Hands In Frame For Food Photography

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m a freak when it comes to showing hands in frame. I feel like they add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way.

Hands in frame add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way and make a scene look very natura

Hands connecting with food make a scene look very natural and the hands almost invite the viewers hands to also interact. It puls you in and makes you feel like you’re here helping, not just observing.

​Now, let me tell you how you can incorporate hands in the photo.

Make sure to have a clear story

I think it’s pretty clear why this is necessary. If there are some hands just hanging out in the frame without a specific reason it will look like a mistake.​

So think about how you can add a story to your photo. Did someone just bring a meal on the table, are you offering a drink to the viewer, did you just come from the farmers market and are bringing fresh veggies, are you lighting a candle to add some mood to your meal,…

Do you see a pattern here?

All of these stories make sense. So think about what the story is and how you can add interest to the frame.

Hands in frame add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way and make a scene look very natura

Wash your hands – dah!

Okay, you’ll say that’s obvious. Who touches food with dirty hands?! Uhm okay, it happened to me more than once (a lot more than once), that I styled the set and hurried to take the shot with my hands in the frame and completely forgetting that there was some flour, sesame, or whatever food I was touching before, still on my hands (and my camera – oops).

You can usually edit this out (unless it’s a huge mess), but who has the time, right?

Hands in frame add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way and make a scene look very natura

Out of focus

The hands don’t necessarily need to be the focus of the image or interacting with the main subject. Having a cake and someone eating a slice in the background can have a powerful story.

Hands in frame add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way and make a scene look very natura

Show some action

I love process and action photos. They are the most dynamic food photo can be. Pouring a sauce, sprinkling some sugar on top of a doughnut, piping on frosting, cutting veggies… All these actions start with hands, so you don’t need to cut hands in the frame, but rather make them a part of the story.

Hands in frame add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way and make a scene look very natura

Make them look soft and natural

This is probably the hardest part. At least for me. For some reason, placing your hands in a natural-looking way doesn’t always mean that they are actually in a natural position. More often than not, you’ll feel weird and unnatural holding your hands for the frame. It goes the same with your body if it’s also in the frame.

​That’s so weird right?

​So how can you make them look natural? Well, there’s trial and error and mostly it’s checking out the photo and trying to determine what looks unnatural. Are the fingers too square? Maybe they too close together and looking very tight or are they too wide apart looking like claws. Are you making sharp angles with fingers or elbows (this one happens very often)?

Hands in frame add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way and make a scene look very natura

Make composites

​When it comes to images with multiple set of hands in frame, they are not the eaiest to capture in one take. And impossible if you’re the only person in the room.

Here’s where composites come in handy. All you need is a few photos taken with the same settings and photoshop. The rest is explained in my IGTV video here.

Hands in frame add a human element to food, which brings food to life in a completely new way and make a scene look very natura

Think about how the light hits your hands?

Also a very important part. If the hands are very close to the light source they might be too bright and have too much highlights. One way to solve this is to place them in a different position or if that just doesn’t go with your story, you can try editing the brightness in post-processing, which is my next point.

​Editing

Editing people and editing food are two very different types of editing. That’s why it can often happen that while the food looks nice and inviting, the hands may look lifeless.

​This totally depends on the way you edit your images and the dish you are photographing. But, if it happens that your hands look lifeless and colorless, chances are they are too green. I usually bring photos like this in Photoshop and use the Selective tool in the Layers panel to add a Selective tool layer. Then choose Reds from the Colors Panel and lower cyan just enough to make the hands look natural again. By that point the whole image will look weird, so you need to mask out just the hands in the Selective color layer. And you’re done!

Btw, I have a Moody Food Preset Collection available, if you’re using Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw.

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to create some images with hands in the frame. Hands are not the easiest to photograph, but they add so much character to an image that it’s worth going the extra mile.

Join My Free Food Photography Creative Community!

Free Online Food Photography Creative Community

I’ve finally put out the food photography creative community I’ve been meaning to open since a year ago. I’m amazed by all the kind creative people I already have on my mailing list. And if you’re not one of them, I would love you to join RIGHT NOW!

Because today we’re officially opening the Use Your Noodles Creative Community group on Facebook.

The reason I wanted to join you all in one group is because I want you to find inspiration and friends, share love and your work. So if you’re not sure whether to join or not, let me tell you why you need to join today!

WHY SHOULD YOU JOIN MY FREE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY CREATIVE COMMUNITY?

– Exposure and community

In this busy modern world it’s easy to get disconnected with your community, but our FB group is all about keeping the community, share your work, appreciate the work of other’s, find new friends and talk about the topic we love most – food photography.

– Free resources all in one place

All the downloadable freebies I offer will be there in the group, so you can easily find them.

– Feedback

Every week we’ll feature one image for feedback and everyone in community can help with advice, critics, praise, suggestions.

– Questions answered

You’ll have the chance to ask questions on anything food photography related and get answers from me and the community.

– Live Q&As

I’ll host at least two live Q&As a year, where you’ll have the chance to ask me anything food photography related and I’ll be there answering live.

How can you join?

Sign up in the form below and you’ll get instant access to the community 🙂

And please make sure to introduce yourself to everyone!

6 tips on how to build an essential prop collection

With these tips, you’ll be able to build a beautiful versatile food photography prop collection that won’t break your budget.

With these tips, you'll be able to build a beautiful versatile food photography prop collection that won't break your budget.

Have you ever drooled over someone’s prop collection? I still do, even though I might have reached my prop collection maximum for the storage space available. You know those images of perfectly stacked props on a nice wooden shelf. I think I’m obsessed with those images.

So if you’re like me and you don’t have a ton of space to store your props (and even if you do), you wanna follow some guidelines when it comes to building a prop collection. And here they are:

Do not rush your prop collection

This past weekend I’ve been cleaning my house and I found props that I bought a few months after I started blogging. I was selling at a flea market and there was some other seller with some pretty mint green metal containers. At that point mint green was super popular. And I loved them so much. It was perfect – popular color, metal, vintage, until it wasn’t. I figured these containers were too big, and the color didnt’ fit my style. And I honestly didn’t even know what I could use them for. I rushed it.

And years later you find me taking them from my kitchen where no one has ever touched them to the attic. I still have hopes that I’ll use them as storage in my house sometimes, but most probably I’ll just end up selling them

So my number one advice to you would be, to build your prop collection slowly. Do nut rush it or you’ll end up with useless props taking up valuable space, that you could have filled with props that you can actually use.

My second advice would be to go around your house and look for things that would make great props for zero money. Same goes with backdrops. I have a great article on how to use things that you already own as backdrops.

Choose something that you can use over and over again

When it comes to props, you want to buy props that are suitable for more than just one use and that you can also use during a longer period of time.

If something is very fashionable chances are, next year you’ll be throwing it out.

Think of props that are evergreen and work in many situations. These are props that look beautiful, but don’t overpower the food and aren’t even that memorable. These are props that can be matched with many other props and layer on top of each other and they can become props that you use on a daily basis.

Smaller is usually better

In food photography, larger props can end up looking too big for the dish. While in real life it is actually better to serve food on a plate that is so big, that you see a big par of the plate. This makes the dish look lighter. In food photography though a plate that is too large might overpower food.

So if in real life you’d be serving chicken and rice in a 30 cm (12 inch) plate, for a photo a 20 cm (8 inch) plate will work better.

When it comes to tiny props, there’s one type of prop that is really super tiny and also one of the most versatile and useful props – pinch bowls. Pinch bowls are very small bowls usually around 5 cm (2 inches). They are super useful for showing off ingredients used in your recipe that you can’t otherwise. They also add size diversity to a composition.

Look for textures

Texture adds another dimension and interest to your photos. We follow the principle of texture in all aspects of food photography and same goes for props.

