Food Photography I – 10 Tips and Tricks for Food Bloggers

Poster-close-up-shootIn a professional studio, when you work with a food stylist, you can pick up great tricks to make foods look glorious.  I’ve always loved studio work, spending days hanging out with creative people (me, faking the appearance that I was in charge of something).

Stylists have carloads of kits with every craft item and power tool out there to make a cupcake look like Princess Diana.  But with such art and science goodies at their disposal (which anybody can buy), they possess two luxuries in their job that food bloggers cannot afford: (1) they have hours and (2) they put their hands all over the food (quite necessarily, then trashed and not eaten).

Once bloggers’ photos are shot, we feed our families waiting hungrily in the next room.  We cannot manhandle meat for a morning, or use pink-tinged Vaseline to fill in funky holes in strawberries, or spritz glycerin on glassware to fake a drink’s temperature (hint: for hot drinks, spritz the inside of the glass.  Cold, spritz outside.  I shot a gazillion Kahlua cocktails at my tiny PR agency dontcha know).

So when I recently stopped by a production facility with Food Fanatics’ Denise Vivaldo and her team in the throes of a gigantic shoot, I cajoled them into giving me a precious list of tips and tricks that food bloggers can use.  There are several posts coming on everything I learned!

Here is what (from left), the talented team of Cindy Flannigan, Denise Vivaldo, Jeff Parker and Jen Park generously shared:

10 Tips and Tricks for Food Bloggers

  1. Barbecued meats: brush with a little Karo Syrup and CAREFULLY hit it with a torch* for a more caramelized finish
  2. Use natural light to shoot, never flash.  Practice in different rooms to find the right lighting spots.
  3. Make a reflector (i.e. foil-wrapped cardboard or something shiny) to “bounce” light onto your subject and fill in dark places
  4. Undercook your meat to shoot it first, then pop back into the oven or grill to finish off for your consumption.  Plumper is prettier
  5. Before garnishing, view your food through the camera to see where garnish is needed
  6. Brush shellfish and pasta with olive oil to brighten colors, add palatable sheen
  7. If your main food subject is flat (like steak), prop it up with something like a small makeup wedge to add visual depth
  8. To fix chocolate bloom, rub with a teensy bit of veg oil
  9. Cover foods with a damp paper towel to hold freshness when not shooting
  10. Dishware makes all the difference, give it lots of thought.

In this series… 10 Clever Tools for Food Bloggers (*which will include that TORCH), 10 Hardest Foods to Shoot and 10 Easiest Foods To Shoot.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nour El-Zibdeh March 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Yes… this is what I’ve been looking for! Thank you so much! I’m relatively new to blogging and my photography skills are self-taught…It’s getting better but you’ve already told me many things I didn’t know 🙂
I actually know about the tools professional photographers use. I have a degree in nutrition thed my food communication class involved those tips. But honestly, it’s such a shame to throw food away. Beside my point of blogging to show my readers that healthy food can taste and obviously look good, so it would be deceiving to make fake food 😉
I’ll be following you and look forward to more tips from you

2 Cathy/ShowFoodChef March 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Loved the info. Workshops with Denise and Cyndi are so great and I know there’s one at CampBlogAway, too – wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing these.

3 Erika - In Erika's Kitchen March 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Patti – after struggling for an hour this morning to get a good photo of the blood orange curd I made yesterday (and no I did not succeed), I am eagerly awaiting the followup installments to this post. I need all the help I can get!

4 deeba August 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Thanks for sharing such valuable stuff Patti. Glad I found you at Amanda’s! Read that you are getting a G10. I have a G9 and I love it to bits. I ahve a long way to go in photography, and am very intrigued by the foil tip for bouncing light onto the subject. Can’t wait to try it!

5 Irena Chalmers July 14, 2009 at 5:57 am

This information is wonderfully helpful. Is it O.K. for me to share it with the students at the CIA? — Irena Chalmers
Patti comments: Sure, Irena, thanks for sharing.

6 Landscape Photography July 7, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Great tips, will come in useful next time I shoot food!

7 Denise Vivaldo July 7, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Patti -it was so nice of you to come by and visit -and eat lunch with us! We don’t get much company! Love what you wrote above.
Hope to see you again soon.
Denise xo

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