Tag Archive for: food styling

How To Take Sharp Photos (Using A Tripod)

Here are my best food photography tips for you to take sharp photos when using a tripod.

Here are my best food photography tips for you to take sharp photos when using a tripod.

I’ve been using a tripod for most of my food photography journey. However, I’ve not always achieved that sharp look, and for a very long time, I wondered why. I am doing everything right. My camera is on a tripod, after all.

Well, yes, I’ve done the first step. But I’ve also done other things that made the camera connected to my tripod move ever so slightly—just enough to create a slight blur in my photos.

Often, the blur is not visible when looking at the entire photo. It is just a little less sharp.

But when you look up close, you can see those pixels are ever so slightly blurred.

So if you’re not getting super sharp photos, even when your camera is on a tripod you should be doing these things:

Must-have techniques to take sharp photos when using a tripod:

1. Remote Shutter Release

A remote shutter release allows you to trigger the camera’s shutter without physically touching the camera. This minimizes the risk of camera shake, especially when using slower shutter speeds. By operating the shutter remotely, you avoid the slight movements that can happen when pressing the shutter button directly on the camera body. Remote shutter releases can be done through a wired remote control or tethering or wireless remote control or tethering. There are a lot of options out there!

2. Self-Timer

When using a tripod without a remote shutter release, setting a short self-timer delay allows any vibrations from pressing the shutter button to settle before the photo is taken. Self-timer options often include up to 10-second delays, giving you enough time to release the shutter and step away from the camera before the exposure starts.

3. Stabilize the Tripod

Properly stabilizing the tripod is key for minimizing vibrations and ensuring steady support for the camera. Try keeping the tripod legs fully extended and securely locked in place. Position them as wide as possible for maximum stability, especially if the floor is uneven. Additionally, not extending the center column of the tripod helps minimize vibrations.

4. Weighted Tripod Setup

To increase stability and minimize vibrations from external factors like walking around your tripod, you can add additional weight to it, such as hanging a camera bag or attaching sandbags. BUT be mindful of the distribution of weight to make sure the tripod is balanced, because you want to prevent the tripod from tipping over.

Here are my best food photography tips for you to take sharp photos when using a tripod.

5. Use a Sturdy Tripod & Tripod Head

Invest in a high-quality, heavy-duty, and stable tripod. The same goes for a tripod head. Choose one that locks firmly and ensure it is securely attached to the tripod to minimize potential movement.

6. Turn Off Image Stabilization

Image stabilization (IS/VR) is a valuable feature for handheld shooting as it compensates for small movements of the camera to produce sharper images. However, when using a tripod, image stabilization can actually introduce vibrations and cause unwanted blur. Check your camera manual to see how you can switch from image stabilization on and off.

7. Avoid Walking Around or Touching the Camera

Once the camera is set up and focused, it’s crucial to avoid touching or bumping the camera or tripod during the exposure. Even slight movements or vibrations can mess with the sharpness of the image, especially when using slower shutter speeds or long exposures. I like to minimize movement around the tripod so I can truly take sharp photos.


In photography, taking sharp photos is a highly respected goal. While using a tripod lays the foundation for stability, it’s the finer details that truly make the difference between a sharp-enough photo and a super-sharp one. By implementing the techniques outlined in this article, you can remove the camera shake quickly and easily.

Invitation to the Food To Frame course

Elevate Your Festive Food Photography

Let’s elevate your festive food photography together!

It’s that time of the year again when we bring on the most delicious comforting foods, spend time with family, and bring out our decorations.

I love this festive season so much and love capturing its spirit in my food photos.

For that reason, I am sharing a few things I pay attention to when I take festive food photos during the Christmas time and New Year’s festivities.

Incredible tips for festive food photography! I am sharing a few things I pay attention too when I take festive food photos during the Christmas time and New Year’s festivities.

Crafting a narrative with festive decorations

An engaging Christmas story is a photo that takes you on a journey that makes you immediately feel like you’re a part of the festivities.

However, just adding decoration does not create a story that your viewers will relate to. Dig deeper into what those decorations represent and how they can be involved with the food and the scene. What is the setting WHERE THE FOOD IS USUALLY PREPARED OR SERVED?

And don’t forget! The decorations are here to add to the story and not distract from it. Make sure to use decoration that matches the scene in:

  1. Size
  2. Style
  3. Color
  4. Texture

If any of these four key characteristics are off, the balance of the frame and the story will be off, too.

Keep in mind that it’s usually better to take one thing away than add more to the scene.

Be creative with styling

Christmas time is the time when we can be a little bolder with our styling choices. So why not use the decorations you use in real life as part of the set or a part of the dish?

You can include Christmas ornaments in fun ways in the scene like I did in the two photos below.

Here are a few decorations to spark your ideas:

  • Tree ornaments
  • Other sparkling ornaments
  • Pine branches
  • Festive twines
  • Christmas candles
  • Porcelain houses and decorations
  • Pine cones

Engaging the senses: Festive smells and cozy feel

Festive food is all about the delicious smells.

Think about how you can place and style your food subject so you can showcase the taste and smell of the delicious foods. Which food elements can you add to the scene to showcase the taste of your foods? Cinnamon, star anise, oranges, and similar foods are very common for this period.

Our tables are usually filled with baked sweet goods that have a lovely crumbly texture, so don’t be afraid to showcase it. Adding a crumb here and there will give the viewer the idea of how crumbly a freshly baked festive dish feels when they eat it.

The festive season is something that we often associate with a warm and cozy feeling. To convey that sense in a frame, try adding elements that remind you of it.

This can be some elements that are more common, such as warm fabrics, candles, twinkle lights, and materials we associate with a homely feel. Regardless, it can also be something very personal to you or to the viewer who will be looking at the photo.

The composition has a big part in a cozy feel as well since we often use the type of setup where the elements are closer together to convey that warm connection.

We actually touched on this in the 3-Day Composition Masterclass + how to convey different moods and stories into our compositions.

Playing with Christmas lights

Christmas lights simply add that magical touch to Christmas food photos. I love using twinkle lights in my festive food photography. And beautiful as they are, they also can be challenging to figure out.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you use festive lights in your food photos:

Keep an eye on the aperture

Make sure the aperture is as low as it needs to be to get the twinkle light to be nicely blurred, and you get that beautiful bokeh. There is no set rule here as to which aperture to use, but I encourage you to test a few apertures to see which one feels best for the scene.

If the twinkle light is too small and not blurred enough, lower your aperture.

Take a look at how the difference in apertures looks in real-life examples below, where I used apertures f3,5 and f4,5, which may sound very similar, but the look is very different.

Keep the lights at a distance

Distance plays a key role in how blurry the twinkle lights will be. The further they are from the camera if they are behind your focal area, or the closer they are to the camera if they are in front of your focal area, the more blurry they will be. What does this mean?

I like to play with twinkle lights placed behind the subject and make them blurrier. I like to place them quite far away in the back. For a larger scene, this may mean they are a meter or more away. When you photograph a scene from a closer perspective, they can be closer than that.

Test a few distances and see how they make your twinkle lights look.

When you want to create more interest in a festive photo, you can even place the lights before your subjects and place them very close to your lens to create a lovely, soft, blurred effect in the foreground.

Beware of the twinkle light placement

Twinkle lights are very bright and can easily overpower your subject. It is easy to get overboard with lights and add too many to the scene.

Keep an eye on how balanced your composition looks. Does your eye go to the lights or the food? If your answer is light, then you will most likely need to remove a few.

Most importantly, have fun creating festive food photography!

65 Expert Food Photography Tips from Professional Photographers

Since the first day, I knew I wanted to be a photographer (or possibly even before that!) I knew observing and stepping into the world of other photographers was super interesting and incredibly helpful. I have learned so much about professional work from others over the years and am continuously inspired by other professionals in and outside of it.

I wanted to bring you a bit of this world in this article.

My photography colleagues have generously shared their best food photography tips, revealing everything from creating the best light and styling the food to be truly drool-worthy to their best business and mindset advice.

65 Expert Food Photography Tips from Professional Photographers

 My photography colleagues have generously shared their best tips, revealing everything from creating the best light and styling the food to be truly drool-worthy to their best business and mindset advice.