Textured props catch light in just the right places and they add some depth to a photo. While clear white plates look pretty and clean in a restaurant, they portray a totally different feel in food photography. Oftentimes, clear white plates, especially when the food is minimal, can look sterile. This of course depends on the style or the client you’re shooting for.

But when you’re buildign your own rop collection focusing on props with texture is the way to go. One more thing too look for in props is the shine. Shiny props create lots of highlights and we want to avoid that.

Props with texture include:

  • handmade ceramics witht texture or a subtle pattern
  • used wood
  • vintage cutlery
  • textured metal trays
  • textured glass
  • and many more

Old antique props are great props, since they have some patina and this adds to texture and also gives them a matte finish. Some vintage props are harder to find, though. For years, I’ve been trying to get a hand on a vintage ice scoop, still no luck!

But recently I’ve discovered a video by Joanie from The Bite Shot about how to create a vintage-looking patina on new metal props. If you’re into DIY stuff, this video is perfect!

Pick a few outstanding pieces

Remember me babbling about buying neutral evergreen items.

It is really nice to have a few pieces in your prop collection that stand out and add that extra zing to your images. These are the props that are very memorable, BUT NOT OVERPOWERING. Depending on what kind of dishes you might shoot the most, these may be rustic laddles, vintage wire cooling rack, a beautiful cake stand, a very specifically shaped or textured glass…

This should be the pieces you fall in love with. When you see them they should spark something in you. But nevertheless you need to be careful that they fall into the no-to -overpowering category.

Use Instagram Save feature to save prop sources

I find Instagram Save feature useful for many purposes. And one of the ways I use them is also to save all the beautiful props that I might want or need in the future but don’t wanna buy (or can’t afford to buy) at that very moment.

How I use this feature is I save props that I find interesting in a special Collection I named Props. I save either an image of the specific prop if I’m only interested in that prop or I save an image with multiple props, if I find a shop that ahs lots of props I’m interested in.

Every time I’m looking for a specific prop I go to that Collection to see if I’ve already found something that I like in the past and so I save time, searching for new ways to source props.

Here are a few of my favorite places that sell props. I don’t get paid to post these, I wanna share with you the prop places I truly love, some I own and some not yet, but would love to 🙂

How to create a cohesive Instagram feed

With this easy tutorial on how to create a cohesive Instagram feed you'll be able to create a beautiful eyecatching IG feed!

So I’ve been asked this questions so so many times and for me personally creating a cohesive Instagram feed is a mix of trusting what my eyes see and having a plan and theory behind all that.

I’m going to show you exactly how I plan my feed (when I’m not eyeballing it).

In fact, after I started really carefully planing my grid, I immediately saw that people liked what I was producing. I was gaining much more followers than before. After a while, I started to do planning less theoretically and trusted my own eyes more and more. I got used to how my feed looks and took me less time (and less thinking!) to create a feed that flows.

So if you’re having trouble making your feed consistent and cohesive, I suggest you start with theory (that’s where this article comes in) and after a while, you’ll see that you’ll do it more and more spontaneously. It’s going to become second nature.

It’s hard to start, when your feed looks all over the place, right?

Start with planning at least 9 images ahead (12 or 15 are even better). This way you’ll actually be able to see how your new and shiny feed will look like!

So here are the steps that you need to take in order to create a stunning visually pleasing and cohesive feed:

  1. Use a planning software
  2. Choose a style and color palette
  3. Choose what type of content you’ll share
  4. Decide on the layout of all the different types of content
  5. Color theory and shapes are super important
  6. Consider negative space and angles
  7. Perfect is not always the best
  8. Use the highest quality photos you can.

Use a planning software

There a few ways you can plan your grid online with software. The ones I like are Later and Planoly (not sponsored). They are free for les than 30 posts a month. You can use them only for planning the grid or you can post from their software as well. You can use either their app on your phone or plan via their website. Either way, that’s probably the easiest way to start planing how your grid will look like.

Choose a style of the grid

Do you prefer darker photos, lighter photos, do you like everything very colorful, do you love monochromatic images, desaturated, warm, cold, vintage, modern, natural, a specific color palette… so many styles and colors to choose from.

Choosing one style doesn’t mean you can’t integrate other styles too, but one or maximum of two is the best.

Choose what type of content you’ll share

Will you be sharing only photos or you’ll also share videos, text, graphics… you should consider all the content you want to share with your audience and what type of content they’ll appreciate. Just make sure they all look great together. If you’re including any graphical elements, thy need to work togeher as well and they should match the style of other content in your feed.

Decide on the layout of all the different types of content

If you are sharing more than one type of content then it is essential to decide how often you’ll share each type of content. For example, if you’re sharing photos and text, then you could share a one-to-one ratio, so every second day you’ll share text and all other days a photo. You can consider some other ratios too. I love 6 to 1. Six photos and one text image. Be creative!

Color theory and shapes are super important

When I plan my Instagram grid, I always take into consideration the colors in the photos. I usually have one or two main colors in a photo. When I plan a grid, I’ll place images with the same main color on the different parts of the grid so they don’t all touch each other. I post mostly dark images but I include brighter ones as well and I follow the same principle there too.

Same goes with shapes. If I post a photo of a round cake in the middle of the frame, I won’t post other images with similar shape so that they fall in a line (unless it’s a diagonal). I also don’t want to squeeze them all in one corner.

One way to creatively use color theory is to have a color-coordinated grid, where you post one color only for a specific number of days and then continue with another.

Consider negative space

Balance is the magic word when it comes to a cohesive Instagram feed. Try to think of your image as having weight. Some weigh less (meaning they are less busy), some weigh more (busy images with big elements or multiple elements). Now imagine your feed being an old fasioned kitchen scale. You should place the images in your feed so that your scale is in balance. Just like with colors and shapes you need to consider placing images with same ‘weight’ in oposite parts of the grid to balance things out.

The same goes for angles. I post photos from different angles in my feed and that also takes some thought. Just like, with color, shapes, and negative space, I like to spread mix photos taken at different angles so that they don’t compete with each other.

Perfect is not always the best

Please, don’t go and follow these things I just wrote about very very strictly. Like I wrote in the beginning, sometimes something will look better and you won’t necessarily have a clear explanation. Follow your gut and your creativity.

Use the highest quality photos you can.

You might say, but I’m not a professional yet, I don’t have high-quality images. It doesn’t matter, use what you have, but be picky at the same time. Choose the best photo you have and if you’re unsure and decide between two or three photos, use stories to ask your followers. As an IG user, I can say that I love voting and people really do love engaging in things like questions and anything that requires their input in the stories. So why not ask your followers? This way you’ll also learn what type of content they like seing from you. Win-win!

It doesn’t stop at a cohesive Instagram feed

While creating a cohesive Instagram feed takes some preparation and careful planning it’s not the only thing to do if you want your IG channel to attract followers (aka ideal followers). One of the most important think about running an IG feed is being personal and showing who you are. Poeple love following real people not machines!

Let me know if you found this useful in the comments below or on my IG.

10 tips for photographing cold drinks

With these simple tips and tricks for photographing cold drinks, you are going to take your drink photography to the next level.

Summer is slowly approaching and with it cold drinks who doesn’t love a refreshing drink in the midst of a hot Summer?

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography. Sometimes you need to act quickly, especially if you’re working with real ice and it can be very stressful, but the results are amazing. I love drink photos! And I love taking photos of cold drinks, but they require a bit of preparation or you’ll end up with a bland looking image.

So if you wanna create images of refreshing cold drinks that really pop, read on. I have some tips on how you can make cold drinks look cold and refreshing.

Using very cold drinks so the ice melts slower

This would be my nr. one tip, because if you’re planning on taking more than one photo, this will save your life. I tell you! Try adding ice to room temp water or to ice cold water and see the difference.

