Food Photography Flops & Fixes

Patriotic Red White & Blue Popsicles
Posted On: December 3, 2015
Last updated: July 21st, 2016

If you’re trying to start a food blog or any other blog in hopes of great success in the future, presentation is everything! I am no expert photographer as you can see, but I’ve been trying my hardest to learn the (new) skill of food photography to attract the masses to my site, especially for my recipe posts.

No Overnight Success

I’ve been trudging along and now I can actually say that I’ve made some progress and am starting to succeed in my efforts the last couple months.  It’s no easy feat teaching yourself to shoot food well.  My sister is a professional photographer/photojournalist and I remember years back in my early 20’s probably, her telling me making food look good is one of the greatest challenges for photography.  I believe it after giving it a go this last year.  To make food look really good, it’s not as easy as picking up a camera and shooting what you know and think looks tasty.  You might know your food tastes great, but you need to prove it initially through that online screen to attract people to actually click on them.

Trail and Error

There’s no better way to learn and improve than by failing miserably and continuing on, plugging away, striving for better shots.  As we’ve all heard in time…practice, practice, practice.  I will not say that practice makes perfect though as I don’t believe there is such a thing, but always improving and looking better and better with practice, absolutely; as long as you don’t quit!

My {Grandest} Food Photography Flops

I had the will to start a food blog, hoping to convey my passion for food, wanting to share it with the rest of the world, but that does not keep the flops from happening.  I did have a distorted view of my abilities when I got started, thinking how hard can it be to shoot food well? Well, it sure as heck can be hard.  Just check out some of my first shots! They’re so hard for me to look at; between the bad angles, bad lighting and horrible layouts with tons of dead space.  Sheesh….it’s embarrassing, but I feel it necessary to share to help someone like you reading this.  It’s proof there is hope for us all giving this food blog thing a shot!

Food Photography Flops & Fixes
This has to be one of my worst food photographs ever! Ugh…
Food Photography Flops & Fixes
I also used to think this looked good…wow, just wow!
P1080770
Boring, drab, completely unappealing…
P1080978
Not sure what to even say about this one…focus, lighting, composition…all no good!

 

 

 

 

 


My Photography Turning Point {Sort of}

The turning point in my food photography came when I realized I had to use props more and…the hardest part, the part that almost brought me to tears on many occasions from frustration, the need to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop.  This was the most frustrating thing for me and my stubbornness had shown through like a donkey not moving from the middle of a road.  My husband knew my stubbornness was stalling my success and he was absolutely right!

I have sat behind my sister while editing her photos (the professional photographer I mentioned earlier) making it look so easy, but also looking at her screen thinking it looked like a foreign language to me.  I thought Photoshop would be the end of my efforts here, but I’ve pushed through, determined to learn the basics at least, in baby steps.

Once I started learning how to use the basics of Adobe Photoshop. I started to see progress, just as my photos started improving, but just a tad.  What I thought was great at the time though, was way sub-standard from great food photography standards.

Here are some examples on my turning point photos.  And mind you, especially as you look at the 1st one, the sweet potatoes, I thought this was good….boy was I wrong.  I can barely look at the baked sweet potato without making a face at the computer screen.

Twice Baked Sweet Potato
This one is just horrible, what can I say..
Oven Baked Crispy Chicken Tenders
Um…boring, uninteresting, terrible white balance…need I say more?!
Cilantro Lime Black Bean Corn Avocado Salad
Not horrible, but not great. Slight improvement from the latter, but still not good at all.
Vinegret-Beet-Potato-Salad-1160-Wholemadeliving
Color balance is way off. Look at all that pink?!

 

 


Fixing my Flops

After getting the above posts up and really seeing others’ gorgeous tantalizing food images, I think it started to click even more how important composition and the story I’m telling through the pictures are.

In the before and after pictures below you’ll see my before picture showing a shot from one of my 1st posts and then the upgraded photo I made.  I’m still not happy with the “after” shot even though you can already see an improvement so I will be reshooting these pancakes once more in the near future.

P1080351-001
BEFORE ~Version 1
Steel Cut Oat Pancakes with Strawberries
AFTER ~Version 2
Twice Baked Sweet Potato
BEFORE ~Version 1
Twice-Baked-Sweet-Potatoes-600-3-Wholemadeliving
AFTER ~Version 2

 

 

 

 

 

I love typing out my thoughts onto the keyboard or paper for that matter, seemed to have a knack for it since my college days, but I’ve been missing my story telling through my pictures as of yet.  Plus my point and shoot camera and photoshop skills weren’t doing me justice.  I realized I really needed to study up to improve and gain interest from my audience.  I start truly studying food photos more than ever before, studying sites like Foodgawker and Tasteologie to see what they are looking for in quality food pics.  It’s not easy to win sites like that over, but I did start to get accreditation from them once I got truly serious about improving.


