Photography Basics

currant scones One of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had through this journey, is learning about photography. I had never before thought twice about how pictures turned out, or about lighting and composition. When I first started my blog I didn’t even think about photography and you can probably still find some of those old posts and you can see how terrible my pictures were. But as this was the beginning of a journey, I learned a lot along way. I did a lot of research and reading online and this is how I came to learn everything I am sharing here with you. But my biggest challenge was photography. I didn’t even own a DSLR Camera. I didn’t even know what DSLR stood for. Well DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. Now I know.

I didn’t know about composition either. I remember the first time I submitted my picture to tastespotting and it was rejected due to composition, I was confused. As far as I was concerned my dish looked good, and the most important part it tasted good. But unfortunately, taste doesn’t seem to matter so much, as to how your composition and lighting does. All those times that I submitted my pictures and kept getting rejected, it just motivated me to learn more and more about photography. What do they want? How do I take those wonderful pictures? So I did a lot of research and a lot reading online and I came across a wonderful book. This is probably the best investment in a book I ever made; Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling.

Both my husband and I read it and we learned a lot from it. One of the most important things we learned was that taking pictures in natural light is the best thing you could do for your pictures. Every time we take pictures inside, no matter how much lighting we have and how much we process the pictures, they just never turn out as well as a picture that was taken outside with natural light.

This was often tough for me as we live in Calgary and winters are long and during the winters days are short, so it’s hard when you work a full time job and it’s dark when you come home. So during the winter months all the pictures I take are over the weekend. Very rarely do I take pictures inside. Even to this day I am still learning and I know my pictures are not that great compared to some blogs out there. I constantly struggle with composition because I am not an artsy person at all, I’m a programmer so I’m very logical, but art simply escapes me. The good thing is that there are so many food pictures out there, so many cook books with pictures that you have a lot of places where you can draw inspiration from.

There is so much I can say about photography and what I had learned but I think for now I can share with you some of the tools I use to improve my pictures.

A great book to buy if you want to learn about photography, specifically dark style photography, and want to learn with step by step instructions, Nicole’s book is the way to go:

Food Photography Behind the Scenes eBook

As I mentioned before this is one of the best books you can buy if you want to improve your photography and learn tips and tricks. It will teach you about digital photography and food styling.


Canon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR CMOS Digital SLR Camera and DIGIC Imaging with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens + 58mm 2x Professional Lens +High Definition 58mm Wide Angle Lens + Auto Flash + 59″ Strong lightweight Tripod + UV Filter Kit With 24GB Complete Deluxe Accessory Bundle – To get the most out of your pictures, I strongly recommend a DSLR camera. You do not need to start big with the most expensive camera out there. I bought a cheaper model which is more than enough as you are learning about photography. Once you have learned everything to learn about this camera, then you can move on to more expensive models.

Photography studio continuous lighting kits – if you have room in your house dedicated for food photography then you could benefit from a lighting kit. We own one, and whenever we take pictures indoors we use it. The umbrella lights that come with most kits have strong halogen bulbs which are really powerful and extremely fragile.

Among cameras and studio lighting kits you will also need props to create great composition. This includes different plates and table cloths. I have to admit, this is where I probably spent most of the money I invested, however it’s not necessary, you can start with whatever you have.

The most important thing to remember about your pictures is that they have to leave you with the feeling that you badly want to eat that.


  1. Hi Jo! I’ve just begun following your blog and I also came across your blogging tips. Very very helpful!! I’m using my iPhone to take food pics because my point and shoot is a relic (even though it’s only a few years old)! I’ve had pics accepted on a couple of sites, but have also had quite a few rejections. No surprise! My lack of an adequate camera and photography skills have been holding me back. I’m at the point where I’d like to make an investment in a quality camera but I’m still trying to justify the expense. Are you still using the Canon T3? I see that there are now newer models. In your opinion, is the additional expense worth it? Especially for a beginner? Your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks again!

    • Hi Michelle,
      For a beginner I really don’t recommend spending thousands of dollar on a fancy camera. Right now I’m using a Canon 7D but seriously up until a couple months ago we just used a Canon Rebel XS and it was just fine. I suggest you learn how to use a more basic camera, learn everything there is to learn about that camera and when you feel confident enough then you can move up to a better one. Take it slow and learn. I’m still learning here. 🙂

  2. Ho Jo! Thanks for this, I have been wanting to add a food section to my blog but I had no idea how to take the photos. Thanks for the starter. I have just discovered your blog and I love it!!

  3. Dominick says:

    Hi Jo,

    I was wondering if you’re familiar with depth of field and if you use a lot of shallow depth of field when photographing close ups of food.

    • Hi Dominick, I am familiar with depth of field, and one thing to remember is that the size of the aperture is directly related to the depth of field. So a large the number, small aperture, such as f/32, will bring all objects in focus, and a small number, high aperture will isolate the foreground from the background and the object in focus will be sharp and the background will be blurry.

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