1. Learn to ask questions

When you have created a scene and taken a couple of test shots, ask yourself, “What can I do to this scene to take it to the next level?” I ask myself this every time, and although sometimes I have already created what I think is the best version of the setting, there is almost always another little detail that I can tweak to make it even better. It might be adjusting the lighting, changing the composition slightly, adding a hand or some movement, or a final little garnish for detail.
Nikki Astwood, food, beverage and product photographer

2. Shoot everything!

The great thing about food photography is that we all eat daily, so it’s a perfect excuse to photograph our favorite subjects. The more you shoot, the more confident you become in your skill.
Matt Armendariz, commercial photographer

3. Double diffusion makes a huge difference

I prefer to double diffuse when I am photographing drinks. That way, you can make the diffusion really soft (attached is an example).
Maaike Zaal, food and beverage photographer

4. Keep on working on your personal projects

I always encourage food photographers to do as much test shooting and portfolio building in their spare time as possible. It helps you develop your skills, creativity, and technical knowledge and gives you material for social media and promotions. Also, clients are very interested in seeing personal work because it helps them understand your style and abilities beyond the constraints client work usually puts on showing who we really are as photographers.
Darina Kopcok, commercial food photographer

5. Focus on nailing your lighting and editing skills!

Among the best decisions I ever made was investing in high-quality artificial lighting, which significantly elevated the quality of my work. Learning the nuances of image editing was equally transformative, taking my photos from ordinary shots to extraordinary masterpieces.
Wiktoria Gralka, food & product photographer

6. Go into every photoshoot, big or small, with some sort of plan/vision.

Write down ideas and draw out potential compositions, colors, props, and lighting concepts – there will be times when it doesn’t work, but being prepared in advance will more likely than not end up in success!
Tanya Pilgrim, food & beverage photographer

7. Chase the light!

Always be aware of how the light hits your subject and never be afraid to shape it.
Suze Morrison, food photographer, stylist & chef

8. Exercise your ‘ skill of observation’.

To become a better photographer, we must first become a better observer. Begin by intentionally slowing down, engaging your senses, and looking a little closer and with more curiosity to notice the often-overlooked details around you. Maybe it’s the way the backlight illuminates the white currants on a bush. It could be the unique scent associated with a specific season, a seasonal dish, or an ingredient. Maybe it’s the intricate details of a sage leaf texture. Or ‘sparkling’ droplets on those sage leaves after a rainy day.

This practice can help you notice more of the magical ‘little things’ that surround us every day. It can help you discover something extraordinary in ‘ordinary’ and capture it through your own lens. And it’s always worth ‘sharpening your lens,’ as the way you see is what makes YOU unique.
Bea Lubas, food photographer 

9. Lighting is the key to a beautiful photo

Over the years, I have learned that lighting is probably the most crucial part of food photography. A soft, flattering light is what you want, whether it comes from natural or artificial sources. When light is too harsh or too dark, exposing your subject properly and getting the best image quality becomes more challenging.
Chad Montano, food photographer & videographer

10. Be honest about your goals and skills, stay open to learning, and practice to improve.

Focus your efforts on the areas of your workflow that need improvement, whether it’s food styling, photography, editing, or the business side. Once you’ve improved one area, move on to the next and continue this cycle. Trust me, you won’t be bored ever again.
Kristina Smodila, food stylist & photographer

11. If shooting with natural light, don’t be afraid to move things around to find the best light.

Carry what you will shoot around the house, try out different windows, and see what light works best for the mood you want to create. Try out different angles. I love to shoot with side light and shoot at a 45-degree angle, a 90-degree angle, or a flat lay. I tend to try all these angles for each thing I shoot.
Aimee Twigger, food photographer

12. Don’t be afraid of Photoshop and editing.

Sometimes, doing something in post-processing is easier than getting it done during the shoot.
Julia Konovalova, food photographer 

13. Try not to replicate what others are doing

Strive to carve your own path, even if it means making mistakes along the way. Find your authentic voice. Initially, it’s okay to imitate, but eventually, develop your own unique aesthetic. This differentiation will help you stand out from the crowd and be more competitive.
Erika Rojas, food Photographer

14. For beginners, the backlight is always the top tip I recommend.

It adds beautiful depth to the photo, shows the textures, and adds beautiful tonal contrast to the images.
Lucia Marecak, food photographer and educator

15. Never. Stop. Learning.

Even after years of shooting, I still learn something new. Learning is actually what keeps me interested and motivated. So don’t stop at the first book, video, or course. Keep going! Study other niches, too.
Roberta Dall’Alba, photographer

16. Pre-planning is key to delivering a successful project.

I cannot stress enough how planning ahead of your shoot is so important. Practice the lighting you’ll use, sketch if needed, take test shots with props, etc. This will help solve any issues ahead of your shoot, leaving most of your time to focus on creating beauty.
Gabriel Cabrera, commercial photographer

17. Work with the gear you have until you master it.

Invest in new items only when you find a technical bottleneck situation and/or start earning money with photography.
Reka Csulak, photographer & mentor


18. Keep it real

And don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
Matt Armendariz, commercial photographer

19. Plan, plan, plan!

A very important one is to PLAN your photo shoots (unless when you’re having one of those “freestyle” creative moments:) which I totally support) – by planning, you can ensure you buy everything you need (and more) and the best-looking ingredients.
Roberta Dall’Alba, photographer

20. Keep it simple

Let the star shine. Props are supporting characters.
Gabriel Cabrera, commercial photographer

21. I think the most appealing food photos are those that look the most organic.

Use lots of supplementary ingredients to not only add visual style elements but also add context to your dish or subject. Scatter herbs, berries, nuts, seeds, etc, and then tweak them so they don’t look too placed. Be loose. An artfully placed drip or drizzle will bring viewers into the scene and imagine how good the subject is to eat.
Darina Kopcok, commercial food photographer

22. Think about what kind of mood/feeling you want to portray from your image before anything else.

Lighting and propping should come more naturally once you’ve made that decision.
Tanya Pilgrim, food & beverage photographer

23. Put aside some money from each paying job

… that you can use to invest in quality props that you really need to curate the type of prop collection that supports your style.
Reka Csulak, photographer & mentor

24. While working with color in food photography, it’s best to keep it simple.

Too many colors overcomplicate the process. If monochrome or one color is hard to work with, select two or max. three colors & work only with them in the composition. Choose props, backdrops, and garnish in line with the selected colors. 

Working with a limited palette does not distract the eye with too many colors, saves time by making decision-making easier, tells a cohesive visual story, and builds our skill of working within boundaries.
Dyutima Jha, food photographer and podcaster

25. Don’t be afraid to show a few flaws.

Very few of us bake perfect cakes, have clean set-ups, etc. A few crumbs, holes, and drips keep things real. Not everything needs to be edited in Photoshop.
Suze Morrison, food photographer, stylist & chef

26. I always keep a little bit of avocado oil on hand.

I like to add it to something like a steak or bread to give it a layer of sheen. When light hits it the right way, it will create that beautiful specular highlight.
Chad Montano, food photographer & videographer

27. Think in layers

Whenever I am styling a scene, I start with a base first, then layer props and ingredients on top from there (or in front or behind if it’s an angle/front-on shot). I start with the larger pieces of my scene and end with the small detailed pieces that I call the garnish that really bring the scene together and create that added depth and interest.

As important as having all the right props and ingredients in your scene, it is equally important to know how to edit and remove anything that doesn’t make sense or is cluttering up the frame and detracting from your hero.
Nikki Astwood, food, beverage and product photographer

28. It’s about texture and color

I love to use props that are old or rustic. They have a cozy element to them. I love color, but I find it pleasing to try and use props that go well with the subject. The color wheel is really handy here. Think about different textures, too. It’s great to add different layers of texture, even if it is just the seasoning or styling on the plate.
Aimee Twigger, food photographer

29. Look for props in the clearance sections.

Sometimes plates and dishes have cracks or chips that could easily be photoshopped or covered with food.
Julia Konovalova, food photographer 

30. Less is often more.

When it comes to styling and props, don’t overcrowd your composition. Choose a few carefully selected elements that complement the food or drink. Keep it simple, and let the main subject shine. Sometimes, a single well-placed prop can make all the difference in your shot.
Erika Rojas, food Photographer

31. Add some greenery

Green herbs always go well and improve the photo no matter how “ugly” the food is 🙂
Lucia Marecak, food photographer and educator

32. Add a human element

If I struggle to tell a story in a shot with the food and props on their own, I love adding a human element. It could be just hands or some movement.
Aimee Twigger, food photographer


33. When you’re short on time to set up a real background, use two backdrops

One for the table and another for the wall, like tiles or wood, to create a genuine space vibe easily.
Kristina Smodila, food stylist & photographer

34. I used to only shoot handheld, but in the last few years, I tend to use my tripod for most shoots.

It’s great as it means the camera stays in one place, so if I need to composite any of the shots with Photoshop, it makes it easier. Especially for client shots if I need labels to be clear. If I am shooting for a brand, I like to have a plan of what I need to capture beforehand. That way, I can get all the shots I need.
Aimee Twigger, food photographer

35. Tether on client photoshoots

If you can, use an iPad and set it up to tether further away from the set so the client can see the images you are making without them hovering over you.
Gabriel Cabrera, commercial photographer

36. Get creative with painted backdrops.

Instead of buying expensive backgrounds, you can create your own unique backgrounds for food photography by painting them. Use a large piece of sturdy cardboard or a wooden board as your canvas. Experiment with various colors and textures to match the mood of your dish. With a bit of creativity and some paint, you can have a custom backdrop that adds character to your food photos.
Erika Rojas, food Photographer

