Guest post by food photographer Joanna Yee – Five tips to improve your food photography

I walked into yet another food photography workshop, this time hosted by Great British Chef’s, armed with my trustworthy Canon dSLR and my very lovable 50 mm lens (mission: going to get that 24-70 mm this year, don’t know how, but i will!) – as always on a mission to learn more about the art of food photography which is fast becoming something I insist on teaching myself. It is not easy and it is confusing for those starting out like myself but knowing that there are people with open hearts, open minds and a passion to learn as well as disseminate their knowledge makes you believe that the food world has people like Joanna. She writes the visually beautiful and verbal most educational blog I have come across on food, travel and photography – called Candids by Jo.

I met her at the workshop, a pretty polite Boston raised girl – a real Bostonian,  underplaying her talents but never her passion – I instantly knew she’s someone I would love to learn from. We met again at the Food Blogger Connect conference where she was volunteering and I was talking (I will post soon about my Niche Blogging talk soon!)- She was warm, helpful and genuine. Someone I knew I would want to keep in touch with. And we did, and as predicted not only has she helped me immensely with clearing up confusions, fears and misunderstanding with my food photography knowledge, shes been kind enough to agree to write an extremely informative, educational and honest guest post for me – true to her style of writing on her blog. To use as example Jo has cooked two of my recipes on the blog one for Prawn Karahi and the other of Cinnamon and Coconut Rice (and done them real justice) – Her photos speak for themselves and so does her knowledge. I hope you benefit from it as much as I have. Thank you Jo! Over to her!


Back to basics: 5 tips to improve your food photography

Let me preface that I am by no means a professional food photographer … or even a semi-pro at that.  The “wisdom” (and I use this term very loosely) I am about to impart is taken from workshops I have attended, books I’ve read and through lessons learned from my own trials and errors.


Making pictures of food does not come naturally to many of us.  I, for one, am drawn to the art of capturing appetite-inducing images of food but have struggled with making it look captivating.  Finally, three months later, I have hit a learning curve and would like to share some tips with you using photos I shot of Prawn Karahi & Coconut & Cinnamon Rice based off of Sumayya’s recipes.  I will not cover the technicals such as lenses to use, point & shoot vs dSLR and manual controls vs auto.  This post is meant for anyone who wants to improve their food photography using whatever devices they have available.   If you would like to discuss gear feel free to contact me or leave a comment.


Here are 5 tips I have found helpful in improving my food photos:


1.  Scale back. There are many eye-catching food photographs out there that incorporate various colors at play, set in front of vibrant backgrounds.  They are beautiful if done right… but they are not a good place to start for most beginner food photographers.  Work on making your food stand out first.  Keep props and backgrounds neutral as a starting point then progress from there.



2. Light matters.  How you use it is even more important. I initially resisted (out of sheer laziness) using diffusers and reflectors but have finally come around to it when I realized my photos were not improving.  The results were dramatic and instantaneous, the diffuser softened the harsh rays giving the food a subdued glow.  The reflector helped minimize dark shadows and brought in more details to the image.


A 5-in-1 reflector kit is fairly inexpensive (~£15) but a DIY set up is also a cost-effective alternative.  I currently use white parchment paper as a diffuser and tin foil as a reflector to bounce light.  Make what you have work for you.


3.  Omit.  It is not always necessary to include the whole plate or bowl of food in the frame.  As long as the viewer knows what it is you are presenting them it can be a refreshing view to show just a portion of the dish.  Be sure to style accordingly so the section you choose to photograph includes the star ingredient (hero).




On perspective:

4.  Get close.  Reveal the textures of your dish by getting a little closer. Not too close where you’re not able to determine what the food is but close enough where you can almost taste it.




5.  Change angles.  I often neglect the direct overhead angle because it’s not how I “see” naturally.  But when I do I usually prefer the overhead shot to the 45 degree angle.  Experiment with your angles, the different perspective it provides can surprise you.





There you have it, five tips that should help improve your images.  Try to incorporate one or two of these tips for a shoot and see the results (fingers crossed).


I ‘d like to thank Sumayya for inviting me to share my thoughts and for introducing me to these two lovely Pakistani dishes.



Your’e very welcome Jo, the pleasure was mine!



  1. Angela says

    Jo was very helpful to me at the FBC 12 workshop. We talked about creating on-going workshops amongst ourselves, any takers?

  2. says

    Really useful summary Jo. I like in particular the “omit” tip – it’s not something I have thought of before. I agree, Jo is very generous with her knowledge and often shares a few golden nuggets! A very talented lady. The dishes look sublime!

  3. says

    I was at FBC 12 and can concur that Jo is a lovely person, really genuine, like you say. And I got so much from your talk (I mentioned it in my summary of FBC on my blog). Clever of you to get Jo to write this informative post and share her with your readers.

    • says

      hi Kellie! thank you so much glad you enjoyed me talk! I ddi read your post! thanks for the mention! Jp is great! – we shall we working on somethings together soon, so watch this space :)


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