Low cost food photography

posted on 28th of january, 2011

I think that food photography is a very funny sector: colorful compositions, tasty meals... it's simply cool. But is it possible to do food photography without expensive macro lenses or an own food stylist ?
I would say yes. Maybe you'll not obtain that fantastic pictures of some cuisine magazines but nice results are surely possible.
Some months ago I began to take pictures of dishes at my home and trying everytime to improve my results despite my low budget. Below are some tips and ideas taken from my experience. I hope they can be useful.
Professional food photographers often use food-stylists and arrange dishes that are fantastic to see but also not eatable.
I follow the philosophy that everything will be eaten after the photo session. Some dish can look nice also if it is eatable.
I prepare by myself the dishes or buy a nice meal or cake. Some subjects have already thousands of pictures online. So I prefer to take photos of traditional foods, mostly sicilian or austrian dishes. The first thing that you absolutely need is a tripod, A cheap model will do the work too. A tripod will solve you a lot of problems.
Many photography books show difficult compositions with a lot of (expensive) lamps.
Ok, it's obviously not the same but with a big window and a tripod for long exposures you can also take some nice shoot. The backside of a big white poster can be used as a reflector to lighten the shadows or also as background for isolated images.
About shadows: give a look at the "height" of your food. Remember that higher meals give bigger shadow that probably needs to be lightened.
The tripod is also useful to try different compositions. Look through your camera and change the position of the photo elements or adjust the background. Remember also to try different camera heights and try to tilt the camera to give and idea of movement.
I like pictures where the meal seems "coming to mouth".
An other great idea is shooting narrow. For food photography I mainly use the common Canon 18-55 EF-S which has a minimum focus distance of about 28 cm. So I often obtained blurred images.
How solve this problem ? A macro lens was to expensive so I bought some close-up lenses. This lenses permit to reduce the minimum focus distance. Actually I use a lot a +2 dioptre lens to take closeups of my meals.
Give also a look at the aperture.Open to have a blurred background but not to much or your meal will only have a little portion correctly focused.
With this tips I think it is possible to improve food photos with low costs. In this page are some pictures taken as described before.

Comments (11)

Posted by Hermes-sicily on January 31, 2011
It's a very nice shoot ! I agree with you, expensive equipment gives obviously better images but nice results are also possible using wisely budget lenses
Posted by Shopartgallerycom on January 31, 2011
It's just a matter of hand I suppose, I don't want to say I'm an expert because I'M NOT, but this photo Still Life With Berries for example I've taken it with Canon 18-55 mm, like all my food photos taken with Canon EOS450D. I cannot say are blurry...Obviously, now, when I'm working with the 100 mm from L series on Canon 5D MkII is not the same thing...The quality is 100 times better. But the concept is: if you know to take pictures and you make it with passion, you can make it at low cost too.
Posted by Anhong on January 29, 2011
Too delicious!
Posted by Visceralimage on January 29, 2011
Excellent blog,thanks
Posted by lzf on January 29, 2011
i like food photography.since not only the shot.but also we have delicious food to eat
Posted by Hermes-sicily on January 29, 2011
@Tan510: you are right... food photography is very dangerous under that point of view ;-)
@Helen: I also had my problems with natural lighting. A "good" window and also a good sky are important. My first shoots were took in Sicily and there were problems. A lot of sunlight coming in but to harsh. Now I'm in Austria: it's often cloudy. I need a tripod but the light is not so harsh and gives a nice diffuse effect. I also hope to reach the budget for a good flash.
@Fablic: Hello Fabio, nice to meet an other sicilian on DT :)
Posted by FabioConcetta on January 29, 2011
You wrote a nice article, but I like to photograph the food, especially the Sicilian specialties, as indeed are of Enna,ciao Sebastiano :)
Posted by Helenlbuxton on January 28, 2011
Hi! Really nice article. I've been enjoying having a try at some food photography, too. I agree that you can do it without expensive equipment, but to be honest I do struggle to get my lighting right using just natural lighting. Even using reflectors, I find it difficult to diffuse bright sunlight coming through the window and keep enough light ... I get my fair share of rejections because of poor lighting! Does anyone else have this problem when trying to use (free!) natural light? I'm thinking of buying a flash and experimenting with that a bit ...
Posted by Tan510jomast on January 28, 2011
mmm yummy.. I like shooting food too. The reward is self indulgent, as I eat them at the end of the shoot, lol. And, of course, getting a sale or dl for the image is extra bonus , and when you sell enough of it, you use the money to buy even more food to shoot. And hey, the midriff gets a bit bigger , but oh well, what the heck, lol.
give me food to shoot anyday.
Posted by Hermes-sicily on January 28, 2011
Thank for your comment, Gmargittai. About the Esterhazyscnitte, I never was in Hungary but I thought that it came to Austria through the common history. I actually live in Vienna and here it is a "best seller" :-)
Posted by Gmargittai on January 28, 2011
Liked your cakes photos. I also try to photograph every outstanding creation my wife comes up with. One comment: Esterhazyscnitte is originally a Hungarian cake. Eszterhazy is a well known Hungarian name. The two countries have a lot of common history as they formed the Austro-Hungarian empire in the 18 and 19 century. This had its impact on the culinary field too.

Comments (11)

This article has been read 1233 times. 2 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Sebastiano Leggio.

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