Photo Composition

Composition is very important in food photography because it’s telling a story about your food.  You don’t want dead space and want the background to compliment your food, whether it be with ingredients, table set up or utensils used.  The photos you see below here are only improvements still, but still not my best, but you can see the improvements here from my 1st “flop” shots above.  These three were also taken with my point and shoot camera, so it’s not bad considering.  They even managed to get a lot of traffic from Pinterest pins which has been a huge help as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Beginner Camera

My beginner camera on this site was this Point and Shoot Camera.  It was a great starter camera for sure and if you look at the Kotlety recipe just below, it was included in my making improvements period and managed to get itself on Tasteologie as well, which was considered a new success for me! Between shooting the pictures on the macro setting and learning how to better use Photoshop, small successes were to be had even with my little point and shoot.

Photo Studio

Here is my first photo studio. The first shots I took to post on my beginner site were taken in this little studio set up, 1st in my kitchen, then garage.  My poor food and layouts were so squished.  I had no room to do anything, but it did the job just to get me started.  Yes, it’s a bit ammature, well that’s what I am, an amature, trying to get my photos taken anyway I can.  This fine little starter studio was a gift to me and a great way to start at least.

Now, the more subtle, but considerable improvements.  My upgraded studio you see below with big lights was set up in my master bedroom, yes bedroom.  I was thankful to have the room to set this up.  We lived in a house at this time with horrible lighting and I had to make due with space and use artificial lighting, but it made a pretty good difference having an actual large space to shoot, larger table and a great inexpensive set up.  It truly made a huge difference in my options for photography and what a great deal!  My “Photo Composition” photos of slaw and kotlety you see above were taken in this upgraded studio set up.

Inexpensive Studio Upgrade

Camera Upgrade

Once I realized I could successfully share my passion with the world on this site and could learn and grow even with my point and shot, I was ready for the bigger league camera.  It was more that I was eager to see how much more I could do with a better photo apparatus.  So in response to my excitement about my site and enjoyment for creating it, my husband surprised me (sort of….I knew it was coming) with a new camera.  I knew from my very first shots I was in love with my new toy.

Tricky Lighting

The tricky part about lighting is that even though natural lighting makes for great pictures at times, at the same time shadows in the natural light photographs make for unfavorable results.  Besides possibly fighting off flies while trying to shoot great still shots is that the shadows resulting might get you denied on shots you thought rocked initially.  My new love of natural light and using outdoor space for great shots have made for not such great photos as times.

I was very surprised though to get positive feedback on this popsicle shot.  Besides the pretty colors I think my lack of shadows made it a success.  This very shot was my big opening into the foodie photography world.  Oh, the excitement I had to finally make a shot that worked on all levels. It’s so fun to get to this point. It gave me hope for sure.

Patriotic-Red-White-Blue-Popsicles-1160B-Wholemadeliving
My first Foodgawker accepted submission

Here are the food photos that started getting accepted into the foodie sites that can get you more traffic to your site and help get your name out there into cyberspace.  In all of these you see below here I used natural lighting and got fantastic results!

Now, scroll up and check out the difference from the very 1st set of pictures.  EEK…..those first ones just make me cringe.  As with anything in life where a form of success is achieved, it takes practice, hard work and time.  I do believe my hard work is paying off, at least in the food photography department….whew. It’s definitely not as easy as it looks.

Grilled-Skirt-Steak-with-Chimmichuri-600-Wholemadeliving

Ginger-Teriyaki-Meatballs-600-WholeMadeLiving Fluffy-Cottage-Cheese-Pancakes-600-Wholemadeliving

Making the Cut

These two recent ones have also made the “cut” so to speak.  I do believe I have my camera upgrade to thank as well as just practice and being more diligent about composition, lighting and photoshop editing.  Also, I’ve just been putting a lot more thought into what I need to achieve when I shoot; the story I need to tell, think about components that make up the recipe to compliment the background.

Fluffy-Cottage-Cheese-Pancakes-1160-2-Wholemadeliving

Cranberry-Pumpkin-Muffins-with-Ginger-1160-Wholemadeliving

Final thoughts…

So, the final word for me on this subject is you don’t need to use the finest tools, but a little investment in time and a little money (not too much) will make a huge difference. I did not have to spend a fortune to get on page 1 of a Google search.  I did however need to investment time in studying food photos, pay better attention to lighting and my new camera (Oh, how I treasure it) have helped get me rank higher on google with persistence and not giving up.  Be prepared to be shot down quite a few times.  I sure did, but I think I’m starting to get what it takes.  Most importantly, have fun with it all.  I sure do.

Comments

  • What a very good post, Katia. I love food and that’s one of the reasons I started my food blog, but I have no photography skills whatsoever and my camera is generic. I feel that it’s about time for me to learn about photography so I can take better pictures of my food. I personally care more about the recipes than perfect-looking pictures, but a lot of people want to see pretty pictures, or they show no interest in the recipes regardless of how tasty they sound. Congrats on being accepted to one of the major food sites.

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