Food Photography & Food Styling Tutorial | food photography tips from RainbowPlantLife

hey guys welcome back to another Post. today I have something a little bit different in store for you, you know that I’m really passionate about food photography and I get requests all the time to do tutorials on food styling and food photography and to share tips on how to improve your food photography. so that’s exactly what I’m gonna do today. I’m gonna take you behind the scenes, just just right back here at the other part of my apartment, and I’ll show you how I’m gonna style some cranberry pecan muffins. no cranberries streusel. cranberry orange streusel muffins. I’ll show you how I style them, I’ll show you different scenes on how to set them up, how to pair different props together and the settings I’m using on my camera. and before I show you the actual setup, I want to talk about some basics.

Camera Equipments


alright, first I’m going to show you the equipment I’m using for my food photography setup. and this is a very introductory DSLR camera. it is a Nikon D3300. this costs about $400 and it comes with a kit lens, but I don’t really recommend that for food photography. I’m using a 35 millimeter 1.8/g lens and that’s gonna run you less than $200. this is probably one of the most inexpensive DSLR setups you’ll get between $500 and $600. I used this camera for the first 12 to 16 months, 18 months, of doing food photography and it takes really great photos, it’s just not like a professional high-end camera. but if you’re just starting out, there’s really no need to spend thousands of dollars on a camera or lens. you can definitely start small, that’s what I did. you can also get a Canon. Canon makes great introductory DSLR cameras that are really affordable as well. The Canon Rebel series is really popular with beginners. in addition to my camera, I also have a tripod. this is a very inexpensive travel tripod, not necessarily recommended for food photography because it’s not super stable. but I have been using it for the last year or two without breaking anything. And any of equipment I’m talking about will be in the description box below. and this is the tripod I use when I want to take shots head on or at an angle or something like this. and then I also have a tripod with an overhead arm for when I want to take flat lays or photos like overhead. I don’t know what this hand motion is, but you know what an overhead shot is. this is a much larger tripod, the legs aren’t even extended. it’s very sturdy and this is an overhead arm that comes separately. and that helps me take those overhead shots, so I don’t have to hurt my back and bend over and do it by myself. I just use the tripod for that.


And that helps me take those overhead shots, so I don’t have to hurt my back and bend over and do it by myself. I just use the tripod for that. let’s talk about lighting. lighting is the most important thing for good food photography. if you are a beginner. my advice is to always shoot in natural light. if you’re a little more advanced, you can experiment with some artificial lighting, but for beginners, my recommendation is to always shoot in natural light. and natural light is just the light that comes from nature, so the light that comes through one of your windows, or if you have a glass door or even a screen door. the biggest mistake I see on Instagram with food photos is the lighting, and it’s usually because the person is using an overhead kitchen light or a lamp or an overhead light in their living room or wherever they’re shooting. and it give the food this really orange, unattractive quality because of the light bulb. and the last thing you want is your food to look unappetizing, so my advice is to turn off all your lights in your house and experiment. go find the best windows and sources of light and doors in your house and try different times of day, try different seasons. because the best source of light will vary based on the location of the sun, the angle of the the time of year, the time of day. so get creative and don’t be afraid to experiment. and you might think that the more natural light the better and you might be tempted to go outside and shoot right in the sunlight that’s actually not a good idea because having direct sunlight on your food is gonna create harsh shadows and blown out highlights. it’s gonna make your food look just harsh and like not have that nice soft glow that you want for food photography. so the best natural light is actually indirect light. so it’s already indirect if it’s coming through your window because it’s blocked by the window. if you feel like you don’t have enough light coming through your windows or doors because you live in a dark space or it’s winter, not to worry. I recently just moved into a new apartment, but before that I lived in a really old building on the ground floor and it was always dark but I was still able to take some really good shots because, one, I used a tripod always. and two you can use like a reflector, which is like a white surface, and you can hold it up to put against the dark shadows. that will add some light. and you don’t need to buy anything specific, you can just get white foam boards from your craft store and make your own or you can hang it up on a clip or if you have a helper in the house, you can have them hold it while you’re taking the photo. but if you have too much light coming in, maybe because you have a huge window or it’s a really sunny that day and it’s the middle of the day, you’re gonna want to diffuse the light so it’s not as harsh. and I’ll show you how I do that. this is the window I normally shoot my photos by. it faces South, South by Southwest so it gets a lot of light in the afternoon. honestly too much light. so I’m gonna show you how I diffuse the light. as you can see without blocking any of the light from my window, the light is way too harsh for food photography. there are blown out highlights and uneven shadows and it gives the food a harsh and unattractive appearance. I just take these black foam boards that I bought at a craft store just for a few dollars and I put them up against my window and draw the shades to block out the light. but I’ll still have enough light coming in from the other window in my apartment. I’m showing you three different ways to style and present these cranberry orange streusel muffins, and the first method will be the most basic. it’s going to be an overhead flat lay of the muffins directly in the pan. the muffins are directly in the muffin pan that I baked them in and it’s sitting on top of a food photography board. to help style the scene I have some fresh cranberries as well as sugared cranberries to give a festive flair. for this shot I want a direct overhead shot of the muffins in the pan, but instead o having all 12 muffins just sitting there, I want to get a little playful and add some creativity. so I’m gonna start by taking one muffin out of the pan and to replace it I’ll add some cranberries in the muffin tin. when I’m styling a dish I like to use as props the actual ingredients in the dish to remind the viewer of what the dish is all about. and I think I’ll turn this muffin over on its side so you can see the different textures of the muffin and I’ll replace one more muffin but this time I’ll use sugared cranberries instead of the plain ones. I could take the photo as is now, but I want the colors and textures to pop a bit more so I made a glaze to drizzle on top. well actually I made the glaze because it’s delicious and it’s part of the recipe, but it’s also great for photos. and lastly I’ll add some orange zest on top again to emphasize the ingredients in this recipe. and I’m using my tripod with the overhead arm as well as a wireless remote which enables me to take a photo without touching the camera, so there won’t be any camera shake. since this is an overhead flat shot there’s no difference in depth of field, so I want everything to be in a relatively equal focus. to do that I shoot at a narrow aperture or in other words at a high f-stop.