I always plan out my photoshoots and I place some water, juice, sparkling water, or whatever I’m shooting in the fridge for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. I wanna make sure I have some wiggle room and don’t need to rush through the shoot. Although, if I take too long, I replace the whole drink and start from scratch.

Add some frost effect

Frost effect is one of my favorite things about photographing cold drinks. A frosted glass really gives that chill feel.

There are a couple of ways you can achieve frost effect.

You can place the glass in the freezer way before the photo shoot to make sure it is really very very cold. But take care when you’re taking it out since you might leave fingerprints. Always be mindful of where you touch the glass. Preferably touch it near the bottom or with cotton gloves. After you take the glass out it will only take a minute or two before it starts building frost, so you need to make sure it’s on its place by that time, otherwise, you’ll get fingertips seen on the frost.

The other way to create frost effect is by mixing 50:50 solution of water and glycerin. This will maintain the frost effect for longer and it will keep it more the same all the time. Natural frost will become watery after some time (which also looks great), but if you wanna keep the same effect for a longer period of time, glycerin will do the trick.

Optional: You can spray the glass with matting spray, before adding glycerin solution. While glycerin creates a translucent frost with larger droplets (and creates a look o a drink that you just took from the fridge not a freezer), spraying with a matting spray, creates a matte effect, exactly like the frost that looks like the drink is coming from a freezer.

One note, though. Don’t drink the drink if you used glycerin or matting spray on the glass.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Add some ice

Ice is an essential part of drink photography. But it melts really quickly, especially in the Summer (I always turn off heating when shooting something cold during Winter).

When you’re choosing what ice to use, be mindful of the shape. Would the drink need round or square ice cubes, would shaved ice look better. Would using uniquely shaped ice look great. Think about that first!

One more thing about ice. These days you can get pretty realistic-looking fake ice cubes (that don’t melt!). They are pretty expensive though. So far, I’m only using real ice. I do have some cheap fake ice cubes, but they look very fake. If your drink is not very transparent, they might still work, since you can make them just peek out a little bit.

Frozen garnish

When it comes to photographing cold drinks, the frost is really important way of showcasing that we’re dealing with a COLD drink. One way to enhance that is by adding frozen garnish. For example, if your drink includes some sort of berries, you could freeze them and add them on top in the last second. After a minute or so (just like the glass) they will start to build the most beautiful frost.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Frosted sugar rims

This is not purely cold drinks tip, but I always like to see a nice sugar rim and to me, it almost immediately screams cold cocktail.

Try playing around with colorful sugar or salt rims.

First, you need to line the edge of the rim with some lime or lemon. I’ve even used butter for coarser sugar. If you wanna add some color, you can use food coloring or flavored sugars.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Adding salt or sugar to create beer head or champagne bubbles

This one is a lifesaver.

I remember shooting a beer cocktail a long time ago and that foam just wouldn’t stay for more than a few seconds. It was a pain. My husband helped me pour just so I could press the shutter fast enough. I can’t remember how many bottles of beer we used.

Adding some salt or sugar helps re-form the foam and keep it for longer. Although you might not end up drinking that beer, that’s still much better than being left with 10 open beer bottles after the photoshoot. Unless you’re throwing a stale beer party afterward 🙂

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Think about light placement

How the light hits your drink can make or break a photo. Like in every type of photography light is key.

Transparent and semi-transparent drinks look amazing in backlight or in back-side light (that’s the angle between the backlight and sidelight). This way the light goes through the drink before hitting your lens. Since the drink is transparent you get a gorgeous glow that lifts up the photo and adds another dimension.

If the glass looks a bit dark, you can try using a reflector to bring out a bit more light to the front of the glass as well.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Play with hard light

There seems to be a misconception in food photography that you need diffused light and soft shadows in order to create a beautiful image. This is true to some extent, but this totally depends on the feel and the story you are trying to portray in your photos.

I find hard light drinks especially pleasing in drink photography. Even more so, if I’m using a glass with some structure. This way the hard light going through the glass creates a beautifully patterned shadow. The other nice thing about using hard light in drink photos is that it creates a colorful shadow whenever you shoot a colorful drink.

Photographing cold drinks is one of the toughest but also one of the most rewarding angles of food photography.

Watch those reflections

When you’re dealing with highly reflective surfaces such as glass, you need to be aware of what you can see in the reflections. If you’re seeing some weird distracting reflections, try determining what causes them and remove those things. Sometimes it can be the shape of the light source (lightbox or a window). In this case, you can try diffusing the light with a curtain or diffuser.

Always do a test shot

Always, always do a test shot.

Once your drink is in the glass you need to move fast. Ice melts super quickly, especially if you’re shooting in a warm room or in the sun. Building a perfect composition before your drink is all dressed up is a must in drink photography.

You need to make sure everything is where it needs to be before adding icy things to the set.

Using curves in food photography

Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.

When it comes to composition, there is a number of compositional techniques that you can apply to your food photography. Which one you choose is greatly impacted by your style, the story or even who your client is.

I’m a big fan of natural-looking food photography and some of the key compositional techniques that I like to use are curves and lines. Today I’m going to focus on using curves because I think they add so much dynamic and sense of movement to the photo as well as making the composition look natural and somewhat feminine. Curves are also a great way to lead the viewer’s eye towards your main subject in a natural way.

Curves can be a separate or I should say main composition techniques or it can be just an addition to others, such as the rule of thirds or golden rule to add some movement to the photo.

Since curves can really be anything, I put up a list of curves that I use in my food photography the most.

S-curve

This is a curve that mimics the letter S. I sometimes use S-shape to build the entire composition around it like in the ramen photo. Or I use it to support my composition and add movement and softness to the photo like in the cookie photo.

Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.
Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.

C-curve

C-curve is the simplest curve you can use and the reason I love it so much is because it’s subtle and adds dynamic to the photo without being too obvious. Just like the S-curve, you can use it as a main compositional technique (egg photo) or support other techniques (apple pie photo). One great way you can use a C-curve is by placing the curve around your subject, which makes the objects on the curve almost hug the main subject.

Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.
Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.

Irregular curve

That’s any curve that connects objects in your frame in a way that makes the eye flow through those items towards the main subject.

Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.

Spiral

Most often I use spirals as a main compositional technique and not so much as a supporting technique. That’s mainly because the spiral can look very obvious very quickly. When they are obvious they also look unnatural. The other reason is, that the spirals lead your eye toward its center. So I wanna make sure that the center of the spiral is my main object.

Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.

Continuing s-curve

That’s an S-curve that is continuing and is forming a wave. I use this technique when I have lots of objects in a frame, that I want to visually connect and lead the viewer’s eye to the main subject.

Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.
Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.

A combination of curves

More often than not I use a combination of curves so I can visually link different objects in the scene with different effects. For example, let’s take a photo of the breaded sweet bread. I used a C-shape by placing pine in a C-shape to create a shape that hugs the main subject and gives a warm feel. I used the hands to lead the eye to the main subject.

In the second photo with lemons, I also used different curves to add dynamics to an otherwise simple shot.

In most of the above photos, I’ve used a combination of curves. I intentionally left it unmarked for you to go through and try to find other curves and think about how they affect the photo. Let me know in the comments if you’ve found any other curves in these photos.

Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.
Using curves in food photography can add softness and natural feel to the photo. Here is a tutorial on how to use curves to create beautiful compositions.

Master Manual Mode in 5 Minutes

What is manual mode and how to become confident using manual mode in your food photography?

Lots of people tell me that they prefer using auto-mode on their camera because they have no idea how to use the manual mode. They feel like manual mode has too many settings to think about, but once you get the hold of what each setting does and what kind of photo you want is pretty straightforward.

So why should you start shooting in manual mode? Because it gives you total control!

