Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

My 3 Essentials for Food Photography.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The #1 way to grow your food blog is to work really, really hard on your food photography. I didn’t begin to see a spike in my blog’s readership until I began working on improving my photography. My photos are the selling point to my recipes, so it’s important for me to continuously strive to get that “perfect shot.” And believe me, it’s the hardest part of the job. Impossible? No. A labor of love? Yes.

 3 Essentials for My Food Photography-- tips and tricks from sallysbakingaddiction.com

My photography is what takes up the most of my time. I don’t shoot recipes every single day, but the days when I do? They’re the longest and most draining. I’ve been writing for years and baking since I was little, but it’s only been 3 years since I first picked up a DSLR. Every photo I’ve taken since then has led me a step or two closer to the photos you see on my blog today. And this learning journey is far from over. That’s what makes it so exciting. There is always something new to try, to learn, and to shoot.

There are many guidelines out there for how to use a DSLR. I’ve written a simple beginner’s guide to the basics, but today I want to share three essentials for my food photography. These three items– all relatively budget friendly– help me create images that compliment my personal style and really make each photo on my blog shine bright.

Let’s begin.

1. White Balance Expodisc

What on earth is an Expodisc? I certainly had no idea until 10 months ago when we moved into a house surrounded by massive leafy trees. So much green. E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. During warmer months when the vivid green leaves are abundant, the natural light that flows through my windows is tinted… you guessed it… green.

No matter which white balance setting I choose on my camera, my photos literally are… green.

3 Essentials for My Food Photography_

(hi s’mores pie)

The same thing happens with the red leaves outside my windows in the fall. And there are pink bushes not far from our window in the spring. Gorgeous landscaping, yes. Year-round weird lighting, yes. Headache for my photos? YES.

I could certainly fix these white balance issues in post-processing (more on that next), but it was taking me way too much time finding the perfect natural-looking temperature and tint. A white balance expodisc filter solves all of this. It’s a filter that you put over your lens. Then take a picture through the Expodisc in the same setting and angle as your subject. Next, set the custom white balance. Remove the Expodisc and begin shooting.

Color correction made easy. Perfectly white balanced right out of your camera. Exceptional photos! A true lifesaver in difficult lighting.

It’s small, compact, lightweight, easy, convenient, and simple. Read more about it here. Make sure you pick up the one that fits your lens. I have the 58mm.

Expodisc

2. Adobe Lightroom

I do not use Photoshop to edit my photography. I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. That’s probably confusing because Lightroom contains the word photoshop in it, but Photoshop and Lightroom are two different tools used for post processing. Lightroom is a more functional, user friendly option. Maybe one day I’ll master Photoshop. For now, Lightroom has all I need.

Lightroom is a simple, user-friendly editing software. I didn’t even read the manual when I first began editing! I just… started playing around. (Yes, I have since read the manual and learned my proper way around!)

Sally's Candy Addiction Cookbook Recipe- Cake Pops

I think of modifying my photos as putting life back into them. From real life to camera, a lot of natural depth, contrast, and highlight is completely lost. Therefore, I spend time with each photo modifying it back to its original. Lightroom is my saving grace and I HIGHLY recommend it, even if you do not own a DSLR!

Here is a photo I took with my DSLR at a recent bridal shower. The day was a little overcast, I didn’t have my flash, and the window was on the other side of the room. As you can see, the before photo is dark and dull.

(These are adorable pink and green cake pops! I made them completely from scratch and you can too– I put the recipe in Sally’s Candy Addiction.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 12.09.46 PM

I adjusted the clarity, shadows, highlights, saturation, and contrast in Lightroom to get us that much brighter, more cheerful after photo.

Here’s another example. This is my crumb cake before and after.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 12.14.49 PM

The before photo is pefectly white balanced thanks to my Expodisc. However, it’s a little lackluster. I brightened the entire photo up by modifying the highlights, saturation, and exposure. The adjusted photo is much more “I want to grab this from the screen!” right?

Old Fashioned Crumb Cake Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com-2

3. Tripod

I’m confident that I’m cursed with horrible lighting. In the past 3 years, I’ve lived in 3 different homes and each one has had terrible lighting. Upon moving into the 2nd and 3rd, I had photography on my mind. “Ok, this would be great for my food photos!” Only to learn later on… not so much. Do I just need to move to sunny Cali? I don’t know. We have plans to buy a home next year (we are renting our current home) and the first thing I’ll do with each house we see? TEST THE NATURAL LIGHT. End rant.

The light hits at such weird angles in my home that I need the help of my tripod. This isn’t always the case; I’m usually fine on ultra bright summer days, but in the dead of winter or on an overcast day, a tripod is key.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 12.36.40 PM

Besides my camera, lenses, and Lightroom, my tripod is one of the best investments I’ve ever made into my food photography business. It’s a complete necessity in low light situations when I need to use a slow shutter speed. More on shutter speed here. My hands are shaky and there is no way I can keep the camera still when the shutter is open for a long period of time. Camera shake translates to image blur.

I shoot about half of my more recent images with a macro lens. Because the field of view is so small in macro photography, even the tiniest of camera movements can make a noticeable difference in the photograph. Using a tripod guarantees a sharper image.