37. Turn images into black & white while editing to check the level of tonal contrast.

It helps to understand how much tonal contrast the photo has and helps edit images in a better way.
Lucia Marecak, food photographer and educator

38. Use gelatine in spray for beautiful droplets

Something I’ve learned from another photographer (Valentina Solfrini): to make vegetables and fruit look fresh, instead of water, use spray gelatine. I don’t always do this, but when I do, I see how cute the droplets look (especially when they don’t “vanish” after just a few minutes). Also, it’s NOT inedible, so you can still eat the food without throwing it away.
Roberta Dall’Alba, photographer

39. Correct things right in front of the camera

This way you can save time in post-processing and avoid losing pixels via extensive corrections.
Reka Csulak, photographer & mentor

40. Once you have taken your hero shot and are happy, walk around your set and snap from different angles.

You will be surprised by what you find. Sometimes, this is what makes a new hero.
Suze Morrison, food photographer, stylist & chef

41. Take multiple photos.

The more, the better. I like using a variety of focal lengths and compositions to get different looks.
Chad Montano, food photographer & videographer

42. Learn creating composites

The coconut splash picture (below) is created from several pictures: one with a clean coconut and then several others with the splash and falling coconut pieces. I combined them all in Adobe Photoshop.
Maaike Zaal, food and beverage photographer

43. Be purposeful with your prop shopping

Buy pieces that will last and be able to be used for multiple scenes and themes. For food photography, I love to have a mixture of more modern and some vintage props, which makes for a great collection.

Clear out regularly as well, and take anything you don’t use to the second-hand store. As we all know, props can get out of control.
Nikki Astwood, food, beverage and product photographer

44. It’s food, so there aren’t any hacks, really.

We can’t mess with it too much, as that’s not the nature of food. Just keep shooting as often as possible and use the best light you can get!
Matt Armendariz, commercial photographer

45. When in doubt, use side backlighting.

It has such a great way of wrapping around the light. Angle your set to the window or place your light at 10:00 or 11:00 if you imagined your set like the face of a clock with your camera at 6:00.

Assess your scene as you style and compose by bending down to the same level as your lens so you can see the way the camera does. And always, always shoot tethered so you won’t miss the small details that can make or break a photo.
Darina Kopcok, commercial food photographer

46. For lighting, I like to make sure my main subject/focus is lit the way I need it to be, first and foremost.

Then, I like to step back and see where I can add more dimension if needed. Is there something that can help enhance the scene I’m creating? Take your time where you can and play around!
Tanya Pilgrim, food & beverage photographer

47. Create endless variations of cake stands

Buy a candle holder you like and combine it with any plate you like to create an original cake stand.
Maaike Zaal, food and beverage photographer

Lately, I’ve been creating my custom cake stands using just a cup or bowl and a plate. These stands are unique and can be personalized to match any style. This tip can save you some money and space. (Example in the photo of a cake below).
Kristina Smodila, food stylist & photographer


48. If we want to create a successful business in food photography, we cannot look for instant results.

Like any other business, it takes time to build a client base, get the word out, hone our skills, establish our process, and gain momentum. It is tough in the beginning, but only because it’s new to us. The more we do, the easier it gets. We cannot try out food photography for a short time and then give up, saying, “It didn’t work for us.”

There is no such thing as overnight success.

Anyone who has made a name in the industry has done so by doing the work without giving up. It is 100% possible to build a profitable and sustainable business as a food photographer. As long as we are patient, know what we want, and pursue it relentlessly, a thriving business in food photography is guaranteed.
Dyutima Jha, food photographer and podcaster

49. Try to add lots of different styles to your portfolio.

Even if you prefer to shoot in one style, I find it’s best not to niche down too much there. It’s good to show what you can do.
Aimee Twigger, food photographer

50. Business skills are just as important

In our line of work, business acumen is just as important as the ability to create beautiful visuals.
Reka Csulak, photographer & mentor

51. Photography is a hard business to be successful at.

It comes with a lot of ups and downs. It’s all about connections and relationships. If you have a great shoot, that client will hire or recommend you again. It takes time to build a clientele and find consistency, but it’s definitely achievable with a creative and positive mindset.
Chad Montano, food photographer & videographer

52. Photography business is a business of people

While we may be running a business or taking photos of cakes, never forget that we are the business of PEOPLE. Relationships matter most.
Matt Armendariz, commercial photographer

53. You need to be pitching constantly.

Sending out targeted pitches and proposals every week to the clients you want to work with will transform your business. If you never post a single image on social media again, you can have a successful career through active pitching.
Darina Kopcok, commercial food photographer

54. Don’t be afraid to invest money into your business.

It will ultimately stop you from growing!
Wiktoria Gralka, food & product photographer

55. Spend less time worrying about your Instagram feed and more time focusing on your portfolio.

Make your portfolio tell a cohesive and compelling visual story.

This means curating your work in a way that not only showcases your technical skills but also conveys a consistent style and a clear narrative. Whether through color schemes, lighting choices, or the overall mood, make sure that every image in your portfolio aligns with the story you want to tell about your expertise and the type of clients you want to attract.

All your marketing efforts should lead potential clients to your portfolio, where you display your best and strongest work. A well-structured, visually engaging portfolio showcases your talents and leaves a lasting impression on potential clients.
Fanette Rickert, food & product photographer

56. Developing a business mindset is an ongoing process.

Stay committed to personal and professional goals, polish your skills and strategies, and remember to play and experiment to sparkle your creativity. Don’t be afraid to say YES to projects that scare you and NO when your gut tells you to.
Kristina Smodila, food stylist & photographer


57. Use your senses to guide your style.

Mood boards are useful, but leave them aside and use your imagination to guide you. Would you eat that food? Would you drink that cocktail? What would make you drool? Use that to create your signature look.
Gabriel Cabrera, commercial photographer

58. Stay true to your creative vision while also adapting to market demands.

Invest time in building your portfolio and marketing your skills to prospective clients. Maintain a growth mindset, continuously learn, and seek inspiration from various sources. Be patient and persistent in your journey, as success in food and drink photography often comes to those who blend their artistic flair with strong business acumen.
Erika Rojas, food Photographer

59. Food Photography is a lonely job.

Many creators fall into the trap of comparison, which blocks their creativity, and they lose their passion. If you feel this way, I strongly advise you to meet other creators (photographers) in person and talk and shoot together for personal projects or help them as an assistant for their client shoots. This will help them find passion again.
Lucia Marecak, food photographer and educator

60. Stay true to yourself, and be inspired, but never copy.

We are all creative. We just have to harness our unique style.
Suze Morrison, food photographer, stylist & chef

61. Always prioritize inner work, working on your mindset.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to be able to persist, not give up, and actually succeed (whatever success means to you:) because that’s different for everybody).

The very first step – as cliche as it may sound – is BELIEVING in your skills, in what/who you can become. Results are a natural consequence. Believe in your uniqueness, trust your vision, and do what makes you feel alive.
Roberta Dall’Alba, photographer

62. Always go with your curiosity.

This is something I have been working on a lot lately. Don’t rush things. If you feel something would look better with an extra prop or different lighting, try it out and see how it looks. When you say to yourself, “What if I did this?” it is the time to experiment and see where it takes you. I often get a better result, making the whole creative process run more smoothly.
Nikki Astwood, food, beverage and product photographer

63. Don’t get too caught up in what other photographers are doing

Your work is unique, and there are space and client needs for everyone: creativity ebbs and flows. Make sure you give yourself the space you need to recharge your creativity from time to time.
Tanya Pilgrim, food & beverage photographer

64. When I am feeling stuck creatively, I love to take my camera and take photos of something totally different from food.

I like to shoot nature. I take my camera with me on a dog walk and just take photos of things I see on the way. It often sparks a new idea for me. 
Aimee Twigger, food photographer

65. This is a tough one, but don’t get too caught up in the numbers.

I found that one thing that hindered my creativity was creating for the sake of creating. I felt like I had to have something to post on Instagram, and it had to be something that would get likes. I found it was ruling what I created. Since I have decided not to worry about those things anymore, I feel like a weight has been lifted, and I feel so much more authentic when I do create.
Aimee Twigger, food photographer

Creating Depth in Food Photos: A Quick and Simple Technique

Creating depth in food photos is often spoken about, but what does it really mean? 

We are about to uncover what depth in food photos stands for and learn a straightforward technique to add depth of space to your frame. You can achieve it in many different ways, and I’m going to show you two of the simplest ones. But trust me, they can make a world of an improvement in your food photos.

Creating depth in food photos is often spoken about, but what does it really mean? A simple way to creating depth in your food photography.

What is depth in food photos?

Depth refers to a perception of three-dimensionality in the frame. When done right, it gives the illusion of space and volume. It also gives the subject space to stand out and makes the frame appear more realistic and natural.

