As a food photographer, I don’t just love food. I believe that food is truly beautiful — with its vibrant colors, robust textures and vast spectrum of shapes, it’s basically art. And like art, food photography doesn’t come easily. When photographing food, there are a lot of elements to consider, including lighting, styling and the delicate nature of food itself. To help you get started, I’m going to share a behind-the-scenes look at my food photography process.
Once you decide on what you’re making (we’re making pie for Pi Day!), think about the mood you want to set. I think about the keywords that I would associate with my pie — bright, rustic, handmade. That helps me decide how I will work with light and styling.
Since I shoot a lot in my kitchen, I am very familiar with the lighting and how it changes during the day and with the seasons. As it is still winter, I opted to shoot between 3 PM and 5 PM, when the lighting is softest. It will cast a nice even glow over the food and I won’t get any dark shadows or harsh contrast.
One important thing to remember is to not always just shoot the final finished product. Some of my best shots are captured during the creation process. It’s important to include an element of storytelling with your photos. Below, I’m emphasizing the handmade mood by showing hands mixing the berries.
I love the light dusting of sugar on the berries, so I zoomed in to get a closer look. When the food has lots of texture and colors, it’s great to get close and highlight that. If it’s blander or not as colorful, then aerial shots, with propping around the dish would work better.
I aim for all different angles while shooting. Directly from the side, the top and at a 45-degree angle.
It took me a while to learn this, but don’t forget about the action shots. For a long time, I only shot static images without any life behind them. However, I learned that including action in my shots creates a stronger sense of life and mood for each photo.
One thing to keep in mind is that as you keep photographing, the light will change. For this set, as it got later, it got a little darker and I had to adjust my settings to compensate for that. Be aware of this and think about how your photos will look together as a set, not just as a stand-alone photo.
Another tip I’ve learned from years of food photography is to set up my scene before the food is done being cooked or baked. I’ll set up all the props, whether it’s plates, the background, or utensils together and then place a stand-in. It can be a picture or a towel, or any physical object. Then, photograph it and make sure it looks the way you want it to. This means once the food is ready, you won’t waste time propping and miss vital food elements — like smoky steam or a puff pastry deflating.
I personally like a slightly disheveled look and steer away from shots that are too “perfect” — thus, the slightly wrinkly towel and smattering of crumbs. I take as many shots as I can of the finished, untouched product, then move on to snapping pics of the “eaten” product.
Not only do action shots show signs of life, but plating the finished product and even taking a bite of it does as well.
For this single slice of pie, I added a few blackberries as a prop to emphasize that it’s a berry plate. What would’ve also looked great with the pie is a single scoop of ice cream, with a bit of dripping over the sides. It provides a nice color contrast and simply looks delicious.
Now, onto the recipe! Pie is not only easy to make, but it’s a crowd-pleaser and looks beautiful. Try it for yourself!
Berry Pie Recipe
— two store-bought pie crusts (or self-made pie crusts)
— 6 cups berries (I used a combo of fresh and frozen blueberries and blackberries)
— 3/4 cup sugar
— 1/2 cup flour
— 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
— 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
—1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Make sure the pie crusts are flat and rolled out.
Mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add in the berries and mix.
Line a 9-inch pie tin with one of the pie crusts. Pour in the berry mixture.
Sprinkle the top of the berry mixture with lemon juice and top with butter.
Cover the top with the second pie crust. We made a lattice crust.
Bake for about 45 minutes until the crust is a nice golden brown. Let cool and then enjoy!
Show us your pies in PicsArt with #PiDay!