How to improve your food photography

15 March 2019

Guest blog written by Rebecca Fennell, Cordon Bleu Chef turned food photographer.

The importance of light

Whether you are using a DSLR camera or a smart phone camera, light is always key to creating beautiful photos of your food.  Always shoot your food photos using natural daylight.

The aim of beautiful food photography is to perfectly balance your light.  It is important that your highlights are not too bright and your shadows are not too dark. The best scenario is to position your table near a window where there is soft daylight only. You don’t want direct, hard sunlight on your food because that never looks good.   Overcast days are perfect for food photography because the clouds act as a giant diffuser, creating soft light with more subtle shadows.  If the sun suddenly appears mid-shoot, you can use basic tracing paper to diffuse the light.

Overhead image of 3 plates of food

If you find that the daylight is pretty bright causing your shadows on the other side of your food to be too dark, you can use a fill card to throw light back into your subject, just to get a bit of detail back into your food. This is literally a piece of white foam board or card, nothing expensive.

Create your own style with props

Choose your props carefully to set the scene and create a story around your images.
A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Avoid strong patterns & when it comes to crockery & cutlery, as a general rule, smaller is better.


You can create 2 very different looks to your image depending on the angle you shoot from.
The trend today is to shoot from above which eliminates messy surroundings nicely!
But try shooting from different angles – ¾ angle can be lovely and foods with height such as pancakes and cakes can be shot at eye level but just be aware of what is in the background.


Depth of field is basically what is in focus in your picture. You may wish to have everything in focus (when shooting from above) or you may wish to have a certain portion of your food out of focus (shooting at an angle or eye level) for a more creative image. If your phone has a touch screen focusing point, this is pretty useful for more creative photography.

Another tip when it comes to composition is the basic Rule of Thirds rule. Imagine a grid of 9 squares across your images – 3 across and 3 down. The aim of this rule is to always put the main subject in a third of the grid, never dead centre. This creates interest in the picture. Some smartphones have a camera grid, which can help with this, but an imaginary grid will do just fine!

Food styling

There are no rules as such but the food just has to look appetising in your image. Like with prop styling, simple is best, don’t overfill a plate, sometimes less is more. As you can see from previous images above, you can create a story by how you arrange food; formal, relaxed, messy, bistro, pub etc.

Remember that we see all angles of a plate with our eyes but the camera only sees one angle so bear this in mind when arranging your food.

Once plated, try to photograph as soon as possible whilst the food is still fresh & remember you can use small water spritzers (from an art shop) to add a bit of glisten to the food but use sparingly!

Whether you work at a restaurant or are a budding home cook, once you’ve mastered the perfect shot its time to share it on social media! Food will always be one of the most enjoyed topics across our social media feeds, attracting plenty of engagement.