How To Shoot Food? :o)

Seamus Warren

TPF Noob!
Jun 22, 2003
Reaction score
Dee Why Sydney NSW Australia
Hello forum, :)

Does anyone know how to take good photos of food like the images we see in magazines and in recipe books? What is the secret? Specialised lighting? Longer exposure/shutter time (requiring an SLR camera)? A special type of film? A special lense (I'm thinking "macro zoom" or whatever it is called)?

Can I take great shots with a digital camera or are "real photographers" still using film?

Here is the sort of stuff I'd like to be able to do:




I wish I could take photos like these. I once used my compact camera to take a photo at close range to get the food/dish/meal taking up most of the frame area and it came out terrible - all out of focus and "flat" looking. I want to capture the juiciness of the dish like they did in the first image.

I only have a compact camera. Should I get an SLR camera or a Digital camera? Are digital cameras capable of "real" photography?

Thank you. :)
There's a whole lot of things that can affect how these pics come out. First and foremost....half of the time the food is not real! Let me say that again. They use wax and plastic food molds because they can control it better. But sometimes they do use real food so let's see what they use. Besides the usual medium format camera (they provide SO much more clarity or detail...which coencidentally doesn't mean artistically better) lighting is the key. Take your time and really set up your lighting. In the pics you posted it looks like one strong key light at a high angle with some fills adding depth. Use at least two low watt fills will keep the depth really nice. Looks like a fairly low depth of field also. And lastly, pick nice looking food to take pics of.

for example, I'd be willing to to bet that lemon thingy has some extra yellow food coloring.

film is cheap, practice.
One more thing, most creams and sauces are not real because they'd melt under the lights.
Thanks for you help. I think I need a shopping list and to take "Photography 101" or something. I don't know what a "medium format" camera is. I don't even own an SLR camera. Just a little "compact". So, I would be an absolute beginner I suppose. :)

Thanks again. :)
You won't necessarily need a medium format camera (it takes a much larger negative than your typical p/s or slr 35mm) because most of the technique is in the lighting. Remember film is cheap, take some photos and see how you like it.
A medium format camera for doing that sort of photography is going to cost mucho $$$ Besides the reasons that metroshane listed most medium format systems have leaf shutters in the lens. This allows the photographer to synch at any shutter speed.

You could do food photography with an SLR though. You'll probably start out by using hot lights unless you have mucho $$$ for a strobe setup.
that depends on your budget. you could get a digital camera that could rival film in many ways, i.e. interchangeable lenses, full control over functions, but they are way more expensive. try a good entry level slr and go from there.

I was tought to use a sharp depth of field.

A recent trend seems to be shallow DoF..just a thought for you.

Here are my food shots:



My professor's didn't mind the shallow DoF, but they seemed to change their minds at portfolio time ;)

Plan out the shot and where you want your focus.
I was an assistant for a local commercial guy and on all food shots the food was real and we had a "food stylist" yep she made the food look good..and she looked good too.....hmm off the subject.
When it comes to equipment just remember a pro tennis player can beat you with any raquet.

Most reactions