5 Food Photography Tips & Tools for Food Bloggers
Food photography and I have had a bit of a rocky relationship. When I began my blog, I had no idea that photography would play such a pivotal role in its growth. For more than nine months, I used my iPhone, shot under hazy yellow kitchen lights, and published a lot of really gnarly, unappetizing photos—and I had very few readers besides my grandma. Once I became more serious about learning photography, invested in a few key pieces of camera equipment, and spent quality time behind the lens, I saw my photography improve and my blog readership grow directly because of it.
Love it or hate it, food photography is a critical component to growing a food blog. Attention span on the web is short, and it takes a great photo to capture it. Although I rarely write blog posts about blogging, photography is such an important topic (and one about which I receive enough questions and have experienced enough personal frustration), that I wanted to share a few valuable tools that have helped me improve my photography.
By no means do I consider myself the greatest food photographer in the blogosphere, but I have found some very, very important resources that save me time and help me take better food photos. You can view a complete list of my photography equipment, as well as recommendations for different blogging and business tools, on my Food Blogging Resources page.
I have Sally to thank for cluing me into this magical piece of plastic. Accurate white balance is one of the most critical factors to creating an appetizing, natural looking photo, and the ExpoDisc makes it 1,000x faster and easier to achieve. Our yard has a lot of trees, which means that all of my photos tend to have a green/blue hue to them, no matter what camera settings I use. I drove myself crazy in Lightroom, fiddling with the white balance to try to get the photos of each recipe to be the correct color and match one another. Now before every shoot, I use this little tool to tell my camera what “white” should look like (it’s called setting custom white balance). One click is all I need and my photo colors for each shoot are consistent and natural.
To demonstrate my point, here are two unedited photos of my Slow Cooker Turkey Quinoa Chili. The one on the left is taken without the ExpoDisc. It has a definite blue/green tint to it. The one on the right is taken with the ExpoDisc, and while it still needs brightening, the colors are much more natural.
(Keep reading to see the chili in its final, fully edited glory.)
I’ve tried other white balance filters and the ExpoDisc is by far the best. I also like that it comes with both a “portrait” setting, which gives the photos a warmer tone (and offsets the blue/green tint that caused me so many headaches), and a “normal” one, which is fantastic for every day (or tree-free) lighting situations.
Did you just fall asleep reading that? While not especially sexy, photo storage is one of the most critical components to food photography and your general happiness, especially if you are shooting in RAW. Are you taking lots and lots of gorgeous photos? And are said photos turning you computer into a dinosaur? You need to move those files to a safer, roomier place. Meet the Seagate External Hard Drive.
I crowded my laptop with so many images, my computer slowed to a grueling pace, making everything from editing photos to loading web pages painful. Now, I store all of my RAW images on an external hard drive. (The edited JPEG versions I keep on laptop.) Anytime I need to access my photos, I simply plug in my external drive and BOOM! There they are. I was worried it was going to be way too annoying to deal with plugging in the drive every time I needed a photo, but it’s quite seamless. The .2 seconds I need to attach it is more than worth the time I’ve saved by speeding up my computer. (FYI, I have the 2 TB drive size.)
Because I sometimes work in coffee shops or while I travel, I also purchased this sassy case to store my drive and carry it safely.
For information on how I back up and protect those precious photos, see my Food Blogging Resources page.
3) ProMaster Tripod.
Due to the lovely trees I mentioned in Item 1, our yard is very shaded, so my light source is dim, even on sunny days. Using a tripod enables me to capture clear photos even in minimal light and frees my hands to adjust details of my food that I might be too lazy to make otherwise, such as repositioning a crumb or tweaking the angle of the plate. I like the ProMaster Tripod because it is sturdy enough to handle a heavy camera attached to a whopper lens, and it is lightening fast to adjust. The last thing that I need while trying to capture the majesty of vanilla ice cream melting all over Pumpkin Brownies is a fussy tripod. If you are looking for a lower price point, I used this Sunpak tripod for a few years and was reasonably happy with it. It’s also easy to adjust, but I found it less steady than the ProMaster.
4) Adobe Lightroom.
Editing (also called post processing) can take a photo from blah to beautiful. Here’s that same chili, before and after editing:
In the second photo, I increased the clarity and exposure, brightened the whites, sharpened the photo, and upped the color vibrance. I still have plenty in Lightroom I’d like to learn, but the basics are intuitive, and as you can see, even with these few changes, the photo is vastly improved. Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography e-book is another excellent source for learning Lightroom essentials and includes helpful video tutorials.
Photoshop is another, even more powerful option for post processing software. In my experience, however, it’s also far less user friendly. Adobe offers a free trial period for both Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as a month-by-month subscription, so you can play around with both to see which you prefer and can make work with your budget.
Just when you didn’t think it could get any hotter than external hard drives, I went and brought up memory cards. Ever been in a photography groove or midst of shooting something really time sensitive (hi, gooey, melting cheese), only to have your memory card fill up? A-N-N-O-Y-I-N-G. Or, do you plug your memory card in, then walk away from your computer for the next 20 minutes while they slowly and painfully upload? You need a new memory card.
I like the SanDisk because it’s fast, relatively cheap compared to competitive brands, and massive. I have both a 64 GB and a 32 GB.
Although I rarely fill up the 64 GB, I always keep a second card on-hand. You never know when the first will malfunction, run out of space, or be accidentally dropped into a cup of hot coffee (guilty).
If you are shooting video and need something really, really fast, Promaster makes a great card, though at a much higher price point. For everyday food photography, including RAW photos shot on a full frame camera, the SanDisk does the job. Slice up that Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread and fire away!
You can find a complete list of my food photography gear here, along with additional photography and blogging resources I recommend, several of which are free.
Your turn! Photography is an area where I am continually seeking to learn and improve. Are there any tools you couldn’t live without? I’d love to hear all about them!
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