The easiest (and also essential) way to add a three-dimensional feel to a photo is to create a background, middle ground, and foreground.

What are the background, middle ground, and foreground?

The middle ground is, in short, the part of the photo where the focus lies. It is the middle part of the photo in terms of depth. It is the part between the foreground and the background. This is the part of the frame where your subject lies.

The background is the part behind the middle ground (or your subject), and the foreground is the part of the photo in front of the middle ground. That’s the space between your subject and the camera.

A photo may include only the middle ground and foreground (without the background) or the middle ground and background (without the foreground). And that is up to you to decide what works best for the subject you are photographing and feel you want to create.

However, in a lot of situations, when the photo lacks a sense of space, adding both a background and a foreground is ideal.

How to add a background and a foreground to a food photo?

In this article, I am going to show you two techniques I use in my work to make the background and foreground work best.

In short, to do that, you want to make the background and foreground blurry in regard to your middle ground, which is in focus.


Adding distance between the elements in the middle ground, foreground, and background is the easiest, most clear way to add a sense of space.

Imagine having your subject on a table that is right next to a wall. The distance between the subject and the wall is so small that both are relatively in focus. That means the sense of space is not as pronounced.

Let’s look at the photo below. I started with a cup placed so it touched the background. What this means is that both the background and the middle ground are in focus. Actually, there really isn’t any background at all. At the same time, nothing significant is placed in the foreground of the image as well, making it look flat.

Creating depth in food photos is often spoken about, but what does it really mean? A simple way to creating depth in your food photography.

When I moved the cup towards the camera a bit, I was able to create a separation, and the background was already a bit blurred. I also placed some elements in front of the cup, making them appear a bit blurry. In this photo, you can already feel a sense of space.

Creating depth in food photos is often spoken about, but what does it really mean? A simple way to creating depth in your food photography.

What if I went even further? In the next photo, I placed the cup further from the wall, and now the wall looks even more blurred. What that means is that now there is a clear focus on the cup, which is the main subject. It is beautifully isolated while still having a context of what is happening around it.

Creating depth in food photos is often spoken about, but what does it really mean? A simple way to creating depth in your food photography.

That being said, the first two photos are not bad. And I am not saying you absolutely need to follow this all the time. But hopefully, this will give you an idea of how differently a photo can feel, depending on how much depth you create.

We will talk more about depth in an upcoming workshop with Bea Luba and me. In order not to miss it, get on the waitlist!


Using aperture is an addition to using the distance between the elements. If you learn to use both together, your photography will skyrocket. And this is why you’re here today!

To sum it really quickly, aperture can be used to control the amount of light hitting the camera sensor, but it also controls how much of your scene is in focus.

When setting the aperture on your camera, you will find that it is measured in f-stops. We won’t go into detail as to how that works. If you want to know more, check Food To Frame.

  • The higher the f-stop, the more of your scene will be in focus. Meaning more of the background and the foreground will be in focus.
  • The lower the f-stop, the less of your scene will be in focus. That means that lower f-stops create more of a separation between the foreground and the background, leaving the middle ground in focus.

Let’s look at a practical example.

In the photo below, I had my backdrop placed quite far away from the scene, but it is still not blurry enough for this photo. The pattern is too recognizable, and there isn’t enough separation between the subject and the background.

Creating depth in food photos is often spoken about, but what does it really mean? A simple way to creating depth in your food photography.

I used an f-stop 11 in the photo, making a big chunk of my frame in focus.

Now, let’s look at the second photo. I left the setup exactly the same (besides some greenery), except I switched the f-stop to 2.8, which is the lowest setting on the 100mm lens I used to take this photo.

Creating depth in food photos is often spoken about, but what does it really mean? A simple way to creating depth in your food photography.

You can see how much more blurry the background appears. You can still see that there is some pattern, but it is very subtle. And with just changing the f-stop, I was able to create a sense of space.

Additionally, I added some greenery in front to add foreground and enhance the sense of space even more.


In conclusion, creating depth in food photos requires a bit of practice and observation. Observe how the background and foreground interact with your subject whenever you take a photo. Do these add a sense of space to the overall image?

Budget-Friendly Food Styling Prop Tips

In the eight years I’ve been taking photos of food, I learned how to collect the best props that don’t break your budget which I gathered in these food styling prop tips. What I found is that often, the most used props are not the ones that cost the most.

In the eight years I’ve been taking photos of food, I learned how to collect the best food styling props that don’t break your budget. What I found is that often, the most used props are not the ones that cost the most.

On the other hand, it’s also very easy to get caught buying cheap props that are nearly useless. 

I’ve thrown away quite a few inappropriate props I collected in my beginning years. 

To help you avoid that, I gathered my best tips to collect excellent food styling props you can afford which will last you a long time.

1. Shop at thrift stores and flea markets

Secondhand stores and flea markets are my number one favorite places to get affordable, unique props that often have a special character because they were previously used.

When shopping at flea markets, be prepared to haggle. Frequently, the price they offer you won’t be the last. So don’t be afraid to counteroffer what you’re prepared to pay.

My second tip about buying second-hand props would be to use your traveling or day trips to find unique props. I’ve heard from some of my students that there is no place to buy second-hand props in their area. In this case, you can use any time you go somewhere else to hunt down some thrift stores.

There are a few thrift shops and flea markets around my area, but I still like visiting them in other places because I can find different things there. I’ll give you an example. Vintage cutlery here is not easy to get if you want unique, decorated pieces. But in the area close to Italy, people have many more of those. So whenever I am there, I’ll visit a flea market.

2. Declutter and donate food styling props you don’t need anymore

This tip might sound weird, but give away props you no longer use. Maybe they are not your style anymore, or you simply don’t do projects that require that prop.

It is okay to let go of props you have accumulated if they don’t serve you anymore.

You can donate them to thrift stores or a friend who might use them.

Why give them away?

This way, you’ll have more space for either other props you use or more space and better-organized prop storage.

3. Buy props that can be reused in many situations

As you continue building your prop collection, you will notice how easily you can get your collection to full. Yes, you may have the space, but will you remember that you even own every single prop? Most likely not.

Therefore, I recommend building a collection where you can use props in many situations and combinations.

Buy props with a simple shape and texture and a neutral color. When considering color, buy white, off-white, beige and brown, light grey to dark grey, and desaturated blue food styling props.

4. Buy small props

Food and drinks often look better in smaller vessels. I recommend buying smaller props than you would use in real-life situations.

The glassware and tableware you’ll find in regular glassware shops are often too large for drink photography. I prefer buying them secondhand because those props are often smaller. Don’t ask me how that’s possible or if people used to drink less (because especially the glassware is smaller). I have no idea, but I know that most of the glassware I use in my drink photography is second-hand.

5. Don’t buy the entire sets

If you can, avoid purchasing entire large sets of anything. Chances are you’ll only need a few.

Depending on the style of photography you normally do, 3 of each is usually the magical number. Often, even two is enough.

The reason for that is that many compositions look best when you use three of something, otherwise called the rule of threes.

However, that doesn’t mean you need three of the same. Usually, the composition will look much more dynamic and exciting if the props are not the same.

I recommend buying four or more of the same food styling prop if you photograph a lot of carefully curated table scenes. And no other situation.

In the eight years I’ve been taking photos of food, I learned how to collect the best food styling props that don’t break your budget. What I found is that often, the most used props are not the ones that cost the most.

6. Use props you already have

Looking around your kitchen and dining room, you might spot some tableware that would look nice as a prop. Make use of those.  

If you photograph at home, you can even intentionally buy props or kitchen utensils and tableware that you could use in both photography and real life.

This way, you’ll save money and space.

One way to save money and space is to combine different food styling props you already own to make something else. I like doing this with cake stands. I don’t often photograph cakes on cake stands, so it wouldn’t make sense to have a lot of cake stands in my prop collection.

Instead, I combine a plate with a small bowl or a candlestick to create the illusion of a cake stand.

7. Paint your food styling prop

You heard that right. You can re-paint an old food styling prop or new finds to match your style.

In the example below, I bought a new wooden cutting board, which didn’t really have the look and color that would match my style. Instead of using it as I purchased it, I used a kitchen torch to make it appear used and worn out. I would recommend a better tool for that, but it worked!

In the eight years I’ve been taking photos of food, I learned how to collect the best food styling props that don’t break your budget. What I found is that often, the most used props are not the ones that cost the most.
Homemade ‘vintage’ cutting board

8. Save the bigger bucks for one-of-a-kind, artisan props.

In my business and personal life, I am a relatively frugal person. I save where I can, and the tips above are undoubtedly helpful.

Where I won’t save are some unique pieces, especially handmade ones, that will bring my food styling from good to great.

I recommend using a part of the budget to scout handmade ceramics in your local area. It is often cheaper to purchase the ceramics locally because shipping for heavy items can be pretty significant.