Here is a photo I took of my dark chocolate key lime truffles with my macro lens. It was an overcast day so I used my tripod to really get a clear shot of the center of this truffle.

Dark Chocolate Key Lime Pie Truffles-2

My camera and lenses are the base for my photography. However, I couldn’t produce quality images for my blog without the help of these three essentials. Look into each of them and consider adding them to your photography gear collection.

Maybe you have a dream to make a career of food photography or perhaps you just want to improve your images. The more you learn about your camera and the photography resources available to you, the more you will get out of each photoshoot!

Complete List of my Current Photography Gear

Highly Recommended

Be sure to read my Food Photography Basics. A helpful beginner’s guide to understanding and using a DSLR, including details on aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and more. See all of my posts about blogging.

 

Q: Do you have any favorite photography essentials? 

63 comments

  1. 1. I did not know Expodisc was a thing and I feel like I need one in my life. 
    2. Lightroom is BOMB.
    3. Lindsay’s book is on point.
    4. I love cinnamon/sugar crumb toppings.

  2. I am the shakiest person ever – without a tripod there is literally no way i can take a picture! I also found that my first DSLR (EOS 500D) had a very stiff/clicky shutter button that could actually wobble the camera if you weren’t careful – was amazed the difference the pillow-soft shutter on the 7D is.

    Will definitely look to get an expodisc – what a timesaver!

    Thanks for your super guides as always Sally!

  3. Love these tips! I have been on a steep learning curve since I have started taking food photos too. Nothing as amazing as yours but I can only hope. I use Adobe Lightroom too and as Winter starts in Melbourne, I am struggling for good light. I have noticed tinges of different colours on my photos too, so good to know about the Expodisc. I really need to start looking into a tripod and a indoor lighting set up so I don’t get bummed out about making something only to have average photos to look back at it later. Thanks for writing these, you are such an inspiration and all your hard work shows in your amazing and carefully developed recipes (I have not had one failed attempt with your recipes yet and I have made about 25!) and your beautiful eat me now photos 🙂 x

  4. First of all, thank you for assuming we all have lighting problems and giving a solution! I live in New York City so no trees making things green but tall buildings making things too yellow. ExpoDisc to the rescue!

    Next, thank you for all your guidance. There is so much to learn but seeing this list and seeing I am already doing most of it, has really been the confidence booster I need. I’ve felt so lost and overwhelmed and I feel so much better knowing I’m heading in the right direction. Thank you so much!

  5. Thanks for the updated tips, the warm balance filter you suggested is sold out but I will look into other options. 

  6. I have to look into that ExpoDisc, thanks for the great tip!

  7. Tried to find the ExpoDisc but B&H no longer carries it. Looks like I might be able to purchase one from the manufacturer but they only make 77 and 82 mm at this time. Looks like it makes a huge difference in shooting though. I will also have to check out lightroom. I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop Elements and the NIK filters (but not sure if those would be appropriate for food…LOL). Thanks for all the info!

  8. This was such an encouragement! Wow and I totally believed that your pictures on your blog looked that way raw off your camera. I have even more respect for the work you do now! That’s a lot of work but you have mastered it and then some; your photos have the most perfect lighting ever. If light envy was a thing (in a good way of course ;)) I’ve got it. Thanks so much for this post Sally!

  9. Thanks so much for these tips. Getting great photos with which to ‘sell’ my recipes is always high on my agenda. Really appreciate your advice! 😉

  10. yes yes yes to all! love it. thanks for the great resources friend. 

  11. Thank you so much for this little lesson about food photography. I love taking photos of the food I make and will use your tips to make them more succulent! I look forward to reading more about what you do and write!

  12. These posts on how to start a food blog and food photography are quite inspirational! Ive started a blog 2 months ago and it is encouraging to see that things start slowly for everyone and then pick up as your “blogging skills” progress! The blog is usually all i can think about while at my “real life” job! I’m hoping one day to become a career blogger just like yourself though i realize it takes time and lots of hard work! Thanks again for the posts!

  13. Thanks a lot for helping us who are beginners. I usually read your “guidelines” about photography  and I learn every time new things.
    Thank you 

  14. Sally, I’m thinking of purchasing a camera and other equipment to make my pictures better. I’ll use your list on this blog as a guide because I love your photographs!  Any updates that you would suggest or do you still use all of the equipment listed above?  Would you add anything new?
    Thank you so much for your response!  I know how busy you are!

      • Thank you, Sally! Wow. It’s pricey!  I read reviews and most people say it’s worth every penny!  The only thing that concerned me about the comments is that lots of people said it’s great for weddings and portraits. I ain’t gonna be doin’ either one of those!  So would it still be useful for food photography?
        Also, do you still use the macro lens for close-ups or does this lens do it all?

        Thank you for your time. I’ll leave you alone after this.

        BTW…baked your Funfetti Layer Cake last night. (For the third time since spring.). Frosting it today with pink frosting and more pastel sprinkles!  It’s for a First Birthday for the granddaughter of a friend of mine. Can’t wait. 

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