Camera Settings(aperture f7.1)

since the shutter speed is really low, only one third of a second, there’s no way I could take this photo at this aperture and ISO of 100 without using a tripod. I want to get a more close-up shot of the muffins in the pan, so I’m going to lower my tripod legs so the camera is closer to the food. to get the sharpest focus, sometimes I shoot using manual focus and I zoom in on the live view so I can really closely see in clear detail if the muffins are in focus. autofocus does work really well on most DSLR cameras, depending on your lens so I often use that just because it’s a lot quicker. for the second scene, I want to convey a more explicit holiday feel. in the first scene there were some subtle hints of the holidays from the sugared cranberries and from the recipe itself, but in the second scene, I’m really going for a true festive feel, so I’m gonna show you how I’m gonna layer in some props to give it that holiday flair. for the second scene, I’m using the same food photography board, but because I want it to be more festive, I’m going to layer in some holiday props one layer at a time. it’s always best to start with just one or two props and work your way up instead of starting with a bunch of props. that way it’s easier to remove elements if you have too much going on, but it’s a little harder to remove a bunch of props if you already have them there and are determined to use them. because I like to show the elements of the recipe as props, I’m going to add some fresh cranberries to this marble cutting board to give this photo a homemade rustic look. I’m crushing the cranberries so you get a sense of what my kitchen actually looks like when I use cranberries. then, to add a festive flair, I’m layering in some pine leaf branches. when you add props be sure to observe the scene from the angle that you’re photographing it from so you get a sense of what it actually looks like. like, here I notice the branch was too much, so now I added a small piece instead. then I’m adding some more sugared cranberries because it reminds me of a Christmas tree with ornaments. I’m continuing to layer in props to frame the scene. the main focus is the round board with the muffins, so I’m adding elements around that to frame it as a photo. in addition to adding the cranberries, I’m adding some pieces of pecans since those are in the muffins as. well this looks good to me it’s time to add icing. the white color of the icing really stands out against the rest of the darker colors in this photo, which is why I’m using it. like the first photo, since this is an overhead shot, I want everything to be in equal focus so I’m using a narrow aperture of f/8. the shutter speed is really low again, so the tripod is essential. if I were to bump up the ISO to say 800 or higher, that would serve the purpose of adding more light to the lens (to be very simplistic about it), which would then enable me to use a faster shutter speed and make the tripod unnecessary. but since I want minimal grain in my food photos, wherever possible, ISO 100 is the best option.

Camera Settings (Aperture f/8)

for the third and final scene, I want to add a human element to the scene. I think it’s amazing when photographers incorporate some sort of human element, whether it’s their hands or their bodies, because it adds more dimension to the photo. it tells a story and it just seems more inviting for the viewer. for the final scene I’m using a different photography board, this one is wooden so we’ll have more of a rustic look, but I still want the holiday vibe so I’m using these cute string lights. so the round wooden board on top of the wooden board felt like too much wood, so I’m layering in a white linen towel to add some dimension and variety. and for more holiday flair I have some pine branches with holly in a vase. unlike the first two shots, I’m taking this last photo at a roughly 90 degree angle instead of overhead so I won’t need the overhead arm tripod. with food photos that are taken head-on at a 90 degree angle or 45-degree angle, it’s usually best to have a shallower depth of field. that creates a more interesting photo when you have a blurred or slightly blurred background and a very focused foreground. so I want to make sure that the muffin in the very front looks perfect. and if you don’t get the perfect shot or have the right lighting on your first try, just keep experimenting by changing your aperture or your shutter speed or ISO until you get the shot and lighting that you want.

Camera Settings (Aperture f/4)

as I mentioned, I want to add a human element to this photo so I’m going to get in the photo myself and I’m putting on a cozy winter sweater to see how that looks instead of my dress. action photos are pretty popular with food photography, and if I want to capture the motion of pouring the glaze on the muffins without any motion blur, I have to increase my shutter speed to at least 1/60 or higher. I’m able to get in the photo myself by using that remote timer. first I make sure that the muffins are in focus and the composition is set by looking in the camera live view, and then I go into the scene myself and when I’m ready, I hit the remote. but you might have to try this out a few times before getting it right. well that’s it for my food photography and food styling tutorial.

I really hope you found it useful, and if you did, please hit that thumbs up button. I didn’t get too much into specific details or technical aspects in this post in the interest of time, but if that’s something you want to see or if you have questions, let me know in the comments below. and if you have any other suggestions for future post, whether they’re about photography not, let me know as well. thank you so much for reading I’ll see you next post.

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