4 Essential Composition Tips For Better Food Photography (with Bea Lubas)

Here are four essential composition tips that will transform your food photography, adding flow and a natural feel to your photos.

Here are four essential composition tips that will transform your food photography, adding flow and a natural feel to your photos.

Composition is the part of the food photography process that is usually the most frustrating to students simply because there are so many elements and techniques to think about.

In this article, I joined forces with my friend Bea Lubas to bring you four essential composition tips that we use to make our compositions look natural and flowy.

These are easy composition tips that you can apply straight away. If you do, don’t forget to let us know in the comments or DM us on Instagram (@useyournoodles, @bealubas)!

So here are the four essential composition tips to help you compose your images more easily:


Food photography is unlike a lot of photography genres. We, as food photographers, are there to create a beautiful composition. One thing that I like to create in my composition to make it appear more natural and organic is flow.

Adding flow helps lead the eyes through the composition and to your main subjects. There are many ways to achieve that, but my favorite is using curves.

Curves are imaginary lines that you use to place your elements inside the frame. It’s about positioning your props, dishes, and all the elements in the frame in harmonious progression. 

Curves can take different forms. You’ll hear me speak a lot about the S- and the C-curve in the article Using curves in food photography and some other curves as well. But actually, a curve can take any shape that feels natural.

Here are four essential composition tips that will transform your food photography, adding flow and a natural feel to your photos.
Photo: Anja Burgar


One of my favorite color techniques that you’ll see me use in my work over and over again is choosing props and the background in the same color.

This technique really helps to draw attention to the food, even if you decide to fill the scene with many items! And what color of props and background to go for?

This will depend on a few things.

  • Firstly, what color would help to enhance your subject? What color would make it ‘pop’?
  • Secondly, it will depend on the type of contrast that you’d like to create in your image. High color contrast can help to add a more energetic vibe to our image, and low color contrast can help to infuse our frame with a soft and gentle atmosphere.

When selecting a color, we can also consider color psychology and what emotion the selected color can help to evoke.

Here are four essential composition tips that will transform your food photography, adding flow and a natural feel to your photos.
Photo: Bea Lubas


Using negative space in a composition can give it a sense of balance. Not only in busy setups but also in simple scenes, the visual elements need a counterbalance to make the photo more pleasing to the eye.

My favorite way of including negative space in a frame is when I intentionally leave place inside the composition, especially around the main subject. This gives the entire composition some breathing space, makes it less intense for the eye, and, at the end of the day, brings focus to the main subject.

Creating negative space is a delicate balance. Finding a sweet spot might take a bit of experimentation, but when you find it, you’ll see how more relaxed the entire composition looks.

Here are four essential composition tips that will transform your food photography, adding flow and a natural feel to your photos.
Photo: Anja Burgar


A beautiful sense of depth can help to draw the viewer in and make our image more captivating, and it’s something I try to always pay attention to when building my compositions.

One of the techniques that I find very effective is to place the elements at different planes within the frame. Some items are in the foreground, some in the middle ground, and maybe some in the background, too.

When placing these elements around the frame, I also like to place the items one behind the other  – the overlapping helps to create more sense of depth and make the composition look more natural, too!

Here are four essential composition tips that will transform your food photography, adding flow and a natural feel to your photos.
Photo: Bea Lubas


Composition is a beautiful yet delicate art. Knowing how to fill the frame so it tells just the right story is key.

To learn more about composition and put your new knowledge to practice, we invite you to join our 3-Day Composition challenge from October 5-7th. Get all the details in my IG highlights. But to dive even deeper into the topics + get more tips and our Composition Guide, head over here.

See you in the challenge!

Crafting a Food Story (A Case Study)

A food story is the secret sauce of any food photo. It engages the senses and evokes emotions in the viewer.

A food story is the secret sauce of any food photo. It engages the senses and evokes emotions in the viewer.

*This post is sponsored. All opinions are my own.*

What is storytelling?

In food photography, a single image can tell a story that goes beyond the plate. A well-crafted food story forms the foundation of every captivating food photo, giving the viewer more than just a visual experience.

When we create a narrative, it can:

  • engage the senses,
  • trigger emotions, and
  • create a personal connection with the viewer.

That being said, not every single food photo will have a story to tell. Photos of foods, dishes, or produce on a simple background, usually used for graphic design purposes, don’t normally tell any story.

Most of the others will have some sort of narrative. Some more, some less. Depending on the style and purpose of the photo.

In this blog post, I want to show you the art of creating food stories in an easy and understandable way so that your photos become more engaging and relatable.

How does a food story enhance your photos?

At the heart of every excellent food photo lies a straightforward food story. But what exactly makes people pause and feel a connection?

A food story is a carefully crafted frame that speaks to the heart. It has the potential to transport viewers to a specific time and place, or evoking emotions.

Emotions are the bridge that connects your food photo with the viewer. A well-crafted food story not only showcases the dish but also infuses it with emotions that resonate with the viewer. Imagine the aroma of freshly baked bread, the warmth of a cozy kitchen, or the nostalgia of a family recipe. These emotions create a sense of intimacy that draws the viewer in and invites them to engage on a personal level. 

 What is more, the way you tell stories in your photos allows you to define your unique photographic style. The way you see your subject and frame is entirely subjective, giving your photo a unique point of view.

Crafting a story

Think about book authors. What do they do when they start writing a book? First, they create a plan, an outline of the story. And it is just the same with a food photo. It should be meaningful and well thought out. 

I like to write down on a piece of paper exactly what story I want to tell in my photos and what I need to do to achieve that. Having a vision before setting up your lights and props is super important. It will save you time and energy trying to figure out all the necessary elements you need and how to bring them all together.

In the case study below, you will get an insight into my thought process when creating a photo and how I create a narrative that speaks not only to me but also to my audience.

Now, let me take you through the steps I normally take to craft a food story in my work.

Case Study

Let’s dive into a practical example to understand better how a food story can be added to a photo.  To bring my story to life, I like to take the following steps:

1. Putting the story into words

For this example, I wanted to create a photo of a late summer breakfast.  I had some late summer produce and some croissants, and they reminded me of not only the late summer but also the Mediterranean. So, I gave the story a time and a place.

2. Determine the feelings and emotions

The idea behind the narrative sets the stage for a mood that’s slightly moody and dark yet still carries hints of the fading summer light. Determining the feelings and emotions gives us a clear indication of what type of light we need to use to match the story.

3. Finding colors that match the story

Colors are one of the most powerful elements of food photography. When trying to tell a story, it is also crucial to know what specific colors will be perceived and how to use them to our advantage.

Inspiration for colors can be various, but since this photo was closely related to a specific season, which is late summer, I tried to use colors that would match that story. Late summer is when the colors are just starting to become more muted, warmer even. 

So, for this scene, I did not want to pick specific color palette beforehand since those were determined mainly by the produce and foods I used. I did, however, want to make the colors more muted. And you will see, later in this article, how I achieved that.

When you don’t have a clear color palette in mind, you can use online tools like Asana Color Palette Generator or Adobe Color Wheel to help you find a combination that would match your food narrative. Learning about the meaning of color and different types of color palettes is something every artist needs to do.

A food story is the secret sauce of any food photo. It engages the senses and evokes emotions in the viewer.
Checking how the colors will look like together with online tools

4. Choosing a backdrop

When choosing a backdrop that helps to tell your food story, you can think about:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Brightness
  • Style
  • And even shape

Looking into my story, I knew I wanted something that could easily be transported to an old villa in the Italian countryside. And that made me think of wood and stone. These were the two materials that reminded me of this place.

I wanted to create a homey, warm feel that would evoke emotions of a season slipping through our fingers.

This is why I chose two backdrops. One dark wooden backdrop, which would become the tabletop, and a cool grey stone backdrop by V-flat world , which would be the stone floor, like you can find in Italian countryside villas.

So, the contrast between the two backdrops also gives the sense of warm meeting cold. Just like the warm summer is slowly transforming into the cooler autumn.

I chose the two Duo Boards, not only because I loved their look but also because adding a backdrop on the floor requires a larger backdrop. When you photograph an element that is further away from the camera, it will take up less space in the frame. This is why a larger backdrop is perfect for situations like these. The Duo Boards are larger than most other backdrops I own, so they were perfect for the job.

5. Adding props that make sense

Like backdrops, all props you use in the frame need to be consistent with the story. If you place an element that clashes with the rest, it will take all the attention from the main subject. So you want to avoid that.

Think about the:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Shapes
  • Sizes
  • Styles of the props when setting up the scene.

6. Shape the light to add the mood 

One of the, if not the most essential part of effectively telling a story is lighting. To create a desired mood, we can use specific types of light and modifiers. This further enhances the emotional impact of the photo. Understanding the nuances of light and shadow is essential to communicate your intended story.

So, the next time you’re on the set, remember that your choice of light isn’t just an illumination—it’s a way to express a story.

