If a cookbook author or food blogger wants to try and photograph their own dishes, I’d definitely encourage them to do so. Click on the link to see examples of my published work and read the 10 tips below to improve your own food photography.
Here are 10 tips I can offer to other cookbook authors and budding food photographers:
1. Rarely shoot directly overhead. It’s usually a dull angle and almost never works when plates are round, because photographs are rectangular or square.
2. Don’t use a flash camera. Use natural light and a few bounce cards if you need them. Flash produces a very flat shot and glaring highlights. If you absolutely have no other option, back way up creating distance from the subject and zoom the lens in. Then the light won’t be so hot. (This is much more flattering for people, too.)
3. Never, ever use a light box. This light is too even and looks fake. If you do use one, your food will not look real. It will look more like a Hallmark card circa 1970′s.
4. The other trick to making sure your images don’t look like Hallmark cards is to have some of image in sharp focus and allow that focus to soften toward the background. Photos where the entire image is in focus don’t look natural because if the dish were actually in front of your reader, their eye would not see it that way.
5. Make sure you look at everything in the frame and take all extraneous things from the background out, unless you specifically want them there.
6. Shoot so that your photographs have a very large file size that will equal at least 300dpi so that when it goes to print, the images will remain clear. There’s nothing more disappointing than a great photo that doesn’t have enough resolution to be printed.
7. If you don’t absolutely love the photograph of a particular dish, omit it. If there are poor photographs it very quickly lessons the perceived professionalism of the whole book.
8. Don’t ever grab photos off the web to use on your own material. You must have copyright for all images. If a publisher finds out one of your images isn’t being used legally, I can promise you they won’t work with you again. Their liability risk for being sued is too high and too costly.
9.Be sure to choose props that are unique to each shot. It’s important to have other things in the frame, not just your food. It should look like we just arrived a talented host’s home where everything was beautifully laid out. I shop thrift shops constantly for tablecloths, napkins, utensils, dish and bakeware. Make sure everything you use is laundered, polished and immaculately clean.
10. After a few attempts, if your work isn’t top shelf, find another photographer and negotiate a rate you can handle. I work with cookbook writers and food writers to quickly get food images on a budget. I’d be happy to find out what food images you need and work with you at a reasonable cost. My food photos are on 10 food blogs and in my book, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees.