form, food styling takes practice.
  2. Know where the natural light comes from. 
  3. "To ensure that each photo has an authentic feel, I focus on the food being the star rather than the props. We have found that shooting pristine and perfect tablescapes and food is inauthentic to who we are, and it doesn't connect with us (or our readers) leaving the images sometimes feeling forced. Sometimes that drip of hot sauce on the table or that coffee ring on the napkin enables our viewers to really connect with us and the recipes that we are creating. There is so much comfort in imperfection!"

Embrace the Dark

Caroline Hurley of Taste Love and Nourish uses and light and dark images equally. Caroline's tips:

  1. "Don't be afraid to filter and block your light. Dark photography can be really beautiful. Experiment with blocking your light source to create slivers or sections of light across the food. Use foam core, poster boards, or sheets to create dramatic lighting. The shadows from this type of lighting can be really beautiful and accentuate the surface of the food." 
  2. "I shoot each photo with a tripod, and I encourage everyone to invest in a remote." 
  3. "I set up the shoot even before I begin cooking to ensure that when my food is photographed it is at its peak and that everything is coordinated and styled well in advance of the photo being taken."
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