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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!