In my case, I wanted to re-create a late summer light. For me, the late summer light is darker than mid-summer light and even slightly moody. The shadows are softer but not as soft as the autumn shadows.

And since my scene was set to take place in the morning, the shadows needed to be longer.

A food story is the secret sauce of any food photo. It engages the senses and evokes emotions in the viewer.

7. Styling the food

With food styling, we want to create an experience. The viewer needs to understand how the food tastes and feels in order to feel the emotions and get a full experience. Textures and colors are their visual cues.

In my late summer breakfast photo, I wanted to show different textures, such as the juicy, slightly chewy texture of figs, the crumbly texture of the croissants, and the added sweetness with the sugar dusting.

Playing with texture is the cherry on top of any storytelling.

8. Final touch – Editing 

Editing is the final stage of creating a story in the photo. Having the story written down, as I mentioned in the beginning, helps immensely.

In my photo, I wanted to create muted colors, so I used editing to tone them down. However, I left the figs relatively saturated so they stand out from the rest of the frame.

Making sure the contrast and shadows were edited in a way that is also slightly muted.

And not forgetting the textures. Enhancing the detail not only in the foods on the plate but also on the backdrop was vital to make it all look realistic.


The main objective of the food narrative is to evoke emotions and drive you close to the food to connect with it on a personal level.

So, the next time you pick up your camera to capture something delicious, remember that the story you weave around it will be the secret ingredient to a truly captivating photograph.

How I Shot This {Cocktail Photography}

Cocktail photography is a beautiful and exciting genre of photography that showcases the creativity and elegance of mixology. In this post, I will share how I shot a refreshing Summer cocktail.

Cocktail photography is a beautiful and exciting genre of photography that showcases the creativity and elegance of mixology. In this post, I will share how I shot a refreshing Summer cocktail.

*This post is sponsored. All opinions are my own.*

Summer is here, and what better way to celebrate than with a refreshing summer cocktail? As a photographer and stylist, I love creating beautiful images that capture the feel of the season.

In this blog post, I’ll take you through my process of styling a summer cocktail photoshoot, from choosing the right style and props to editing the final image.

Let’s start!

Step 1: Deciding on a Style & Mood

Choosing the style and mood for a photoshoot is one of the most important steps. It sets the tone for the entire shoot and guides all the decisions you make. For this summer cocktail shoot, I wanted to create a relaxed and inviting Mediterranean vibe. I envisioned a scene that would transport viewers to a hot, sunny location right next to the sea.

To achieve this mood, I started by creating a mood board. I gathered a few images of Mediterranean architecture, greenery, textiles and food (I intentionally did not want to look at drinks!).

This allowed me to see how different elements worked together and helped refine my vision for the shoot. Once I had a clear style in mind, I could start working on the details.

Cocktail photography is a beautiful and exciting genre of photography that showcases the creativity and elegance of mixology. In this post, I will share how I shot a refreshing Summer cocktail.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Props

Props are essential to creating a compelling image. They help to convey the mood and style of the shoot and provide visual interest for the viewer.

I knew I needed something that would match my moodboard. So I brought in wooden and stone boards and beige textured textiles. I even found an old tree root hanging out in the garden. By choosing props that fit the style I wanted to recreate, I was able to create a cohesive image that tells a story.

Step 3: Choosing the Right Backdrop

The backdrop is an important element in any photoshoot, as it provides the foundation for the image.

For this summer cocktail shoot, I wanted to keep the focus on the cocktail and props, so I chose two cool neutral backdrops – Terrazzo and Iced Concrete from V-Flat.

I love these backdrops because I don’t have to worry about how to keep the standing backdrop stay in place. They come with handy Duo Legs that hold the vertical backdrop still, even if your scene is nowhere near a wall.

Plus, they can be easily cleaned and wiped down. I have not yet encountered any staining on these.

Since I was going for a fresh summer mood, I needed to create a clean and minimalistic feel using simple yet textured backdrops. This allowed the focus to remain on the cocktail and props while still providing something interesting to look at.

Step 4: Creating Summer Light

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography. I generally really love using hard light for my Summer cocktail photography. 

And since here I wanted to create a bright, sunny feel, too, I used a flash with only a small beauty dish and no diffuser to create deep shadows and contrast. I also used a white foam board on the other side to reflect light and fill in those shadows quite a bit.

And since summer is all about lush greenery, I used some tree branches with leaves and placed it in front of the light to get them to cast a shadow on my scene. This makes it feel like you’re outdoors.

Creating this specific lighting helped to create a natural, summery feel and added depth and dimension to the image.

Step 5: Taking Some Test Shot 

Taking test shots is an important part of any photoshoot. It allows you to see how the lighting, composition and even the props and backdrops are working together and make any adjustments before you start building your scene.

For this summer cocktail shoot, I took a few test shots to ensure that:

  • the lighting was creating the mood I wanted
  • the props work with the light and the feel
  • the composition is well-balanced and dynamic

Step 6: Finishing the Styling and Taking the Final Photo

Once I had the lighting and composition set up, it was time to finish styling the cocktail. This included adding the final touches to the props, adjusting the garnish, and making sure everything was in its right place.

The goal was to create an inviting and visually appealing image that captured the essence of a refreshing summer cocktail.

I took my time with this step, carefully adjusting and fine-tuning the details inside the glasses until everything was just right. I added ice to the glass, adjusted the angle of the garnish, and made sure the background was clean and unobstructed, before pouring in the sparkling water. The key was to pay attention to the small details that could make a big difference in the final image.

I actually took two final photos – one with less filled glasses and one going all-in! I like both of them, but I’ll let you decide which one you prefer.

*Note: These are the photos after editing. To see the difference between the raw photo and the edited one, keep reading.

Step 7: Editing – Making Sure the Editing Complements the Story

Editing is the final (AND CRUCIAL!) step in creating a great image. It allows you to refine the mood and style of the shot and ensure that it tells the story you want it to. For this summer cocktail shoot, I wanted to enhance the natural summer feel of the image but have it look refreshing, so I kept the edit relatively neutral and not overly warm. I used my Summer Sun preset and tweaked it a tiny bit to perfectly match the look I was going for.

Cocktail photography is a beautiful and exciting genre of photography that showcases the creativity and elegance of mixology. In this post, I will share how I shot a refreshing Summer cocktail.

What is more I made sure that the shadows are not too dark to distract from the drinks.

And I made sure that the white Terrazzo V-flat backdrop is not overexposed and shows its lovely texture.

Cocktail photography is a beautiful and exciting genre of photography that showcases the creativity and elegance of mixology. In this post, I will share how I shot a refreshing Summer cocktail.


Summer cocktail photography involves careful planning and attention to detail. By choosing the right style and props, creating the perfect lighting, and editing to enhance the mood, you can create an image that perfectly captures the true feel of the season.

How I styled this – Hot Cocoa

Take a look at how I styled a cup of hot cocoa. From how I created the composition to how I faked the cream!

Take a look at how I styled a cup of cocoa. From how I created the composition to how I faked the cream!

Welcome to this tutorial on I how I styled this photo of hot cocoa.

Even though the composition seems relatively simple, there were things to consider to make it appear light and bright. So keep on reading to find more.

Or, if you prefer to watch, you can watch the video below.


Starting Point and Inspiration

This was a photo from a recent photoshoot for the article How To Use Negative Space In Food Photography.

The idea was that I needed some negative space. However, I also wanted to include some visually interesting elements to fill out the space.

I wanted the photo to be flowy and dynamic without being overly full and crammed with props.

How I Styled This

I placed the tiled backdrop in the back at an angle to add some dynamics to the photo. (left photo below)

Then I started playing with how they are positioned in relation to each other. (right photo below)

I preferred the focus to be on the mug, and that’s why I ended up placing the vase more to the side. I just didn’t want it to overshadow this beautiful mug, which would eventually hold cocoa.

By changing the placement of the camera bit I was able to get more space at the top. This is a technique I love to use for brighter, whiter photos to give them that extra breathing space.

Then I started placing different elements around, starting with a little bit of color, which kind of gave me a clue of what the colors were gonna be like. To get that really nice cold and warm contrast, I went with the orange in contrast with the blueish whites. I love blues with brown foods because they bring the warmth out of the browns.

While the orange color from the dried oranges adds that extra color punch, a color emphasis.

The placement of the chocolate bar on the right balances out the darker bottom of the vase on the left.

Then I started playing with a spoon to make it appear more lived in, so I went with a golden one for an extra pop of color.

I tested different placements and ended up placing it on the other side so it caught just the right light. You can see how much more colorful it is when the light catches it. With the way I positioned it, I was able to get a similar hue to the oranges. I placed the spoon diagonally to add some dynamics to the frame.

Then I filled the vase to make the scene more realistic. I used the same colors, the brownish-orange, so it doesn’t distract and is just a nice complement, and added texture to the photo. (left photo below)

And then I decided the angle was too low, not giving enough space to showcase the cocoa (right photo below). If we compare the two angles (left and right photos below), you can see how we can see more of the inside of the mug, which you’ll see later works better.

