Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist. Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.



Monday, 19 August 2013

Food photography is not just a bowl of cherries.

Photographing food is an art in itself. I remember a food photographer saying "there is more to food photography than just taking a photo of a bowl of cherries". How true!

Recently I was thrilled to be asked to assist the Photography Group of Bunbury with a food photography workshop.  Photography Group of Bunbury

I wrote a few notes which I hope helped the participants with a tips to help them get started. 

Natural back lighting coming through west facing window
Lighting - natural, studio, spot, lightbox.  Back lighting or side lighting can be very effective.  You can also use reflectors and white board to bounce light.
You don’t necessarily need studio lights to photograph food.  A simple home set-up or speed-light works well especially when you are starting out.
Early morning light

Different types of lighting will evoke different emotions. 

Natural light on the patio

I love natural lighting. Study the light around your house - it will change during the day. For instance I know first thing in the morning that I have fabulous lighting on my patio, then it moves to my dining room window. In the afternoon the kitchen window and down the side of the house outside has nice warm lighting. 

Different times of year produce different types of lighting. The height of summer can be too bright and “hot” and create too much contrast between light and shadow.

 Don’t be put off by a cloudy day – clouds act as a great natural diffuser and even out the light.
Raining outside and you don’t have studio lights? – try a desk lamp or lightbox. 

Equipment - Don’t forget to adjust your white balance on your camera and learn to use manual camera settings. I think my photos improved dramatically when I learnt about manual settings.
Whilst a macro lens is preferable it certainly isn’t essential. Try a magnifying filter on a standard lens.
Consider using a tripod (although I often don’t, preferring to be able to move freely with my camera).

Food and travel go together -- but sometimes a longer lens is preferable - you wouldn't want to get too close to this clay pot cooking in Singapore - those pots are hot!! You can see some more pics and learn more about clay pot cooking by clicking here - Travel food pics & clay pot cooking

Take photos for different angles and viewpoints. The overhead shot can be effective.  Make sure your salad is fresh made.

Natural light diffused by cloud

 Background - colours, patterns etc. Simple is better. Are you going to photograph on your kitchen bench or include the whole story of the food. It depends on the feel you want to convey. 
Collect a range of backdrops and table tops - ie old wooden boards make great table tops for a rustic, country feel. 

You can find some great items in salvage yards, your dad’s back shed, and second hand or antique stores.


Or go for something dramatic like a black shiny tile. 

Props - Tell the whole story by using props - if you are photographing a plate of food, you might want to include napkins, servers, cutlery, another plate of food in the background, cups or glasses (include the drink).

However don’t clutter the image or have your props overpower the food – remember simple styling is usually better. 
You could try putting yourself in the image - of course you will need a tripod and use the timer function on your camera.

  Make sure the decorations suit the style of food you are photographing - ie you might not want to photograph an upmarket classic dish in a wooden bowl. 

Although sometimes something a bit different makes for a great picture.

A bowl of cherries will look completely different photographed in an elegant dish than when photographed in a basket or wooden bowl. 

Notice the nice side lighting highlighting the cherries and the glass dish. 

 Simple white china is classic and can be used for a variety of dishes. 

Collect a variety of plates, bowls, napkins etc, hunt through your grandmother's china cabinet and cutlery drawer!

Practice makes perfect! Plan your photo shoot. Think about your props, composition and light.

Start simple by photographing fruit or vegetables etc – ie something that is not going to wilt in 10 minutes. 

Once you have mastered the basket of oranges you might want to make the cake. The bonus is that you get to eat it afterwards. 

My husband always knows when I have been photographing food, as he usually gets something different for dinner! 

This cake tastes as delicious as it looks - cooked by Denise from the Photography Group of Bunbury for the workshop - and photographed, tasted and enjoyed by everyone!  

Cooked food creates different issues. You must have your table, background etc set up and ready before you bring the cooked food into the picture. The fresh just-cooked look disappears in mere minutes. There are only so many times you can add more cheese and reheat a pizza!

 Check the small detail.  Take a range of pics and then download and check your images – amazing how a stray piece of lettuce you missed when you were taking the photo is glaringly obvious on the computer screen.
Why isn't the red wine "in" the glass?
My next project is to find out about “tethered shooting” where you can view your images on a computer screen as soon as you take them. 

 And lastly - experiment and have fun!
Cupcakes in Singapore
ps –I am not a pro food photographer, but I have been playing around with it for a couple of years. I know I still have lots to learn, particularly about studio lighting.  But I hope these few simple tips will help you. I am hoping one day someone will pay me to photograph food! 

 Browse through cook books or websites for inspiration. 
You can see some great work on Flickr food groups.

You could even check out my Flickr food page - go to page 4 when you get there to see my latest food pics -Jill's food pics on Flickr

There are lots of great food photography sites on the net. A couple of my favourite sites are - 

www.dariomilanophotography.com –  Dario is in Sydney Australia – and see Dario’s tips and critiques on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/FoodPixels?hc_location=stream

My all-time favourite is Tartelette - www.tarteletteblog.com

Helene Dujardin is a French expat, lives in USA and has written a fabulous practical handbook for newbie food photographers – From Plate to Pixel. Helene started photographing food in her lounge room and now has a team of photographers working under her and runs food photography workshops.

Thankyou for stopping by to visit - I hope I have inspired you to look at food photography in a different way. I look forward to hearing from you. Have a wonderful week.

 I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Our World Tuesday, Tuesday Around the World, Foodie Tuesday, and the "What's It Wednesday" party going on over at "Ivy and Elephants". Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!

