I wish to shoot my own cooked foods. We know that it is important for the food to look fresh.

So, how to practice for food shots when I don't get ever a best shot at the first go. It takes several clicks for me to get something worthwhile, and the food won't be looking the same after nth click.

Is the only way to keep on reheating repeatedly? Or there is some other way out to practice (without wasting food much)?


I've recently started taking shots of food as well. I don't have anything particularly great to show for my efforts yet, however I have noticed that you can keep shooting for a while before the food actually starts to appear unappetizing. Additionally, if it starts to look dry, you might just want to keep a spray bottle with water in it on hand to mist and keep things looking fresh. Keeping your food covered while you investigate previous shots and evaluate your next shots can help keep it looking fresher for a little longer as well. Granted, you won't get much more than 5-8 minutes of "perfect" looking food, but you can get decent looking food for a while...and since its just practice, perfection isn't necessarily the goal (that comes later! :)

One of the things I've learned in my efforts so far include the use of a polarizer. Fresh cooked food often exhibits a lot of pinpoint highlights that eat away at your dynamic range without offering any kind of useful return. By using a polarizer, you can adjust how much of those highlights you wish to keep, and you can greatly minimize them to the point where they help enhance your food without creating a bunch of tiny overblown highlights all over everything. Use of a polarizer might help you get more keepers earlier, and not run into the problem of dry, old, unappetizing looking food. Just keep in mind, you'll need to increase exposure if you use a polarizer, by 1-2 stops.

  • I'll see if I can dig up a photo with some highlights (won't be able to do it until I get home.) You would probably want a circular polarizer. For the most part, a polarizer is a polarizer, and so long as you are not in a situation where flare/ghosting might occur, the quality shouldn't matter all that much.
    – jrista
    Apr 5 '12 at 15:26
  • Flare usually occurs when you point your lens directly at a bright light source, or point it such that a bright light source is just outside the frame. Its highly doubtful you'll be pointing your lens at a bright light source with food photography, so you don't have to worry about it. As far as polarizers go, cheaper ones tend to flare more easily than more expensive ones, so if your shooting landscapes and the like and want to polarize, a better polarizer is better.
    – jrista
    Apr 5 '12 at 16:55
  • Well, potentially and no. Potentially, because it reduces the amount of light entering the lens and because some cheaper polarizers might add a slight color cast. No, because you can compensate for lower exposure by exposing longer or with a higher ISO and because color cast is VERY EASY to fix with digital photography and RAW, or automatic white balance (AWB.) I wouldn't worry about a polarizer affecting IQ. Polarizers are used by millions of photographers every day, as they have far more beneficial properties than negative ones.
    – jrista
    Apr 6 '12 at 21:33

Use a substitute to get the lighting, perspective, depth of field and background elements placed just right. Then replace with the real heated food when ready.

If your food will be in a bowl, you can partially fill the bowl with paper, foil, rice, so that you only put the food on the very top, so use less of it, reserving more for later shots.

  • Anything that you think will be appropriate for getting the lighting right. Could be wadded up newspaper, coloured paper, rice/beans/lentils. Something with some texture so you can see how light and shadows fall. I used dried beans last time.
    – MikeW
    Apr 5 '12 at 10:07

I would suggest using a stand in to get everything right before you even start cooking. Think of it as the equivalent of mise en place. Get the framing the way you want it, the props, the lighting, the color correction, the focus, etc. Take sample pictures until you are satisfied, then cook your dish.


My experience with food photography

  1. If you have natural light (sun) use it, refracted from window for shadowless pictures.
  2. Use white plates to keep food.
  3. DOF is important but not absolute; crop it for tight composition.
  4. 50mm lenses are best choice. But I even take shots with my mom's Powershot P&S.
  5. You need a passion for food (like Ego ) and practice again and again.
  • Hi! Welcome to Stack Exchange. This seems like useful information, but (except maybe point 5) it isn't really directly related to the question of practicing. I think it'd be better as an answer to photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2544/…
    – mattdm
    Dec 6 '13 at 15:23

If it's hot food being photographed, the chances of any commercial food/drink photoshoots actually being hot are pretty slim. Try looking on youtube for something like 'secrets of food photography', I've seen a number of videos going into the secrets of how it's done, how they actually made McDonalds burgers look nice was one that particularly stood out lol

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