Top 10 Tips for Taking Perfect Food Photos

Because everyone and their mother is a food blogger nowadays, we know more than a few of you have to wait to eat your Christmas dinners until the host has snapped some quality pics. So let’s give everyone a head start.

We asked former New York Times food photographer Lou Manna to share some tips on how to take drool-worthy holiday food photos—and still let your guests eat before midnight.

1. Get a Fork’s-Eye View

chocolate tarts
Bindi chocolate truffle tarts, finished with a hand decorated orange infused chocolate ganache

Place your camera on the table and photograph your plate from the point of view of your utensils. Photographing your meal from a low angle can bring volume and scale to your food, while allowing you access to a picture you would not be able to capture with your own eyes.

2. Clean your Plate

roast chicken
Quails with wild rice stuffing

Misplaced specks show up more in a photo than you would think. Manipulate food with tweezers to artfully position and style a dish before you photograph it. Clean up crumbs and food particles on plates with Q-tips and paper towels.

3. Crack the ISO Code

christmas cookies
Pumpkin maple syrup mini tarts

ISO denotes how sensitive your camera’s image sensor is to the amount of light available for the picture. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the image sensor and better equipped your camera is to take pictures in low-light situations. Even if the lights aren’t dimmed, shooting indoors without a flash is still darker than you may realize. When shooting cookie trays, pumpkin pies and table settings indoors without a flash, the ISO setting should be set to 800 or 1600 so that the camera sensor is more sensitive to the ambient, inside light and captures details, texture and shine.

4. Balance Your Whites

Christmas cookiess

Don’t spoil your holiday food photographs by not knowing how to set your white balance. If you’re shooting indoors with household lamps (under incandescent or tungsten lighting), use your camera’s preset for tungsten white balance. If the lighting is fluorescent (hello, office holiday party!) then the fluorescent white balance setting will work better.

5. Macro and Say Cheese

vanilla bean
Star anise

To shoot food close up, use the macro setting on a point and shoot camera, which is typically indicated with a flower icon. On a camera with interchangeable lenses, use a macro or a close focusing lens to get closer to your subject.

Next: 5 More Tips for Taking Perfect Food Photos

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  • Roo de Loo December 21, 2010  

    Great article to help reduce the vomit-inducing shots that are permeating the web. To see two of the hottest up and coming food photographers, check out:

  • Borracho December 21, 2010  

    My food porn always leaves much to be desired so this article is much appreciated. I’m hoping we get to enjoy some photos after the holidays from anyone using these tips

  • Passepartout-Too-Too December 22, 2010  

    I’m not as optimistic as Roo de Loo; I don’t think this wonderful article will have any impact on the quality of the Web. But I really enjoyed reading it, and will save a bookmark to it so I can refresh my memory when it comes time for me to drag my camera out again and figure out (again) how to use all them ol’ buttons and dials and things.

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