Mosaic Monday
Our World Tuesday
Tuesday Around the World  
Foodie Tuesday 
What's It Wednesday

You might also enjoy - 
Lemons and Lemon Butter
Cumquats from tree to marmalade
Delighting in a bowl of cherries


  1. What some fabulous tips Jill, thank you. Although I know it takes a lot of time and practice to get to your effortless grace with food photography, it's something that I really want to do more of on my blog. Your food photos are worthy of glossy magazines, stunning :)

    1. Thanks Jo, food photography takes time to practise and experiment, it is certainly not just a matter of putting the cherries in a bowl and taking a pic! Certainly pics of food would be great for your travel blog as food and travel go together - one of the great things about travel is tasting new foods.

  2. Jill thanks for all the wonderful tips. You have made me hungry just looking at all your amazing photos. One of my favorite is the early morning light with the cup of coffee? Gorgeous post, well done. Have a happy week ahead!

  3. Hi Jill, fabulous photos and now I to am starving. Your photography is exquisite. The cake and strawberries did it for me xxx Rae

  4. Jill thanks....You have great tips and advice here. Blessed!

  5. What great tips! Photographing food is a challenge and lighting makes all the difference!

  6. HHHMMMmmm... I think I need to book a one on one session!! Although my food photography is usually dealt a severe blow by the empty plates before I remember to actually take a shot ...

    Great tutorial - I immediately started wondering how I could translate some of your tips onto my trusty point & click!!!

  7. Thank you. Photographing food is not an easy task...

  8. very nicely done. I especially like the apple, the radish and the basket of oranges.

  9. What the beautiful captures,Jill ! always seem amazing... thanks for sharing the good tips.

  10. Your food photography is really fabulous. Thanks for sharing the tips. I haven't tried food photography yet, but may give it a try. It looks so amazing.

  11. These are just gorgeous. Delicious! I have to chuckle because I just did some food photography this morning. I had made jam on the weekend. This morning was taste test time. SO...I lifted my cell phone off of the counter where it was charging and took a picture of jam on toast. I had wondered how people get such exquisite pictures sometimes ....I love all of yours. Hard to pick a favorite but I really like that dramatic beets one! :)

  12. Wonderful tips, Jill. Your photos are stunning. I especially like two of them - the souffles in the tray for the styling and the cherries in the glass pedestal dish for the lighting and color. Really beautiful. I have Helene's "Plate to Pixel" book, too and am slowly trying out new things as I have time. Her tips and yours apply to any still life shots, I'm finding.

  13. This post was so helpful to me with the tips you provided. Definitely inspiring!

  14. Hi Jill,

    My goodness, how lucky are we today with this most informative and exquisitely photographed post! All of your images are beautiful, each in its own way; your intentions definitely show through in the stills! Also, thanks so much for all the interesting facts and opinions regarding skills, subjects and study! I intend to re-read this amazing post of yours several times to study the images and think about your instructions!

    Truly delightful!


  15. Your food photos always make me so hungry, which means they are wonderful. I really love all of the vivid colours in this post. I just ate an early dinner, and I am hungry again...now ;) Have a happy week Jill~

  16. Your shots are amazing!

  17. Everything looks so good!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  18. Great pictures and even better tips! Thank you so much ...

  19. What beautiful photos! Thanks for all the photography hints~

  20. It's a beautiful bowl of cherries! I just love your food photography - it's truly outstanding!

  21. Oh, I need so much help with this!! I take food photos all the time because I write restaurant reviews and sometimes they are great, sometimes not so much. I'll definitely use some of your tips.

  22. Hi Jill,

    You did an excellent job and the tips were spot on, my favorite lighting techniques backlit, spot and natural which is key but timing and set-up is very important. There are a lot of factors, but for the novice the essentials are a nice introduction for them, great job!

    1. thanks Noel. There is so much to consider, whole books have been written about it, but a few simple tips will help people get started I hope.

  23. This photos are fantastic I definitely made a few notes of your suggestions. The lighting is something I'm working really hard on with my new camera. I'm complete novice photographer transitioning from a cell phone cam to a Powershot to a decent DSLR. Thank you :)

  24. Great shots, Jill, and some great advice!

  25. thank you wonderful readers for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I appreciate each and everyone of you. I hope I have inspired you with these few food photography tips.

  26. Wow, wow, wow! Your food pics are definitely like works of art. Not being a professional photographer, my food pics are pretty basic, but I'll try to improve with some of your tips. :)

    hUGS, pATTI

  28. These are excellent, you have given me some great ideas. I love the jelly beans picture and the tomato's


  29. Great ideas Jill!
    I am very familiar with this kind of photography, because our daughter Alexandra is a profesional photographer and I've seen her food photography and sometimes it's not even real!

    1. LOL I know that professional photographers do this. However, rest assured Fabby, everything that you see on my website I can guarantee is totally 100% real, other than slight "Photoshop" adjustments for sharpness, levels, saturation.
      Thanks for stopping by Fabby.

  30. Thanks for the tips! I've just started trying to improve my food photography - it's getting better, but I still have a long way to go.

    1. your welcome! Food photography is certainly an art and takes lots of practise. Have fun with it.

  31. Amazing food Photography. You have Best food Photography collection.
    Also Visit Food Stylist for Food Photography. Food Stylist Helps to Look your food attractive.

  32. Beautiful, Jill. I loved reading this and hope to employ some of the tips you gave in the future. Of all these photos, the apple and the cherries are staying with me.

  33. Wonderful photos! I enjoyed reading and viewing your blog. As corporate event photographers, it's shot like a pro and it's an art! Amazing!

  34. Thanks for sharing this post with us. It showing your efforts, i really like all the photographs shared by you.

    Food Photographer Sydney


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