The Best Time to Take Food Photos

by Mike on December 5, 2012

Sunrise on Fields

So you’ve got a great recipe and you’ve cooked your dish to perfection.  Now its time to take a picture for your food blog!

Well, you’ve made this dish for dinner and its already dark outside.  Sure, that’s not a problem, you’ll just use a flash.  Hmmm, that doesn’t look like the pictures you see on foodgawker and tastespotting.

Ok, let’s try it without the flash.  Now you can barely see the dish.

You proceed to jack up the kitchen lights as much as possible and take another picture.  Sure you can see the dish now but there is an ugly yellow tint.  Maybe you can adjust the white balance with some photo editing software but it just doesn’t look right.

This is the abbreviated version of the path that I took when I first started taking pictures for this blog.  After a couple of less than successful photo shoots I realized that lighting is VERY IMPORTANT.  In fact, lighting can make or break your photo.

Realizing this, I started to take pictures in the afternoons, outside in my sun porch.  We had our first couple of submissions accepted on foodgawker using this setup.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie on the Sun Porch

 

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Nutella Swirl

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins on the Sun Porch

Although I was able to produce photographs worthy of foodgawker, I wasn’t completely happy with the results.  Both of the above photographs required quite a bit of post processing to get them to where you see them now.  Also, as winter came, it was getting colder and colder on the porch so my time for the photo shoot would be limited.

It was time for a better solution.  Food photography can be especially challenging because unless you are a full time food blogger (how awesome would that be?), most of your cooking is probably going to happen in the evenings.  That is when Nicole does most of her cooking, so I educated myself on how to take pictures indoors and at night.

The best resource I found was on taylortakesataste.com .  Taylor explains step by step exactly how to create a lighting setup for relatively cheap.  For under $40 I was able to purchase everything I needed!

Here is what I use for that setup:

Learning how to create that lighting set up was definitely an “Ah Ha!” food photography moment for me.  Now I wasn’t constrained by daylight and I could take as much time as I wanted with each photo shoot! Well, as long as the food holds up.

Thai Corn Fritters photo taken with the cheap lighting setup.

I’ve since had a lot of success with this setup.  Not all of my submissions have been accepted on the food porn sites but the majority of them are at this point.  Many times the ones that are not accepted are due to my photo composition, not the lighting.  I’m definitely still learning everyday when it comes to photo composition!

I’m always looking for tips and ideas to get better at food photography.  My latest find was the Tasty Food Photography Ebook.  Linsday from pinchofyum.com does a great job explaining the ins and outs of food photography.   Follow her directions and you are sure to elevate your food photography game.

One tip that I immediately took from this book was to take your pictures in the morning to get the best natural light.

I recently started taking pictures in the morning and I think its great!  Our house does not get great light inside so I had to search around for the best room to use as my studio.  It turns out that our bedroom is the best room.  There are blinds on all of the windows so I’m able to control the light.  I setup shop there every time I have a photo shoot.

My first natural light picture taken in the morning was the Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake.  We were so excited when the photo was pinned over 1000 times!

pumpkin tres leches cake

My first natural light photo taken in the morning. Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake.

I am now convinced that the best time to take food photos is in the morning.  I’ve been doing just that with the last several recipes with great results.  We are forced to wait for the weekend to do recipe posts but its worth it!

I’ve definitely become a fan of morning photo shoots.  What time do you like to take your photos?  What kind of lighting set up do you use?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth@ Food Ramblings December 6, 2012 at 10:17 AM

great post! i am taking a photography class to learn more about my camera next month, and i’m working on getting one of those amazing rustic tables your husband made for you with the fence!

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Mike December 7, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Thanks Elizabeth, I actually wrote this one (I had put the wrong author name in doh!). Both Nicole and I would love to take a photography class someday too. I’m sure the class will elevate your game!

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