What is manual mode?

Manual mode is the program on your camera that allows you complete creative control over how your image will turn out. Even though cameras are pretty smart these days and auto programs can work fine in lots of situations, knowing how manual mode works will improve your food photography for sure. One more thing I love about the manual mode is that the setting stay the same unless you change them, while with auto or semi-auto programs each time you take a shot the settings change according to how the camera sees your scene.

Manual mode is often described in relation to ‘the exposure triangle’.

The exposure triangle is made up of three elements – ISO, aperture and shutter speed. By setting up there three settings on your camera, you’re trying to achieve correct exposure.

Related: What equipment do I need for food photography?

But how do you know when is your image correctly exposed?

Here’s where you need to learn to read a light meter. An in-camera light meter measures how much light is coming to the sensor and if you shoot in the manual mode you can see the light meter on your screen and it shows you if your image is under-, over- or correctly exposed.

What is manual mode and  how to become confident using manual mode in your food photography?
How over-, under- and correct exposure looks on the light meter on Canon. On Nikon, the negative and positive sides are turned around. Just keep an eye on the minus and plus, minus being under- and plus being overexposed

The three settings you need to know

In order to achieve correct exposure, we can change the three different aspects of the exposure triangle. If you wanna learn how I adjust the three settings you can get my Manual Mode Guide down below. I included the step by step process of setting these three points.

But just in short, let’s see what those three settings mean.

ISO

ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO, the more light you need to get a good exposure and the less grain you will see in your photos.

Aperture

Aperture is the setting on your camera that affects how much of your food is in focus.

We measure how wide your aperture is with using f-stops. Lower f-stops mean wider aperture which leads to a shallower depth of field. This creates a soft blurred background. Higher f-stops do the opposite.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter on your camera lens stays open. It is measured in seconds.

Slower shutter speeds can create motion blur if you’re holding the camera in your hands or if the camera is moving in any way.

I hope this gives you some confidence and courage to try out manual mode on your camera, but if you wanna learn more about the three settings and my step by step process of choosing how to set them, then you can download my Mastering Manual Mode Guide!

These no-bake frozen coconut cakes with sweet creamed coconut and Greek yogurt on top of a no-bake almond crust are the perfect summer desserts. Add some whipped cream and seasonal berries and you're in it for a win!

How To Achieve Seasonal Feel In Your Food Photography

These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.

Since very early on in my blogging, I knew seasons are going to be a big part of it. It’s what I try to follow in my life in general and it’s what I wanted to do with the blog. And I also find it trendy right now, which I absolutely love because seasonal food is healthier both for us and the planet. Btw, if you don’t have my Seasonal Eating Guide yet, you can get it here.

I wanted my photos to reflect that! I didn’t incorporate seasons very intentionally in the beginning, but eventually, I realized there are a lot of ways I can actually say ‘Hey, it’s winter! And this is a Winter dish.’

I prepared a list of techniques I use these days to achieve that seasonal feel in my photos. They are pretty straightforward! It’s usually a mix of a couple of these techniques that produces the best result.

Okay, here we go…

1. Colors

When I say Autumn, which color do you imagine? I’m guessing you said orange, brown or yellow. What about Winter? Did you say white or gray, blue maybe?

Did I guess what your answers were?

See, we associate certain colors with certain seasons. And those colors are super powerful when you want to convey a feeling of a certain season in your photo.

We can use these colors both with styling the dish or the scene.

Let’s look at the two photos below: The left one is clearly all about Autumn. It’s an apple pie, I added some reds, oranges, and browns, which are very typical autumn colors. But also check out the color of leaves. They are green, but the green is more muted and leans more toward the yellow. This shows us that the leaves are about to decay. It all adds to the autumnal theme.

If you look at the photo on the right, it’s a strawberry and rhubarb galette. It also has some red color, which is my first association when I think Spring fruit. But notice that the color of leaves is more vibrant and it leans more toward the blue. It has a fresher ‘young leaves’ feel.

Even though the green color probably was different in real life too, I changed it a bit in post-process to emphasize the season. So I moved the green slider towards yellow for the autumn photo and towards the blue in the spring shot.

Also, the backdrops are completely different. The ‘apple pie’ is shot on a dark brown wooden backdrop to give a more cozy autumn feeling. While the strawberry galette is shot on a dark blue backdrop and blue plate that make the red pop and create a fresher vibe.

These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.

These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.

2. Temperature

Same as with color there are certain temperatures (and I mean color temperatures) that we associate with certain seasons. In general, we think cooler for Winter and sometimes Summer and Spring, and warmer for Autumn.

We usually tend to keep the color temperature around neutral, but by moving it a bit (not too much, of course) you can achieve a stunning seasonal feel.

If we look at the two photos below, we can feel that the one on the right is really warm. I achieved that both with editing and adding candlelight to the photo. On the other hand, the photo on the right feels cooler and we can guess that this is a winter dish.

These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.
These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.

3. Ingredients

By adding the ingredients that are in season we can really tell the viewer which season it is as long it makes sense to the scene. In this cherry ice cream sandwich photo, I added a few cherries around the sandwiches to show what’s inside the ice cream and to show that it’s cherry season!

These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.

4. Story – Props

We can also tell the story about the season with props. You can use pans or utensils, that we usually use during a certain season… like snowflake cookie cutters in the Winter.

Or you can even use props that aren’t necessarily connected with food, like in the photo below (on the right), where I added Christmas decorations to show that this is a Christmas recipe.

In the photo on the left, I’ve used a teapot and some cocoa and marshmallows to give us a sense of Winter, but also the shape of the cookies can give us the idea.

These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.
These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.

5. Light

The most obvious light situation that shows the difference between seasons in soft and harsh light. There are many more sunny days in the Summer than in any other season. So we immediately connect harsh light with Summer. Like in the two photos below. The harsh shadows give the Summer afternoon feel.

These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.
These simple techniques will give your food photos a certain seasonal feel and make them tell a story about the dish and the season.

Dark and moody photos are also more associated with colder seasons and light and airy with the warm part of the year, but that’s also a personal style. You can make both for any season using all other techniques!

6. Make the dish seasonal

I left this one for the end since I think it’s a no brainer. If you have a photo of Christmas cookies and make everything else look like it’s actually summer, the photo will fail. Unless it’s some kind of artistic decision, it’s probably not going to look great.

To wrap things up…

There are so many ways to throw your viewers in a time period. It’s usually a mix of more techniques or a lot of the time all of them. I hope I gave you some ideas. If you try any of these, please tag #useyournoodles so I can see it!

How To Take Great Food Photos In Low Light

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn’t need to be. With these five tips, you’ll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.

It seems like people get really frustrated with the lack of light in several situations and you might find yourself to be one of them.

  1. The first non-ideal situation is Winter. The light is certainly not as abundant as it is in the Summer or
  2. You might be faced with dark and moody photography for the first time and you have no clue as to how to handle the low light situation.

Let me tell you, that you have nothing to fear.

I live in Slovenia and during late Autumn and until early Spring the lighting situation is far from ideal. It’s cloudy, rainy, snowy, foggy… And all these things affect the amount of light coming through the windows.

If you’re faced with the same situation you’re in the right place. I’m going to show you a few tips, that will definitely help you embrace the low light.

Let’s get started.

1. Use a tripod

You’ve probably heard me say this a million times, but a tripod is your greatest friend when it comes to food photography. It doesn’t even have to be an expensive one. You can get something extremely cheap for 20€ (around 20$) and it will still be a massive improvement from hand-holding your camera.

2. Don’t be afraid to use long exposure times

When you’ve used a tripod, you can get away with much longer exposure times than when you hold your camera. If you look at the photo below, you’ll see that I often use very long exposure times, even longer than a second. Wow, right?