Then I made the bottom dried orange more visible to really emphasize the orange color.

And you can see in the back how I also then moved the chocolate further out (change from the photo bottom left to bottom right). It’s a very dark element, so hiding it a bit makes the entire frame more balanced.

And I added some crystal sugar or candy sugar (photo bottom right), which not only adds to the texture but also gives a cozy wintery vibe.

I also added some crystal sugar in the back to balance things out. And played around with the positioning a bit so they are not too distracting (photos bottom left & right).

And then I added the cream. For this photo, I tested a styling trick, which I explained at the end of this article, so keep on reading!

As a finishing point, I wanted to add a little bit of texture on top, so I made some chocolate shavings. And sprinkled them over, and I also added a bit in the bottom corner.

And then the final touch, the dried orange slice in the cream. It’s that last interesting detail in a drink.

After the finishing touch – photo stacking. This is a technique we’ll discuss another time; I was able to get the entire drink pretty much in focus, with the background nicely blurred for a soft effect. So this is the final photo:

Take a look at how I styled a cup of cocoa. From how I created the composition to how I faked the cream!

Styling trick – Using Shaving Cream

Instead of using whipping cream, I used shaving cream.

The reason I liked working with it is that it holds for much longer, and it is easier to shape and create nice swirls. If you want to take a look at exactly how I worked with it, check the video at the top of this article at 5:55.

Just be sure not to drink the cocoa afterward!

Hope you enjoyed this mini-tutorial about how I styled this lovely (but unedible) cup of cocoa.

How To Use Negative Space in Food Photography

Elevate your food photography with negative space. Learn how to create balance, depth & impact. Techniques & examples included!

Elevate your food photography with negative space. Learn how to create balance, depth & impact. Techniques & examples included!

*This post is sponsored. All opinions are my own.*

Negative space can sound pretty pessimistic, right? Fear not. Using negative space in your work can be very positive. See, what I did just there 🙂

In order to achieve balance in your photos, you must know how to include and place negative space inside a frame. Because, like all good things, it can help a composition, but it can also ruin it.

I’ve partnered with V-Flat World to use their beautiful food photography backdrops called duo boards in some photos showcasing how I use negative space in my work. If you have never tried these, they come with a very handy pair of duo legs that you can use to hold up the board in the back. Such a nice solution!

In this article, you’ll find out:

What is negative space?

That’s the empty space around your subject, while positive space is the space filled with elements. In short, negative space is the boring part of the photo where nothing really happens. I say boring, but it’s far from boring in reality.

Your job as a food photographer is to balance negative and positive space to create enticing compositions.

We also know the term passive space in art, and that’s the space where you might have some things, but they are very neutral and almost blend with the background, so they don’t carry as much visual weight, and just like the negative space create a space for the eyes to rest.

Why is negative space important in a photo?

It adds a sense of size and scale to an image, a sense of space and gives your subject room to breathe. It will lead the viewer to the main subject.

It creates areas in the photo that recede (that’s the negative space) and areas that advance (that’s the positive space). So what this creates is dimension and layers in your photos.

Too much negative space can overwhelm and distract from the subject just as much as something very bold and bright could. On the other hand, if there’s not enough empty space, the frame might be too saturated, and adding negative space would make it look more balanced.

When done correctly, a significant amount of negative space can actually be great and make the subject even more noticeable. This way, it can give a photo a dramatic feel and look. Heck, it can almost make it look quiet and peaceful. 

Simple ways to use negative space in food photography


When it comes to negative space, it can act as a frame for your subject, and using it like that will make your subject stand out.

You can approach that by placing your subject centrally and leaving room around it to make it pop and create a centerpiece for your photo. But be careful not to make it look disconnected from the rest of the image.

In the photo below, I placed my subject in the middle of the image to create a frame with negative space. But you can notice that I added some smaller elements around to make the connection with the frame edges. 


Knowing that negative space holds a massive weight in a photo is essential. Much more than you might think.

This is especially important when you try to troubleshoot a photo where your subject needs to stand out. It can be a balance problem; one way to balance an image like that is by adding some empty space.


Negative space can be used to create movement in an image by leading the viewer’s eye through the composition. It can add dynamic visual interest to an image.

To do that we can use the empty space around the subject to create a sense of direction and movement that leads the viewer’s eye through the composition.

One way to create movement with empty space is to use diagonal lines or shapes. In order to know how to use this technique, you need to look at the negative space as positive, as if it were filled with elements. This way, you’ll notice the shapes it creates.


Negative space can be used to create a sense of calm or tranquility in a photo, by leaving plenty of empty space around the subject. On the other hand, it can also be used to create a sense of tension or drama by filling the frame with elements and leaving very little empty space.

Elevate your food photography with negative space. Learn how to create balance, depth & impact. Techniques & examples included!


You might be thinking: Negative space only works in minimal scenes, with only a main subject and all that negative space. But that’s definitely not the case.

Let’s look at these two photos and see where I’ve placed the subjects in relation to negative space. 

In the left photo – a minimal scene – deciding where to place negative space is just a matter of left, right, up, and down. Mostly.

When it comes to busier scenes, or whenever you add additional elements to the frame, you must also look at the space between the elements and how negative space creates a connection or separation between them. Finding the right balance is achieved by proper composition, which I teach in detail in Food To Frame.

When we create images with lots of elements, we can easily create a very distracting scene, and it’s hard to know where the main subject is. It can make our eyes wander and never stop on a specific element in the frame. This is when we went too far and needed to remove some elements and introduce some empty space.


Leaving empty space is super important whenever text needs to be added on top, for example, magazines, packaging, brochures, and such.

I prepared a magazine cover mockup to give you an idea of how creating photos with the intention of placing text over can be different. For example, look at the image without text and the photo with text. The one without text might feel slightly unbalanced, but placing text over fixes that. Whereas if the picture was crowded, it would make the text hard to fit.


Negative space is here to add some lightness to the frame. It makes the photo breathe. However, adding negative space is not a rule, and many beautiful images have almost no empty space. It all comes down to what feeling you’d like to portray.

Food Styling, Photography & Business Retreat

Critiquing Your Food Photos (+ My Own)

Learn how easy it is critiquing your food photos and watch me critique mine and see what improvements I could have done to improve them.

I'm back with a few of my old photos, which I'm not too happy about. In general, I like the look of them, but there's a lot that could be improved. You can watch it right here below.

Hi everyone, I’m back with a few of my old photos, which I’m not too happy about. In general, I like the look of them, but there’s a lot that could be improved. You can watch it right here below.

And if you know me, you know how I like talking about reading your images, which is also something I dive into with my Food To Frame students a lot more.

Knowing what mistakes you made in your photos is the ultimate key to success. If you never go back and review your old photos, you’re missing out on so much growth! Seriously, after reading these and watching the video, go over your photos and find a few you’re not happy about and try to pinpoint those areas where it’s lacking. Things that you could change to tell your food story much better or make your dish stand out.

The three key components of critiquing your food photos are:

1. Looking at what is the distraction in the photo

Think of distractions like procrastination. When you’re procrastinating, you’re trying to do everything else but your task, right? It’s very similar here. Distractions are everything that makes it difficult to see the main subject because you’re focusing on everything else. This could be a subject that’s too bold, it might be poor editing, or the light not being there.

If you pinpoint the distractions, you’re already halfway there!

2. Checking out the placement of your main subject and all the supporting elements

Placement is crucial in photography. When you’re reading your images, make sure to check whether the position of your elements makes sense. Both in terms of its position in relation to the frame and to the other elements in the photo.

3. Thinking of solutions

This might be the hardest one.

Okay, you know what’s wrong with your photo, but how do you know how to fix that?

It might take some trial and error, but in general, I’d start with the opposite.

Let’s say you realized your photo is too dark. The solution is obvious, right? Go with the opposite and make it lighter.

With some mistakes, it might be a bit tricky and the solution will not be so straightforward.

Let’s say your photo angle is wrong for that dish. How can you fix that? There aren’t just two possible angles to shoot from, so you actually need to think about the dish and the angle at which it looks the best. In case you ever encounter that problem, I actually have a guide on camera angles ready.

In these cases, you need to dive deeper into critiquing your food photos and learn more about the subject. And what I also find useful is checking out photos of other photographers which might give you the solution.

Make sure to also read How To Read Food Photos To Improve Your Food Photography + A Case Study! to learn more in-depth photo reading techniques.

Repetition in Food Photography: Breaking the Pattern

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

I’ve talked about creating a Symmetrical repetition in one of my previous articles and symmetrical composition is something very beautiful and natural. But when it comes to repetition I think the king of repetition is the inconsistency – the breaking of the pattern.

Our eyes are quite used to seeing patterns and they seem very natural, safe and pleasant to look at. However, when it comes to drawing the eyes to your photo, there’s probably no better thing but to make that pattern just a little bit off. This is something that sparks up questions and makes us think about the photo.

