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Delicious Food Photography Tips

Author: Anne Marie O'Connor

The kitchen is always party central on Thanksgiving. This year, make time between bites to turn your culinary masterpiece into beautiful and unique art. It’s simple—just print out and frame your favorite photos, then hang them in the kitchen!

Here are some ideas from the experts to get you started with food décor:


Do you have tons of shots of memorable meals on your phone? Show them off! Scroll through your Instagram or camera album for some of the best pictures. “I have a shot or two framed around the house—they are ones that are more personal to me and have a lot of meaning,” says Amanda Anselmino, a San Francisco-based food stylist. Think: the picture-perfect Thanksgiving turkey, a special birthday meal, dishes you enjoyed on vacation, your wedding cake and so on.

Turn your most memorable food photos into stunning food art.

Dutch Remastered

“Find an image of a classic still life painting of food by a Dutch Master [Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Willem van Aelst],and recreate it in your house using fresh ingredients, modern implements, serving pieces, linens and accessories,” suggests Traci Gallagher, an interior designer in Milford, Connecticut. “Then take a photo of your handiwork. Order same-size prints of both the original and your photo and hang them side-by-side or one on top of another.”

Recreate vintage food art by printing your food photography.

Poppin’ Fresh

“Make an ordinary cookie into Pop Art!says Gallagher. “Have your family over for a fun afternoon baking cookies and make sugar cookies with different seasonal themes. Select your best (or worst!) and take four clean shots of individual cookies laid on top of a white tablecloth (see more tips below). Hang the four in a group and switch them out for different seasons. Think Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, the Fourth of July, summer fun and Halloween.”

Food and Family

Another idea Gallagher likes for a kitchen: “Cull the family archives for photographs of family members at holiday tables—your grandfather carving the turkey, your aunt posing with her famous coconut custard pie, your nephew as a toddler grabbing a fistful of mashed potatoes, etc. Print and hang in a group. A wall of photos spanning generations adds warmth and nostalgia to any kitchen.”

Add warmth to your kitchen by printing your favorite photographs of family members cooking.

The Raw Deal

Another idea: “Try shooting the ingredients before they are cooked or while they are cooking,” suggests Bill Robbins, an advertising and commercial photographer in Santa Barbara, California. For example, to give the room a Thanksgiving vibe, take pictures of your family’s classics: your aunt’s oyster stuffing, your brother’s sweet potatoes, your mom’s lattice-top apple pie. “Also shoot photos of the food preparers, while they are in the kitchen working,” adds Robbins, who’s also an adjunct professor in the BFA professional photography program at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles.

Pick the Right Frame

The one you choose will depend on the vibe of the kitchen, says Gallagher. “A modern kitchen might call for a simple black or chrome frame. White works just about anywhere. Blond woods have been on trend for a couple of years and add a warm, homey touch. Or go for a color for a fun accent (think KitchenAid Mixer colors).”


We’ve all taken those shots that are too dark, have an unfortunate shadow, or look great on the plate but turn out a little meh. Here, pros explain how to avoid the most common mistakes.

Style your shots.

“One of the best ways to make any dish look appetizing is to incorporate a variety of colors within the dish. Use fresh herbs and colorful fruits and vegetables,” says Anselmino. “I like to use an eclectic blend of ceramics that I’ve collected over the years. I love mixing vintage and modern pieces.”

Photograph colorful food dishes to create the most beautiful food photography.

“Don’t try to make things too perfect as food can start to look too contrived when placed too perfectly,” Anselmino adds. “Sometimes it’s best to let a salad just fall onto a plate and let the beautiful ingredients shine.”

One last trick: It’s also usually best to keep a border of empty plate around the food, she says. 

Also, experiment with placing the food on different surfaces. “Leftover piles of wood and tile at hardware stores are some of my favorites,” says Nico Ovid, a freelance food photographer in Oakland, California.

Robbins has a few go-to’s he likes to use: “Instead of perfectly folded napkins, try playing with its shape, using them to break up the space,” he says. “Try letting utensils lean on a plate or rest on a plate. And don’t be afraid to shoot food with bits missing, such as a pie with several pieces already gone and crumbles in the dish.”

Use natural lighting.

“A window with indirect light—north facing is best,” advises Ovid. In addition, “you’ll want indirect lighting from the side or top back,” says Robbins. “When you set up the lighting like this, it helps turn the shape of the subject, whether it is ingredients or the finished food on a dish.”

Turn off the flash.

“It’s not the most pleasant for food photography as it has a tendency to flatten the subject,” Robbins notes.

Pick your best angle.

Shooting from overhead “almost always works,” Ovid says. “Start there before you change angles.”

“And don’t be afraid to crop in tight as a variation to an overall view,” advises Robbins. A three-quarter view is another good choice. Shot at a 25º to 75º angle, it allows you to “show depth and volume; you can see the top, side and thickness of the subject.”

Raspberry purple popsicles serve as a great example of how angling your food photography the right way can make your food creations look even better than they taste.

Be aware of shadows.

Check to see where shadows are falling—and if you like them. If not, Ovid recommends using a white card [a white foam core] set up opposite the window to “lighten” the shadows. To deepen them, use a black card in the same place.

“You can also use white napkins or something similar to reflect light back into the shadows (keep the reflector out of the photo and play with the distance you place it to the subject to come to the right amount of fill),” Robbins says.

Fix any reflections.

“Check your screen after you take the photo and see if you are getting glaring highlights from glasses or other highly reflective surfaces,” says Robbins. “Then either adjust your angle to the subject, change the direction of how the light is hitting your subject, or swap out the glass or container that is causing the problem.”

A Thanksgiving pie photographed from directly above for a stunning foodie photograph.