A few things to consider when shooting at long exposure times:

  • Use a tripod
  • Use a remote or software to remotely trigger the shutter button
  • Be still. Don’t move when the shutter is released. Any movement around the camera can cause a blur.
Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 100 – f6.3 – 1/3 seconds
Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 100 – f9 – 1.3 seconds

3. Embrace the high ISO

Oftentimes we get scared of bumping the ISO, but the reality is that most hobby cameras will handle ISO up to 800 and if you have a more advanced camera, you can get much higher than that.

Now, I try to keep my ISO at lowest, because this will mean I have the sharpest image possible. The thing is that oftentimes (and I say that from experience) is that we tend to prefer to keep the ISO at lower settings and underexpose than to bump the ISO and correctly expose the photo.

Why is this important?

If you look at any photo closely, you’ll see that there’s always more noise in the shadowy part of an image. So when we underexpose we create more shadowy parts in the image, meaning more noise. And this can result in more noise than we would actually get if we shot at a higher ISO and make that photo brighter.

See, high ISO is not the enemy 😊

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 2000 – f2.8 – 1/320 seconds

4. Get closer to the light source

I was recently talking about low light in one of my 1:1 coaching sessions. My client was struggling with her dining room being really dark in the Winter. She was shooting on her dining table which was in the middle of the room.

Do you see the problem yet?

When you move away from the light source, the amount of light reaching your subject decreases significantly.

But there’s a simple solution to that. Just move the subject closer to the light source aka window. Don’t shoot at your dining table. Those are usually in the middle of the room and most certainly this is not an ideal place if the light is really low.

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 1000 – f3.2 – 1/25 seconds

5. Use manual focus

When it comes to dark places auto-focus is not very reliable. It might miss the focus completely or even refuse to focus.

Getting friendly with manual focus helps you solve this problem. Set your lens to manual focus and use the zoom tool to really see where you’re focusing.

How To Shoot Food In A Dark Room by Useyournoodles on Jumprope.

Final Thoughts

Okay, phew. Did you just realize that low light not bad at all? I really hope you did and I hope you’ll try the methods above. If you wanna learn more about how to manipulate light in order to improve your photos either bright and airy or dark and moody I’ve got a free e-course and you can apply through the form below.

Creative food photography composition techniques

With these nine food photography composition techniques you’ll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the rule of thirds, golden ratio or others. We are not going to talk about them today. Today it’s all about forgetting the grid. Well, not forgetting but rather focus on other powerful food photography composition techniques that add something extra to your food photos.

While you still want to keep those grids in the back of your mind, I want you to focus on details. Here are a few composition techniques that will add interest to your photos and help you bring your delicious dish to life.

Diagonals and movement

This is probably a #1 mistake I see with new food photographers (hello, I was there too). We were taught to place things parallel to the table or any edge. Your mom probably didn’t say: ‘Make your bed and make sure the lines are diagonal’ or did she? Probably not. We’re used to placing things straight, which is great in real life because this means order and cleanliness and we love to have a tidy (or at least a tidy looking) home.

But when it comes to food photography using only parallel lines is usually very boring and doesn’t create interest or dynamic.

On the other hand use of diagonals can be a really effective composition technique, since diagonals create movement and dynamic tension.

In the photo below you can see how I used two different diagonals. The napkin is placed diagonally and the dusting of sugar is following the other diagonal.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Negative space

Using space, that isn’t crowded with props is another great composition technique. If used wisely it can lead the viewer’s eye straight to the main subject. It adds harmony to an image and gives a sense of cleanliness and simplicity.

Negative space is not only a plain backdrop, but it can also be a part of the image where the props are very neutral or of a color that’s not distracting from the food but rather emphasizes it.

The great thing about negative space is that it creates a clean space for adding a copy.

This is the number one composition technique that I suggest new food photographers use. When I started out, I had almost no props that would actually be fit for food photography. I had things I used in real life and those are not always great in food photos.

By eliminating or using fewer props you can really focus on the dish itself without being distracted by the props that don’t really look good.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Go off-center

When you take a photo of someone, where inside the frame do you place that person? Was your answer in the middle? Yeah, we all do that. It’s natural to do that. But it doesn’t always make the biggest impact when we look at a photo like that, does it?

The same goes for food photography. Placing the subject in the center can be powerful when you know what you’re doing, but most of the time placing it off-center will lead the viewer’s eye around the image and to that main subject placed off-center.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Lines

Lines are a powerful technique of placing objects in the frame in such a way that they lead the viewer’s eye towards the main subject.

As in the photo below. There are chopsticks leading to the bowl on the left, the napkin is placed so that it creates a line leading to that plate. The rice and meat in the top right plate are styled so that they form a line in the middle. And this line is leading towards the main subject – the plate on the left.

One word of caution. I never set all the lines in a photo to lead towards the main subject. This would inevitably end up looking fake and unnatural.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Layers

This is my favorite composition technique when I want to tell a story. It allows you to add multiple props or layers of food that work cohesively together and tell a story about food. The great thing about layers is that they add texture to a photo. Using layers works miracles with flat foods, that don’t have a very distinct texture.

Layers can be anything. A backdrop, fabric, props, the food itself when it creates a nice texture and so on.

In the photo below you can see a few layers. There’s a wooden backdrop with lots of texture, two pieces of gauze napkins, a cooling rack, a pie pan, the pie itself and extra sugar on top. All these layers add another dimension and texture to the photo. However, they are not distracting since they are neutral in regards to the main subject – the pie.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Framing

Framing is a very simple concept. It literally means creating a frame around your subject so it creates a visual frame and leads the eye towards the main subject inside that frame.

Framing is very useful for dishes where it is not clearly visible what is in the dish. By placing the ingredients around to form a frame they let the viewer know what’s inside a dish and at the same time show where the hero of the image is.

It is also great for storytelling since the objects around your main subjects can tell a story of that dish while still emphasizing the main subject instead of distracting from it.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Repeat patterns

Patterns are one of the most if not the most graphical food photography composition technique of them all, especially when all the elements in the frame are the same.

Repeat patterns can be simply repeating objects of the same shape, like round objects or long objects.

Another powerful way to use patterns is to add something unexpected to the image. Like in the image below. There’s a cookie missing. This is breaking the pattern and adds interest to the image. It makes the viewer wonder where did it go. Did someone eat it?

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Foreground

One of my favorite storytelling composition techniques.

The foreground is the part of the image that is closer to the camera as the main subject. While it is normal to use the space in front of the subject it is less usual to extend the foreground to the point where it looks like there’s an object very far away from the main subject.

This technique adds a sense of space and depth to an image.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Mixing shapes

If with repeating pattern technique is to mix objects of the same shapes, this is the total opposite. By using objects of different shapes you can create visual interest.

This is the most obvious in a top-down photo, but you can do the same with any other angle, like in the photo below. By using a square box instead of something round, I was able to create a line that leads the eye to the main subject – the fruits on the plate. But it also adds contrast to all the round shapes in the frame.

With these nine food photography composition techniques you'll be able to add an extra zing to your photos.

Give these food photography composition techniques a try

I hope you enjoyed my guide and if you try some creative food photography composition techniques, let me know in the comments below.

One more thing, I highly recommend (as I always do) using a tripod or something to stabilize your camera.

I know setting up the scene before setting up the camera is tempting, but in order to take full advantage of powerful composition, placing the camera in its position is the key. Then once the camera is set, start setting up the scene.

And here are some extra thoughts because I love planning 🙂

Planning and sketching

Whenever I can I draw a sketch of the shot. Here’s the reason why?

I could easily rely on creating a beautiful composition by looking at the screen of my camera. But I don’t want to be stuck with the same rule of thirds with all my photos. Most of the cameras these days offer a rule of thirds grid option, so you can see the lines through the screen while you style. And I find this very very useful. But I don’t always follow the rule of thirds. In this case, it’s hard to imagine, where all the props and dishes will go. That’s why I draw a grid or print it out.

