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Food Photography Tips From The Pros

It’s the digital age, so everyone takes pictures of their food…because if you didn’t post it, it didn’t happen, right? We sat down with two professional food photographers to find out how amateur shutterbugs can expertly document runny egg yolks or a perfectly swirled dollop of whipped cream.

Meet our pros: 

Katie Newburn is a Bay Area native who sees photography as an opportunity to collaborate creatively – both with industry artists and clients – to create a story for each brand she works with. Her roster includes American Express, Williams Sonoma, Yahoo, Chipotle, Peet’s, Jose Cuervo, Ghirardelli, and more. Katie is based in Portland and shoots in studio and on location around California and beyond. To view her work, click here. 


Kimberley Hasselbrink is a commercial and editorial photographer who loves to shoot food, people, and places. She recently relocated to Portland, and is on the road often. She is the author of Vibrant Food, and the creator of the site “The Year in Food.” She loves creative collaborations that are rooted in storytelling and celebrate color and natural light. When not working, she loves to hike and cook with friends. To view her work, click here.  

Natural light is ideal for shooting food.

Katie: When it comes to photographing food, light is everything. It doesn’t matter if you use your iPhone or a high-end DSLR. Focus on having one key light, and try to block other conflicting light sources like overhead artificial lighting. Placing the dish next to a window is a wonderful way to get a nice soft natural light from the side. If the sunlight is too harsh next to a window, move a bit more into the shadow, but stop before the shadow gets too dark or your light will become flat.

Kimberly: Turn off those overhead lights. Most indoor lighting casts a yellowish or orange tint to your images, which makes the food look less appetizing. Also, bring your beautifully plated food to a window. Soft, indirect window light (especially on a cloudy day!) is ideal for shooting food. Also, try pulling your phone or camera back from a dish. If a shot too close-up, sometimes a viewer can no longer tell what the dish is.

Photos by Katie Newburn

Adding a human element makes the image a story.

Katie: Because it’s difficult to achieve a shallow depth of field with smartphones, (except with the new iPhone 7s), pay attention to the backgrounds you choose. Try to avoid surfaces or backdrops that are too distracting and pulling attention away from the food. We want the food to be the star! Sometimes the food looks too perfect, so messing it up a bit or giving it the look that someone has already enjoyed the food can really help. Take a few bites out of that donut, or mess up the pasta by removing a bit and creating empty space in the bowl.

Kimberly: Add a human element, such as a hand reaching for a plate, to the composition. Bringing a sense of a person into the frame transforms the image into a mini-story. Since we are creatures driven by narrative, this often makes for a more dynamic shot. If there’s too much brown, orange, or yellow tones in the food, add some fresh green herbs. They will do wonders for bringing a dish to life visually.

Play with color or filters when editing a shot.

Katie: There are some fantastic mobile photo editing apps out there now like VSCO and Adobe Photoshop Express. My favorite, Priime, even has filters developed by food photographers. These help colors stay true and vibrant, they give a slight kick of contrast, and they deepen the shadows just a touch. If you’re having trouble finding good light, like on the line in a kitchen, but you still really like a photo you’ve made, try playing with color and turning the image into black and white. Process images in the kitchen, cutting, plating, etc can look really great in black and white.

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