Food photography 101

by Leah Moldowan

Since you’re not able to smell or taste the food you see online, it’s the photos that are going to convince you an online recipe is mouth-wateringly delicious. That said getting those shots isn’t always an easy task. When I first started photographing my food as way to document my journey to healthier living, I had no clue what I was doing or that I’d eventually fall in love with food photography itself. While you don’t need to be a professional photographer, it does take some time and repetition to master. Of course a nice dSLR camera (my Canon T2i is my baby) helps, but an iPhone will do. Honestly if you have nice looking food and good natural light, you’re set.

My biggest tip would be to practice, practice, practice! A cliché, I know, but just take pictures everyday and try new angles and lighting until you find what works. Also look critically at photos of food on Instagram or Pinterest and use them as inspiration for your own shots.

Another important tip is to find a window that’s a good source of light and photograph your food there. (Sometimes that means you’re taking pictures of your food on the floor in your living room or on your bed. Floor cake, anyone?)

If you want to be an overachiever and spice up your photos, food props are the answer. One of my favourite hobbies is perusing the household item aisles at any store, especially thrift stores. Thrift stores are such a great place to find affordable dishes and pretty utensils. I prefer to use small dishes and utensils. When food looks more plentiful, it looks a lot more appetizing. Nobody wants to dive into a half-empty bowl of anything—no matter how delicious it actually tastes. Plus they’re cheaper! Napkins are another easy way to liven up a photo. My ever-growing stash of napkins and cloths is almost ridiculous; I’m trying to build a collection with just about every colour and design. Cutting boards can also make pretty backdrops. I’d go for a nice wooden or a marble cutting board, but old baking trays work too for a more rustic vibe.

As for the food you’re photographing, some dishes are easier to work with than others. For example, soups are going to take more work to look enticing than say a fluffy stack of pancakes. My go-to when my food is struggling a bit aesthetically is to add something fresh or a pop of colour. A little fresh herb garnish will seriously transform your photo as will pomegranate arils or frozen raspberries.

Every food photographer starts somewhere. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of practice. So go grab your camera or phone and some food and get shooting.

A bird’s eye view of one of Leah’s shoots
A bird’s eye view of one of Leah’s shoots


One of Leah’s earliest food shots…
One of Leah’s earliest food shots…


...and one of her most recent
…and one of her most recent