5 Best Camera Angles For Food Photography + Which Equipment To Use

Let’s talk about camera angles for food photography! They can literally make or break a photo. And you didn’t style that beautiful dish to fall flat because of the wrong camera angle, right?

Camera angles are a crucial part of a composition. It should be the first thing to think about when you’re planning a photoshoot. Certain dishes look great using some angles, but they totally get lost using some other angles. But don’t worry! I’ve got you covered. I’m going to guide through what these 5 angles are and what dishes look the best shot at these angles. I’m also adding which equipment I love using when I’ shooting at a specific angle.

Whenever you’re considering angles, think what part of the dish needs to shine. Like, for example, if it’s a pizza you’ll probably want the toppings to shine. And where are the toppings? On top, right? So there you go, you probably guessed it. The best way to shoot a pizza would be overhead since the toppings would be the most prominent.

One more thing, before we start. Even though some foods look best at a particular angle I still like to experiment with other angles. You never know what might surprise you 😀

Now let’s start. Ready?

Here we go…

1. Overhead or 90° angle

One of the most popular angles on Instagram is overhead or top-down. It’s everywhere! Why I think it’s so popular is, because it’s an angle that we don’t really use in day to day life, at least not, when looking at food. But that doesn’t mean all dishes really pop out by using an overhead angle.

I use an overhead angle when I have a flat dish like a pie or a pizza, or for foods in bowls or deep plates that have no height like soups in shallow bowls or plates. It’s great to use whenever all the details of the dish are on top.

I love this angle for making a table scene, where I can tell a story about a dish. A lot of time that’s a story about a gathering of some sort or about prepping the dish. You can fit multiple objects in and they’ll all be in focus.

For this angle, I love to use a 50mm lens. I used to use 30mm on my old crop-sensor camera because 50mm would crop too much out. Whenever I can I use something to hold a camera. A c-stand or a tripod with a horizontal arm work perfectly. If you do a lot of overhead shots and videos, I really recommend getting a c-stand. I just got it recently and I love it! Enough wiggling around with a tripod or blurry hand-held photos.

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

  • pizzas
  • pies and tarts
  • soups
  • smoothie bowls
  • crepes
  • waffles, pancakes, and cookies when they aren’t in a stack
  • open sandwiches
  • table scenes
Pizza with fresh tomatoes for the article 5 best camera angles for food photography + which equipment to use by Anja Burgar

2. 75°angle

This angle is very similar to overhead, the camera is just slightly tilted. This angle is great for shooting beverages in tall glasses where you want the backside of the rim to be seen. If you shot at a straight-on angle you would only see the front part. I also use this angle whenever I want to show a shine or texture, that can’t be seen in an overhead shot. Like for example this pie below. See how the fruit has more texture and shine in the 75° angle shot.

If shooting a wider scene I use a 50mm lens. But in general, I prefer an 85mm or 100mm macro lens for this angle.

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

  • table scenes
  • beverages in non-see-through glasses or mugs
  • soups
  • smoothie bowls
A purple fruit pie for the article 5 best camera angles for food photography + which equipment to use by Anja Burgar

3. 45°angle

This is probably one of the most generally used food photography camera angles. It’s great for shooting food up close and whenever the dish has some layers or height, but you also want to show off the top. I love this angle whenever I want to focus on food and have some of the background and foreground blurred.

It’s also great to shoot smoothie bowls or soups with toppings so you can show both the toppings and the depth of the bowl.

I love using my 85 mm lens or my 100mm macro lens for a 45° angle photos. I used a 50mm lens on my old crop-sensor camera, but with the full-frame, there’s too much distortion and I try to avoid using the 50mm.

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

  • dishes or beverages in tall mugs
  • layered desserts in glasses
  • cakes
  • cupcakes
  • pancake, waffle, or cookie stacks
  • soups and smoothie bowls with toppings
  • beverages in glasses
  • dishes held in hands
A bowl of green soup with bread cubes and cheese on top the article 5 best camera angles for food photography + which equipment to use by Anja Burgar

4. 25° angle

I use this angle whenever I need to show off layers, but where a straight-on angle doesn’t really work or I want to show a bit more of what’s going on in the scene. It’s great for tall dishes and dishes with layers or when you’ve got hands holding a dish so it looks like you’re almost peeking into the plate.

Again, I love the 85 mm lens or a 100mm macro lens when I’m shooting at this angle.

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

  • dishes held in hands
  • cakes, both layered or lower, like pavlovas
  • cupcakes
  • dishes in shallow bowls or plates
  • waffle, pancake, and cookie stacks
  • beverages in tall glasses
A cupcake with cream and strawberries for the article 5 best camera angles for food photography + which equipment to use by Anja Burgar

5. Straight-on aka 0° angle

This angle works best for tall or layered dishes, where you really want to show off the height and all those beautiful layers. Or where your food is stacked and a higher angle might not do it justice. This angle also works beautifully for action shots such as drizzles and dustings.

I find an 85mm and a 100mm macro lens best for this angle, but a 50mm works fine too.

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

  • layered cakes
  • beverages in tall glasses
  • ice cream in cones
  • any foods that are stacked
  • burgers
  • sandwiches in a bun
  • pouring or dusting shots
A stack of turmeric bagels with black sesame for the article 5 best camera angles for food photography + which equipment to use by Anja Burgar

Camera angles for food photography

So, we’ve learned which dishes look good shot at which angles, but how do we choose what to use? Ask yourself, what is it about that dish you want to showcase. And remember, a dish might look great at multiple angles, so there’s no one solution.

To help you decide which angles to use I’ve prepared a pdf that you can download and print out to use at your photoshoots.

How To Read Food Photos To Improve Your Food Photography + A Case Study!

Learning to read food photos is one of the crucial things that help you grow as a food photographer. Whether it’s your own photos or other people’s work, learning to observe what’s going on in a photo helps you understand how to create beautiful eye-catching images.

Today we’ll be touching a very delicate topic about how you can look at someone else’s work and learn what they did to make a food photo so drool-worthy. The same goes for your own food photos. You might find that some of your photos are awesome and beautiful but some might not be so great. I find it super important to revise both the photos that you like and the ones you’re not so keen on.

If you’re like me, you L.O.V.E. to see behind the scenes of a food photography (or any other) process. I’m literally obsessed! But we don’t get that with every single photo there is and you might stumble upon a photo where you wished you had a bts shot, but there’s no such thing.

Let me tell you, reading a photo can reveal so much of what’s going on behind the scenes. And you can learn so so much from that!

So I’m saying you should read photos instead of books now?

Well, not literally.

What, we’re focusing here today, is how to observe what works in a photo and what doesn’t. Reading theory is one thing but actually recognizing all those things in real life is a whole other story.

We’re all tempted to scroll through Instagram or Pinterest or wherever you find beautiful food photos and feel either inspired or overwhelmed. If you happen to stop and think about what’s really going on it the photos, congrats to you! You’re really taking in the content instead of just glancing it. If not, let me show you how you can do it!

So, how do you read food images?

If you’ve ever read any photography book, you’ll know that most of them are structured in a pretty similar way. They have chapters about light, camera settings, composition and so on.

You can approach reading photos in a similar way.

What you do is observe all these topics separately and think about what it is about that particular thing (eg. light) that makes the photo beautiful. There are a few questions you can ask yourself that will help you determine just that. Let’s start!

1. Camera settings

I know, except if you can somehow really get the camera settings, you can’t know all of them exactly, but there are a few signs that can tell you what settings were used.

