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How To Take Great Food Photos In Low Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get started.

1. Use a tripod

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

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

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

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

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

3. Embrace the high ISO

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

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

Why is this important?

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

See, high ISO is not the enemy 😊

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

4. Get closer to the light source

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

Do you see the problem yet?

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

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

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

5. Use manual focus

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s start. Ready?

Here we go…

1. Overhead or 90° angle

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

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

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

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

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

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

2. 75°angle

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

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

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

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

3. 45°angle

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

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

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

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

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

4. 25° angle

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

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

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

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

5. Straight-on aka 0° angle

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

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

Dishes that look great using overhead angle:

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

Camera angles for food photography

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

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

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

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

a photo of a chestnut pie on moss for arcticle How to read photos so you can improve your food photography by Anja Burgar from Use Your Noodles blog

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

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

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

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

Well, not literally.

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

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

So, how do you read food images?

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

You can approach reading photos in a similar way.

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

1. Camera settings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Reading composition as a pro

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

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

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

4. What are the colors?

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

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

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

5. How about styling?

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

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

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

A quick exercise for you to do today

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

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

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

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

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

How To Take The Perfect Action Shot In Food Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s start!

1. Get a tripod

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

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

2. Shoot in manual mode and set shutter speed first

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

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

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

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

3. Focus manually

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

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

4. Adjust your food to movement

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

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

5. Remote control vs. Timer

There are a few options here:

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

6. The right angle

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

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

7. It doesn’t have to include movement

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

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The takeaway…

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