Tag Archive for: mindset

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

Free Work Opportunities: How to Handle Them

As a creator, how do you handle the free work requests? Read further to see all the traps you need to avoid.

As a creator, how do you handle the free work requests? Read further to see all the traps you need to avoid.

If you are an Instagram influencer, content creator, or blogger, you’ve likely encountered situations where brands offer products in exchange for posts or content creation.

The debate over whether accepting these kinds of free work opportunities is okay is fierce. And I’ll leave the final judgment to you. Nevertheless, I want to share my thoughts on what situations is accepting ‘free work’ worth it and how to handle these non-paid opportunities so you can protect your work and keep it professional.

When is working in exchange for products okay?

As I said, it’s up to you to decide if merely having the product is worth it. But in my humble opinion, there are a few situations where unpaid work is acceptable:

  • When the work you do fits your brand
  • When the collaboration will be beneficial for your social media audience, blog readers, and so on
  • When having images with the product will help your portfolio become better and will attract more clients in the future.
  • When having this product or connection with the brand will help your career in a big way (and only a big way counts).
  • When the product you get is of a very high value, and you would purchase this or a similar product anyway. (In my experience, this is rarely the case!)

I can’t stress this enough, but even if you work in exchange for products, you still have to put effort, time, money, and creativity into your projects, so make sure that whatever deal you make, you gain something from that!

Setting the Stage for a Successful Collaboration

It has happened to all of us – a collaboration that left one or both sides of the party unsatisfied. I like to include some strategies:

  • Clear communication: Be sure to communicate in the greatest detail possible about how this will work. Don’t forget to talk about how many images/videos/reels/blog posts… You will produce, how you’ll include that product, and when exactly they are going out.
  • Product integration:  Clarify how the product will be integrated into your content, whether they will be mentioned or tagged, where, or even IF they can use the content you produced, and every little detail. 
  • Usage Rights: From the beginning, you need to let the brand know how the content you create can be used. Will you be the one sharing it? Can they share or repost it? Where can they use it, for how long, and whether they should credit you?
  • Logistics: Who will take care of shipping and import taxes or any other expenses that might arise?

To ensure the communication is clear and easy from the beginning, I created a pdf with clearly written how I work, what kinds of content I can produce in exchange for products, and how long after receiving the product I can post the content. Will you mention or tag them in the post and other vital information?  So they see that I’m serious and my work provides value! I have this PDF ready online and send a link to everyone who contacts me, so I don’t need to explain all these things repeatedly.

Upselling opportunity

Remember that even if you are in a situation where a brand asks you to work for a product, you have the chance to pitch paid work.

You can:

  • Say no to unpaid work and introduce your paid packages from the get-go.
  • Provide a part of the job for free and charge a fee for the rest. Let them know what you can do for free or how they can use the photos for free, and share your rates if they want extra work or an extra usage license from you.

Protect Your Free Work

We already talked that you should discuss the usage and every other important detail about the collaboration, but you should also write it.

A contract is necessary for every work you do, no matter if it is paid or not. You want to protect your work from being used in ways you do not agree with and get fair compensation for different uses.

Free work conclusions

Collaborating for products is work like any other, so you should treat it as such. It is essential to approach any work with professionalism and a business-oriented mind.

Clear communication, brand values, and guidelines are the foundation of navigating any business successfully.

To make sure these product exchange collaborations run smoothly, I advise you to let the brand know how you work and that you are obligated to protect your work while making sure both parties will be better off.