The most obvious setting is usually the aperture setting. The focus area is either narrow, wide or anything in between. Different dishes and different angles will look better at different apertures. You can ask yourself, what’s the focus area and why is it so? If it’s very narrow does that help the food stand out? Does it help tell a story?

The second setting is the shutter speed. This is not very obvious when the food is still. But it gets really important when we’ve got an action shot. You can see it mostly from the fact that the moving object is either blurry or sharp. No setting is right or wrong, but you can ask yourself why was the shutter speed set that way?

a photo of a chestnut pie on moss for arcticle How to read photos so you can improve your food photography by Anja Burgar from Use Your Noodles blog
From seeing that the pie is in focus while the other parts of the photo are out of focus, we can determine that a wider aperture was use so that there’s only a part of the image in focus. Let me tell you a secret. To achieve that I placed the pie onto a cake stand so it’s much higher and the effect of a wider aperture can really be seen.

2. Love the light but how did they create it?

Here are a few questions that will help you determine how the light was created and why it works?

Is this a bright or dark photo? What’s the subject or story and does it match the lighting situation?

Where is the light coming from? The best way to determine that is to look at the shadows. Light is coming from the opposite side of the shadows. So it’s quite easy to read if it’s sidelight, backlight, or if there’s an angle to the light source. Why is the light coming from that side? Is it to emphasize something in particular (like texture)?

How are the shadows? Are they deep and dark or are they somehow less obvious? This will help you determine whether the photographer used a white or a black fill.

a photo of a chestnut pie on moss for arcticle How to read photos so you can improve your food photography by Anja Burgar from Use Your Noodles blog
The light is coming from the upper left corner, which we can determine from shadows that are on the bottom right side of objects. The shadows are quite dark, so we can guess that no fill or a black fill was used. This creates a moody effect and adds warmth and coziness to the image.

3. Reading composition as a pro

The composition is such an important aspect of food photography but it’s also very easy to read.

First, you need to focus on the main subject. Where in the frame is it positioned? You can draw imaginary lines on a photo, like for example lines that follow different rules like the rule of thirds, centered composition, golden ratio and so on. Once you’ve learned where the main subject is positioned you can determine where all the supporting elements fall. How many are there? Is there a negative space and where is it located? Why does that work?

a photo of a chestnut pie on moss for arcticle How to read photos so you can improve your food photography by Anja Burgar from Use Your Noodles blog
The grid here shows the golden ratio. The cake is placed in one of the four interest points (cross-section points). The bowl with chestnuts is placed on one of the lines, while the other two bowls are placed in the center of two of the nine sections created by the lines.

4. What are the colors?

Blah, blah, blah, color theory. Who cares? I’m joking, I care a lot. It’s such a powerful tool and observing colors will give you ideas to which colors work well together and which don’t. Sure, there’s so much theory on the topic, but observing the colors in actual food photos is so much more powerful. So I suggest you both read color theory in well… theory and in food photos. This will give you the idea of how to actually use it in practice.

And remember, rules are meant to be broken, so when it comes to creating your own food photos, don’t be afraid to go outside the box and experiment. You might be surprised!

a photo of a chestnut pie on moss for arcticle How to read photos so you can improve your food photography by Anja Burgar from Use Your Noodles blog
Since the main subject is brown, vibrant colors were added to the scene. Bright orange is close to brown colors so it doesn’t distract from the scene and the green acts as a natural contrast element since browns and greens are often found together in nature.

5. How about styling?

Food styling is such a broad topic. Each dish has a lot of different ways in which it can be styled. While there is no universal question to ask yourself when it comes to reading styling in a food photo, there are some ways you can go. You can ask yourself, is the styling simple or is it very complex? Does it look very natural or staged?

One of the most important styling techniques is layering, so it’s a good strategy to focus on learning how many layers does the photo have and how are they helping to achieve focus and interest in a food photo.

a photo of a chestnut pie on moss for arcticle How to read photos so you can improve your food photography by Anja Burgar from Use Your Noodles blog
Looking at texture, we can see lots of layers here. First is the background, which is out of focus (layer 1), then we have a plate under the pie (layer 2), then the pie filling with a swirl on top (layer 3), a chocolate cream on the sides (layer 4) and hazelnuts and chestnuts on top (layer 5).

A quick exercise for you to do today

No, I’m not grading this task, thank god! 🙂 But I want you to put all the above stuff in real life.

I want you to take one photo that has inspired you lately and go through all these steps. Write it all down, don’t just make a mental note. Writing makes you really think and focus on what you’re doing. Then if you’re feeling really brave pick one of your own photos that you feel just doesn’t work and do the same. Compare those two and see what you can do next time to nail the food photo just like that inspiring artist did!

One short note: This works best if you were trying to achieve the same mood and maybe a similar dish in your ‘not-so-great’ photo as in the inspiring photo you reviewed first.

Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful and what have you learned.

If you happen to wanna learn more about light you can enroll in my Free 3-day Master Of Light E-Course.

A game-changing trick that will improve your drink photography

I’m not a huge fan of faking it when it comes to food and drink photography. But sometimes, especially when you’re working for a client, you need to shoot a perfect shoot and we all know that a perfect shot takes time.

Today we’re looking into shooting drinks. I’ve always wanted to try this trick. It’s nothing new, it’s nothing fancy. I’ll show you how easy it is and it saves you lots of time.

It’s called GLYCERIN.

Have you heard of the glycerin trick? Glycerin is a thick liquid that mixes well with water and creates the most beautiful and natural-looking condensation effect. A condensation effect that will last for hours. I’ve put it on a test and loved the result. Since I didn’t have any fine-mist spritz on hand I could only create larger drops, which were perfect for what I was shooting – beer. Usually smaller droplets look better, so I suggest buying a spritz that produces a finer mist or one where you can control how fine the mist is.

But why not just use cold glasses. Sure, that’s perfectly fine. I’m doing this all the time. The thing is, natural condensation doesn’t last very long. If you’ve ever shot cold drinks, you know the condensation looks great for a few minutes and then the super fine mist that’s creating the matt turns into drops. So if you need the drink to look cold for a long time, this is the perfect solution. But it makes the drink unedible. You’ll learn why in the next section.

Okay, so how did I do it?

First, a cold glass produces both super-fine droplets, that create a matt effect on glass and larger droplets that we can actually see. So for this to look natural there are two steps to follow:

  1. Spraying the glass with a clear matting spray (hello unedible).
  2. Spraying the glass with a 50-50 water-glycerin mixture (vegetable glycerin is considered edible, but only in very tiny amounts!).

Did I just spray the whole glass?

Nope. You spray the parts where the drink will actually be touching the glass. This is where the condensation happens in real life. Therefore you need to cover the bottom edge of the glass if the glass has any thickness. And you should also cover the top of the glass if you’re not pouring the drink all the way to the top. See the photo below for a reference.

A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
Glasses prepared to be sprayed.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A glass with matting spray only.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
After I spritzed some water-glycerin mixture.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
And here’s how it looks with water in it.

Does the matt spray ruin my glass?

Yes and no. If the glass is pretty smooth, the spray can be removed easily with kitchen soap and hot water. It does take some extra work, but I could remove it entirely. You can see that I used a glass with some textured writing. I wasn’t able to remove the spray entirely in those tiny edges. So be mindful of that and maybe try first with a glass that you don’t mind destroying.

Some other things to be careful about and other uses

  1. When taping the paper around your glass be sure to make it perfectly straight. If you check the top photos you can see that I didn’t do this and you can see the edge of fake condensation being all wonky.
  2. Also, be sure to pour the liquid to the edge of the fake condensation, otherwise you’ll end up seeing a straight line and it will look fake. Sort of like the photos below. They are not perfect, but it was an experiment. In the end, I was hoping to get a great beer shot, so I put more effort into that one.
  3. You can use the water-glycerin mixture to spray over fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens to make them look fresher. If you wash them carefully after the photoshoot they are still edible.
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!

