Fall Food Photography for Beginners

IMG_1629My dad went to the apple orchard last week and went a little crazy, bringing home a fridge-full worth of apples that no one wanted to eat.  I decided it’d be a good idea to make an apple pie, because who the heck was going to eat all those apples?

I love fall as much as anyone else, even if it drives me crazy when people post their “perfect” fall photos on social media. I can’t judge, though,  because I do it too.  I won’t sugarcoat the fall season like some people, because this time of year definitely has its downsides. Like the increasingly cold weather and gloomy-grey skies.  To me, it seems like the “perfect” fall that everyone talks about exists only for about 2-3 weeks here  in Ohio before it just becomes really cold and gross.

While the outdoors isn’t always optimum during the fall, something to experiment with is food photography. There is always something to cook in the fall. The great thing about food photography is that you can easily set up one light or even use natural light through a window to get a food magazine or Pinterest worthy shot.  The tips below are used by professional food photographers, in addition to IMG_1644many food bloggers… even those with an entry-level camera or a smart phone can capture these types of images.

A year ago, we had food photographer, Joe Lavine in our Learning Studio.  A couple tricks I used in taking my apple pie photos were taken from that class.  For this blog post, I’m going to take you through the food photography process for a novice.  I’m by no means a pro, but hopefully these tips will help you get started!

  1. Get your gear ready!

Taken with window light and iPhone.

Luckily with food photography, you have many options for lighting, even if you’ve got a tight space!  For this, you can use flash or continuous light source.  For my apple pie, I used an Einstein light from Paul C. Buff with a large umbrella.  This was a new light that I just bought, so I figured I’d use it instead of using continuous natural light!  If you are using a monolight flash, like an Einstein or a Profoto B1, it is a good idea to use the modeling light to let you see where the light will on the subject.  Other products, such as one of the new Flex Lights from Westcott could be a great continuous light source, allowing you to see what you are going to get right away!

Food photography often looks great with a single light source. This gives the light some direction and brings out the texture in the food! Be careful not to make the light look too flat, otherwise you food will look flat, too!

Also, you can use a white poster board or reflector to bounce natural light from a window.  This is great for those of us shooting on a budget, or just really like the look of natural light.  If you don’t have a DSLR and you are using continuous light, try shooting with whatever camera you have, even if it’s an iPhone.

Below is a tutorial by Westcott with their Flex Light and food photography with constant light!

Along with the Einstein light, I used a 5D Mark II from the rentals department and the 50mm Sigma Art lens, which was perfect for shooting food! You can use pretty much any lens that has a focal length anywhere from 35mm to 105mm and be in pretty good shape.

2. Get an interesting yet simple background.

Spice up your image with a good background.  You can create this by using an interesting cutting board texture, natural wood texture, or some type of fabric.  This will make your image more interesting and make your food stand out more.  IMG_1691

For these shots, I grabbed an autumn themed table cloth from my mom’s collection of seasonal items and arranged it on the table covering enough area to fill the background.  Don’t be afraid to fold fabrics to create depth, texture, and shadow in your image. This is where you can bring your style into the photo and make it as simple or colorful as you like.

3. STYLE your food.

I didn’t spend too much time styling, but a tip I got from Joe was to take the picture at the peak of the products life. The peak for most foods is a small window a couple minutes after creation. This way hot foods look hot and cold foods look cold. Food can “sag” or settle in a way that does not look appetizing after a little time sitting. Think fresh ready, not thanksgiving leftovers.That means you want to have your shot composition, gear, and lighting ready to go when your food is ready.  For this, you can use a stand in food “dummy” until you’re ready for the fresh product.  Also, how you style your food can suggest a mood as well, so keep this in mind when trying to convey a specific message with your food. An apple pie is pretty easy to “style”, but some dishes are more complex and need to be properly displayed to appear at their most appetizing.


Don’t be afraid to try out different angles and whatever you have to do get the “good side” of the food.  This might take some time as you want the light to highlight the certain parts without blowing out the highlights or making the shadows too dark. Since you may only have a couple of minutes, it is a good idea to shoot your close up shots first if you want steam rising off of a hot dish, or get the texture of a cold dish before it starts melting. Then move to your wider shots that include more of the surrounding elements.

If you look at the direction of the light you can see that I lit it from a relatively low angle to bring out the texture and give the photo some depth.

If you are looking for some inspiration, click this link  for some great food photography photos!

Happy Fall, y’all!


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