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.
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.
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.
(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.
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!)
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
- Canon EOS 5D Mark iii DSLR
- Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 (my most used for food photographs)
- Lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro (for close-ups)
- Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 (most used for travel/everyday photographs)
- ExpoImaging ExpoDisc 77mm Digital White Balance Filter
- Sunpak 61″ 6000PG Aluminum Tripod
- Adobe Lightroom 5
- Neewer 110CM 43-Inch 5-in-1 Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Reflector
- Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin
- Tasty Food Photography eBook by Lindsay of Pinch of Yum
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?