Final shots

So I took all the things above and made the beer photo. My idea was to make a beer pouring shot where you can really feel the freshness of the beer and make it look cold and refreshing. Here are some final shots…

A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!
A game-changin trick for food and drink photography. Sometimes you need to shoot a perfect shoot and this trick really helps!

Conclusion

Hope I helped just a little bit. If you try this trick let me know in the comments or write me on Facebook or Instagram.

In case you want more useful tips about photographing drinks Joanie Simon’s got a great video about that! Her tips also helped me with this little experiment. She’s awesome by the way 🙂

How To Take The Perfect Action Shot In Food Photography

Are you just as in love with action shots in food photography as I am? Do you struggle with catching the right moment and have problems with perfect timing. You’re in the right place!

Are you just as in love with action shots in food photography as I am? Do you struggle with catching the right moment and have problems with perfect timing. You're in the right place!

I’m going to help you with some short tips and tricks that will help you create beautiful action shots.

Action shots are one of my favorite types of photos when it comes to food photography. They tell a story, they are… well, actionable, they have this human element in them and they have such a distinct dynamic.

Have you heard the saying ‘Practice makes perfect’. I couldn’t agree more. The more you’ll try to do action shot the easier it will become.

But first, let me guide you through some tips that will help you grow your repertoire in food photography by adding action shots!

Let’s start!

1. Get a tripod

Unless you have a helper on hand (if you do, great for you!), you’ll need a tripod to hold the camera.

I find a tripod very useful for one other reason too. When taking action photos things, usually get quite messy. Even though you clean, I usually find that I missed a spot and it ends looking awful in the photo. I usually take photo of the scene before I even take the action shot. That way you’ll have a ‘clean’ photo which you can use in Photoshop to fix the mess that you might have missed. You couldn’t do that without a tripod since your composition would move if you handheld the camera.

2. Shoot in manual mode and set shutter speed first

Shutter speed is everything in action shots. It’s the most important setting, so you need to adjust it first. If you want a crisp sharp pour or sprinkle, you need to increase your shutter speed. If you want a blurry pour or sprinkle you have to decrease it. I try to use shutter speeds at 1/160 or above for crisp pours.

Second, adjust the ISO. I try to stay under 800, but since a lot of my photography is very moody and dark, I need to go up a little more.

Then, adjust the aperture. Unless aperture is really important to the story, I tend to adjust that last.

Are you just as in love with action shots in food photography as I am? Do you struggle with catching the right moment and have problems with perfect timing. You're in the right place!

3. Focus manually

I never use auto-focus for action shots. It’s just too unpredictable and I would end up with too many unusable photos.

My tip for setting the focus point is to either focus on the spot where the moving food will hit the non-moving food or if it’s possible, place an object about as tall as the pour/sprinkle will be and focus on that object. Lock the focus and remove that object and take a photo.

4. Adjust your food to movement

Sometimes some foods are too small to see or too dense to flow smoothly. When I’m shooting a recipe, I don’t want to stray too far away from what real food will look like. Sometimes I need to adjust it, anyway. Like adding some water to a sauce, so it has a smoother spill, or using coarse sugar instead of icing sugar to make the grains more visible.

Are you just as in love with action shots in food photography as I am? Do you struggle with catching the right moment and have problems with perfect timing. You're in the right place!

5. Remote control vs. Timer

There are a few options here:

  1. Remote control: I don’t often use it for action shots. I suggest using it only when you don’t need to be as precise about the spot where the moving food hits the surface. Otherwise, there’s too much to think about and it gets very messy.
  2. Self-timer: This is the setting in the camera, where the camera will take one photo after a few seconds after you push the shutter button.
  3. Continuous mode: I use this one the most. This setting takes multiple photos in a burst but with a delay, so you have time to prep for the action shot.
  4. Interval timing: Not all cameras have this, but it’s quite useful to take photos of a process that takes a long time. Like, if you wanted to take multiple photos of kneading bread. You can set the interval timer to shoot one photo in intervals that you set. It can be a second, or it can be minutes or even hours.

6. The right angle

Think about which angle will show the action best. You want an angle that really reflects the beautiful action. Also, think about the background. Is the background contrasting enough so the action will be visible and if there are any distractions in the background?

Are you just as in love with action shots in food photography as I am? Do you struggle with catching the right moment and have problems with perfect timing. You're in the right place!

7. It doesn’t have to include movement

When thinking about action shots, we usually imagine something moving in the frame, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Have you heard of implied movement? That’s when nothing is really moving in the frame but there’s something that tells us, that it’s not a still image and there’s some action going on. Like in the photo below, where I’m cutting oranges. Nothing’s really moving but the knife and the orange wedges let us know that there’s movement in real life.

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The takeaway…

Action shots are fun. And messy. And the most beautiful pieces of art! They take practice and sometimes they take some ingenuity. But anyone can create beautiful action shots! If you happen to create some action shots I’d love to see them! Tag #useyournoodles and @useyournoodles!

How I Styled Shrimp Pasta – A Time-Lapse

Watch my food styling process of this shrimp pasta dish from start to finish in a time-lapse.

Watch my food styling process of this shrimp pasta dish from start to finish in a time-lapse.

Hi guys! I finally managed to get a video of my food styling process up. For those of you who are following me on Instagram, you’ve already seen this video of me styling this delicious Shrimp Pasta. However, I wanted to explain more about the process, so stick around.

How I Start My Food Styling Process?

First things first – a concept! And a story. I think this is the most important thing in any food photography since it gives you or whoever is photographing the grounds to take a good photo. If you are not familiar with how to form a story or a concept you can get my Free Photoshoot Planning Worksheet and it’ll guide you through this process. Super easy and quick, but I can’t stress enough how important it is.

Second, I draw sketches which I also help you with, in my worksheet. In the photo below you can see a few sketches I made for this photoshoot. I try to think about angles that work for the dish I’m shooting and the compositions that will support my story.

While I sketch, I usually decide on the props, although I change them during the photoshoot if it turns out they didn’t fit the story or they don’t pair well with the dish.

Do I follow the sketches 100%?

Nope. Definitely not! The sketches I make are my starting point and my guideline for the photoshoot. They serve so I can get a great composition quicker and to focus on textures and the story. I change things up a lot during the photoshoot. I start placing the larger objects where I draw them on the sketch and then follow with the smaller ones.

A lot of the times it turns out the smaller ones need to be placed in another position for many different reasons. For example, I don’t always draw the correct size of the props and when they are placed in that position they look awkward. I either change the prop or change the composition.

How Do I work My Time Frame?

As you probably know, photographing food and styling requires a lot of time management skills. I usually make a mental note of a good old paper note about how I wanna time my process.

When does a particular part of the dish need to be cooked?

Which props and food I can place before even starting to cook or while I cook something that takes a long time and doesn’t need me to stand next to the stove?

Which foods need to wait until the very last minute to be placed on the set and how I’m going to keep it looking fresh until then?

How fast do I need to work the camera? Is my food going to melt fast? Is it gonna get cold and unappetizing? How can I fix that?

These are all questions I ask myself before even starting to cook.

So How About Styling This Shrimp Pasta?

I styled this set in three stages.

The first stage was before I even prepped food for cooking because pasta cooks quickly and needs to be served right away. And the type of sauce I used can wait, it needs to be cooked at the same time as the pasta. I only placed props on the set, no food. I set the food next to the set.

Second, was while my pasta was just before cooking. I wanted my props to look as fresh as possible so I didn’t want them to sit on the set for longer than needed.

The third was placing pasta on the set and moving quickly so it doesn’t start to look dull.

Final thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this short food styling tutorial and time-lapse. And remember, it all starts with planning!