Okay, let’s talk a bit about something that might sound completely off-topic, but here it is. The main subject. A photo should in almost all cases have a main subject. That one element where not only the focus (in the technical term) lies but also the focal point where our eyes are drawn to. And introducing the breaking of the pattern does just that. It brings attention to that one particular part of the photo.

Through a few examples, I’m going to show you a few ideas you can integrate into your photos with patterns to make that one subject pop a little bit more and make it the focal point of the frame.

Examples of breaking the pattern

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

The photo above is a very classical representation of a photo with a pattern. The way I broke the pattern here was in two ways. First of all, not all the elements are placed in the same way. So even though there are repeating elements in the frame, it’s not overly graphical. And secondly I chose to place two popsicles one over the other for the purpose of breaking the pattern. You can see how this part of the photo now carries a little bit more visual weight and draws the attention.

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

So in this brownie photo, I did a very similar thing to in the previous photo. Brownies, although amazingly delicious, can look flat and boring quickly, especially when they are laid flat onto the surface. So how did I solve the problem with the boring pattern formed by how the brownies were cut?

I simply turned one of the brownies to the sides. So this way I created the focal point of the photo and what is more, I showcased the insides of the brownie which is always a good thing!

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

Something similar happens here. We have the spring rolls that are forming this linear pattern, but then that one roll that is cut open shows a different shape – a circular one – breaking the pattern along the way. This is probably the easiest thing to do in food photography – cutting something to break the pattern by introducing another shape.

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

In food photography, we are often faced with patterns, that we might not even notice. Like in the example of this tiramisu here. The way the cookies are stacked creates a pattern in the dish. However, you can take it a step further. Here I piped the cream in a way that also created an interesting pattern, so I basically made a mix of two patterns. The second one breaking the other one in a very natural way.

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

Produce photos are a great example of how you can introduce patterns and also how you can break the pattern. I have mostly round shapes in this photo of oranges. However, I cut a few pieces in a different way. I placed one of them in a very bright spot. Note how much variety and playfulness just one irregular shape brings to a photo.

Following the pattern is a natural thing to do, but breaking the pattern is what makes the food photo truly stand out!

Now, this beautiful radicchio, even though incredibly beautiful and delicious, was not the easiest subject to shoot. It made a bit of effort to make one single element stand out. Here you can see that the shape of the radicchio florets creates a pattern. But how did I break the pattern?

It might be a bit more subtle here than in the previous photo, so let me explain. I made sure that the radicchio that was in focus had a very distinct shape. So basically I chose the best-looking one there was. I made sure all the other ones did not look as perfect (still good, but not perfect!). This made the one beautiful radicchio floret stand out.


Patterns are an amazing way to add interest to a food photo and even though we might not always be aware, there’s almost always one form of a pattern in a photo. With some photos, this is more obvious or even intentional. And when you are aware of the patterns you can exploit that and create a breaking of the pattern, which will add even more interest to the photo.

Let me know in the comments what is your favorite way to break a repetition pattern.

Repetition in Food Photography: Symmetrical Repetition

When it comes to interesting out-of-the-box techniques symmetrical repetition in food photography is definitely the one to look out for.

When it comes to interesting out-of-the-box techniques repetition in food photography is definitely the one to look out for.

We often overlook patterns when it comes to food photography techniques. When we hear about patterns, oftentimes we think of monotony. And who wants to be monotonous?

But what if I told you that patterns and repetition in food photoraphy are one of the most beautiful ways to bring interest to our image?

I am just finishing judging a challenge on Instagram all dedicated to repetition and it got me thinking about how you can incorporate repetition in your food photos without making it boring and flat.

So here are a few tips on how to add repetition to your work:

1. Create a feeling of a graphical image

When you have a photo with a very symmetrical repetition and an interesting light you can create images where the pattern itself becomes an element and the point of interest.

You can achieve that by filling the frame with the same or similar elements and place them in very geometrical positions – squares, circles, lines…

When it comes to interesting out-of-the-box techniques repetition in food photography is definitely the one to look out for.

2. Repeating lines

Lines are one of the best compositional tools, as I’ve already mentioned in a few of my articles. When you place repeating lines next to each other, they can form interesting visual patterns and can also become very graphical.

When it comes to interesting out-of-the-box techniques symmetrical  repetition in food photography is definitely the one to look out for.

3. Breaking the pattern

Monotonous pattern can work very well for certain images, but when you wnat to add some extra interest, you can play around with breakin the patterm.

If every element is placed in the same way and one is placed in a slightly different way, it creates a strong visual interest. This is how we can also bring the unexpected to a pattern. It will instantly led the viewer’s eye to where the ‘rule breaking’ is happening. and instantly you get a focus point!

It also gets the viewer to think about why and how the change in pattern is happening.

When it comes to interesting out-of-the-box techniques repetition in food photography is definitely the one to look out for.

4. Repetition in the dish

When it comes to repetition it doesn’t always have to be created through composition. Food itself is already a great source of repetition and patterns. Thinking about the dish as a separate frame and adding some patterns in the dish brings the attention to our subject – because our eyes love patterns, as we’ve already determinded!

So keep an eye on pattern sin your food and also think about how you can add repetition in your dish when you’re styling it.

When it comes to interesting out-of-the-box techniques repetition in food photography is definitely the one to look out for.

5. Mirrored image

Just like the name suggest this is a composition technique where the frame has more or less two symmetrical parts of an image. This can create a very calm feeling. A feeling of something we know.

Symmetry can be created either vertically, horizontally, or both.

When I create symmetrical images, I try to not make it completely symmetrical – you know – breaking the pattern! Just like in the image below. It is symmetrical, but not to a point where every element is perfectly aligned.

When it comes to interesting out-of-the-box techniques repetition in food photography is definitely the one to look out for.

Busy composition – when is it enough?

There’s a trend in a busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you’ll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.

There's a trend in busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you'll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.

When it comes to composition, my style is not very minimalistic. I sometimes do minimalistic images, but more often I will add lots of elements to my photo. Trying more minimalistic images is also one of the things I want to do more in the future!

But we’re not going to be talking about minimalistic compositions today. We will focus on how to create a busy composition without making it too busy.

Because the line is very thin!

So let me give you a few tips on how to approach busy food styling:

1. Your dish should be the hero

Pretty obvious right?

But when you’re planning on adding lots of elements in your image, chances are they will overshadow your main dish. And your main dish should ALWAYS be the hero!

So a good exercise is to stop and take a good look. Really think about whether any element is distracting and ditch it, or place it just enough outside the frame so it doesn’t take as much attention.

There's a trend in busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you'll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.

2. Make your dish the biggest element in the scene

Example. When you go to the forest to pick mushrooms, and you a small one and a big one. Which one will you pick first?

Okay, bad example, I never go mushroom picking, I’m the worst. I have my dad do this 🙂

But you get the idea, right? Bigger elements get more attention, would you agree? Same in composition, if you have an element inside your composition that is larger than everything else, it will probably become the focus.

Imagine you have an image with a burger and some fries and you want the burger to be the star. If you placed a huge bucket of fries right next to the burger it would become the hero.

But if you make sure, you only have enough fries so that they still look ‘abundant’, but the whole container of fries is not larger than the burger, then you’re good.

There's a trend in busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you'll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.

3. Avoid overly colorful and patterned props

This is usually my advice for any type of food photography and styling. But since rules are meant to be broken, you can get away with crazy props in certain minimalistic photos. Not with a busy composition though! It is even more important to be selective about the props you use.

There's a trend in busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you'll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.

4. Add some negative or passive space to your busy composition

Every image needs air to breathe and a place for our eyes to rest. Especially when you have lots of elements in the frame. So think about where you can add a little negative or passive space. If you are not familiar with the term ‘passive space’ it is the part of the image that isn’t necessarily empty but can be filled with neutral props and elements, such as linen, bowls, glasses that are almost the same color as the backdrop.

There's a trend in busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you'll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.

5. Use leading lines and curves in a busy composition

Lines and curves are one of my favorite composition techniques when it comes to busy composition. They are used to lead the eye around the frame and to your subject. So you can see why they would be really important in busy compositions. With lots of elements, our eyes can get confused. By using lines and curves you can guide the eyes carefully around the frame (so the other elements are not left unnoticed!) and then to our subject.

There's a trend in busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you'll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.

6. Make your dish stand out with color

One of the ways I keep focus on the main dish in a busy composition is to set it appart through color. I try to keep every other element other than the main dish very low key in terms of color.

Our eyes tend to go to the brightest and most vibrant parts of the image first. So by removing color from other parts (even when there’s a lot going on) I can get the viewer’s eye to always end up looking at the main dish.

There's a trend in busy composition that you can see on Instagram. With these food photography tips you'll be able to know how to style the scene so your dish is still the hero.