Food Photography by Susan Tuttle

Food Photography Tips

macarons food photography

Try stacking macarons or cookies for a pleasing shot. They don’t have to be perfectly stacked; in fact, the off-kilter look of this pile of macarons adds visual interest to the shot.

Have Christmas cookies on the brain? If you’re going to indulge in some holiday goodies, try photographing your treats while you’re at it! “Food Photography” by Susan Tuttle will give you all the tips you need to take delicious shots on your smartphone or DSLR. Read an excerpt from the food photography tips article below, or read the complete article in the 2015 Photographer’s Market or on

Keep creating and good luck!


Food Photography by Susan Tuttle

Attention all foodies! The next best thing to tasting delicious food is the joy of photographing it. In this article I’ll give you some practical information for food photography as well as inspirational ideas for capturing these delectables through your lens. When it comes to food photography, my favorite go-to lens is my 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, as it allows me to take close-up shots with shallow or very shallow DOF. If I want to capture a broader perspective, I switch to my 15–85mm f/3.5–5.6 lens and use a wide-angle focal length.


soup ingredients food photography

I used my zoom lens with wide-angle capability to get this shot of ingredients I used to make a hearty fall soup. Most of the vegetables came from our garden, infusing the photo with personal meaning.

If you are shooting food in a restaurant under tungsten light (incandescent light), set your white balance to Tungsten. This will help to cool the photo and counteract the yellow tones that result from the temperature of this light.

In low-light situations you have some choices. You can increase ISO to make your DSLR more sensitive to the available light. Use a reflector to bounce natural light into the shadowy areas of the scene, or use an external flash unit to bounce it off a white ceiling or reflector, or power it down and use it as a fill flash. A diffuser dome placed over your flash will help to soften the bounced light. Or place your camera on a tripod to accommodate a slower shutter speed; you can use your lowest ISO setting on the tripod. If you are in a restaurant setting, I don’t recommend using flash as it’s intrusive to diners, and the tripod and reflectors—um, keep those at home too.

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The lovely thing about a mobile phone is that you can carry it with ease on your person. You can pull it from your pocket and take a quick snapshot of your food at a cafe or coffeehouse. It’s also nice to have when you don’t feel like lugging your DSLR and lenses around. My kiddos and I went strawberry picking, and the last thing I needed was to have a bulky DSLR to carry around in the dusty dirt while trying to pick and carry all the quarts of fruit.

High-key or slightly over-exposed food shots are trendy these days (as are slightly under-exposed, darker, richer shots of food set against slate gray and black. I like both equally but have experimented more with the former. To achieve a high-key look I use exposure compensation to increase exposure by a stop or two, and for a slightly under-exposed look I use exposure compensation to decrease exposure by a stop or two. If you are shooting in Manual mode, you do not have access to exposure compensation, so you must slightly over- or under-expose when dialing in the settings manually.

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Get Inspired!

Flip through your favorite food magazine or cookbook and notice what types of shots you are attracted to. Do you like backgrounds that are blurred or ones that show more detail? Do you like when portions of the food are blurred, or would you prefer the food to be more in focus?

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Top Tips From a Food Stylist

Food Photographer Celine Steen

Food photographer, food stylist, and cookbook author Celine Steen gives us some more great tips for taking stunning foodie photos.

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Celine’s Gear

“I use a Nikon D700 almost always fitted with a 60mm f/2.8G macro lens, occasionally with a 50mm f/1.4D lens. My absolute favorite lens is the 60mm macro. It has wonderful bokeh capacities, is sharp, light, fast, rather affordable, and perfect for food photography in low-light conditions when combined with a tripod.

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Celine’s Food Photography Tips

coffee cake food photography

“I find this image to be a good reminder that you don’t always need to perfectly center the main subject of the shot for it to work well.”
Photo by Celine Steen

•    Morning light or early evening light is amazing to create slightly moodier, dreamy shots.
•    The food is your focus. It can be fun using a bunch of props to tell a story, but remember the food is supposed to be the star of the show.
•    Shoot from various angles to find the one where your food looks best.
•    Prepare ahead of time. I often set up the styling and props in my head before the shoot, cataloging all the dishes, fabric, and other props I could work with. That allows me to figure out what will work best ahead of time, instead of just throwing things together at the last minute. Most of the time it works well, but on occasion it just doesn’t flow perfectly on a visual level, so I have to switch to different items in the middle of the shoot. It can be a problem when shooting food items that can wilt or melt quickly; that’s why it’s best to try to figure it out ahead of time.
•    Spraying fruits and veggies with a little spray bottle of water is a great way to keep things looking fresh and appealing. Another useful trick is to slightly undercook the food so it doesn’t look overdone and mushy in pictures.

Susan Tuttle is a photographer and the author of The Art of Everyday Photography (2014), Photo Craft (2012, co-authored with Christy Hydeck), Digital Expressions (2010), and Exhibition 36 (2008). Visit her website,, for workshop information, to learn more about Susan and her art, and to get free tips and advice on photography.

Excerpted from The Art of Everyday Photography (c) 2014 by Susan Tuttle. Used with te kind permission of North Light Books, an imprint of F+W, a Content + eCommerce Company. Visit or call (855) 842-5267 to obtain a copy.


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