Culinary photography not only captures the look of food but also stimulates the senses and imagination. When we browse social media, we often come across stunning photos of food that almost seem to smell and taste through the screen. Behind every such shot is talent and the knowledge and skills involved in culinary photography. In today’s article, we will explore the ins and outs of this field, introducing you to techniques, tricks, and tools that will make your food photos look even more appetizing.

Culinary photography is an art that requires an understanding of both the basic principles of composition and photo-taking techniques that allow you to best convey the aesthetics of your food in picture form. It is not enough just to capture a dish in a photograph – you need to be able to highlight its qualities or emphasize its texture. Ready for a journey into a world of wonderful flavors and beautiful images?

This is what you will find out in the following article:

  • How to use the principles of composition to create appetizing food photos?
  • How to set up lighting and ensure proper styling?
  • Which photographic techniques are most effective in culinary photography and how to apply them?
  • How do I choose the right photographic equipment and accessories to achieve professional results in my food photos?
  • What tricks and tricks can enhance the quality of your culinary photos?
  • How do you prepare food for a photo shoot and how do you edit your photos afterwards?

Composition in culinary photography

When you are preparing for a food photography session, a key aspect is to be able to compose the frame in such a way that the food looks attractive and inviting. The tri-partition principle, leading lines, and the golden ratio are the basic rules that govern the world of photography and will help you to achieve a harmonious composition. By consciously using these techniques, you can evoke the desired emotion in the viewer and focus their attention on the most important elements of the photo.

The tri-division principle

The tri-partition principle is a basic rule of composition in photography (but also in painting or film). It involves dividing the frame into nine equal parts by drawing two horizontal and two vertical lines. These divide the area into three horizontal and three vertical sections, making a total of nine squares. The important elements of the image should be placed near the intersection points of these lines or along the lines, which gives the composition balance and an interesting layout.

The principle of tripartition is often used in culinary photography to place the main subject (e.g. the dish) at one of the intersection points of the lines, which draws the viewer’s attention and gives the image balance.

Guiding lines

These are image elements that direct the observer’s gaze in a particular direction or to a specific part of the frame. They can be either actual lines (e.g. the horizon) or suggested lines (e.g. pattern lines).

Guiding lines can be used in culinary photography to direct the viewer’s gaze to the main subject of the photograph. For example, the line of a fork or spoon in a tray of food can lead the viewer from the foreground to the background, emphasizing the food on display and creating dynamism in the composition.

Golden division

The golden division is a composition technique in which the area of the frame is divided into proportions similar to the so-called golden rectangle. It is created by dividing the area into two parts in a ratio of 1:1.618. The placement of key image elements along these lines or at their intersection points is intended to create a more dynamic and aesthetically satisfying composition.

The golden ratio can be used in culinary photography to create eye-pleasing frames by placing key elements along the golden ratio lines or at their intersection points. For example, placing the main dish on the golden ratio line can help to balance the composition and emphasize its importance, while still maintaining an aesthetically pleasing layout throughout the photograph.

Background selection

Another important aspect is matching the dish with the right background. Choosing the right texture, color, and texture can significantly affect the final visual effect. A well-chosen background should emphasize the aesthetics of the dish while not distracting from the main subject. Remember also about additional elements, such as cutlery, fresh herbs, or decorative plates, which can enrich the composition and give the photo an individual character.

Last but not least, an important aspect of composition in culinary photography is the ability to manipulate light and shadows. The right lighting can emphasize the texture of a dish, adding three-dimensionality and depth. In a moment, we will discuss different lighting techniques and how to use natural and artificial light to achieve the desired visual effects. First, however, a few words about food styling itself.

Styling food for photos

Creating appetizing food photos is not just a matter of technical skill, but also an art of styling that requires a good sense of aesthetics.

A key element of styling in culinary photography is the choice of a background that harmonizes with the color and character of the food. This inconspicuous element of the photo can significantly affect the final visual effect. It’s worth experimenting with different textures and textures to find the perfect background that enhances the aesthetic qualities of the food without distracting from the main subject. Additional elements such as cutlery, plates, fresh herbs, or decorative napkins can be subtle accents. Their skillful placement in the frame can add depth and character to the photograph, making it more appealing to the viewer.

Another aspect to consider is the manipulation of the texture of the food. By using natural textures such as crispy crusts, creamy sauces, or fluffy marshmallows, you can add to the visual flair of the dish, making it appear even more appetizing.

How do you light food for photos?

The right lighting is a key factor in the final look of your food photos. In this section, we will discuss the different methods of working with light and how they affect the atmosphere of a photograph.

Natural light in culinary photography

Natural light is very often the first choice of a food photographer. All because of its softness and naturalness. The best results will be achieved by photographing near a window, where the light will be diffused. This in turn will affect the softness of the shadows. However, pay attention to the direction of the light to avoid unwanted reflections and sharper shadows on the food.

Adding light to your food photos

When natural light is not enough or we do not have access to it, we have to resort to artificial lighting. Studio lamps or LED lights can be the perfect solution, allowing you to precisely control the intensity and focus of the light. Avoid overly intense light, which can make the food look unattractive and unnatural.

Regardless of the choice of the light source, it is also crucial to understand what color temperature is. Different light sources emit light at different temperatures, which can affect the perception of the colors that appear in a photograph. It is important to adjust the white balance in-camera or when editing photos to achieve a faithful reproduction of the colors of the food.

See the last section of this article for information on lighting equipment you can use for culinary photography.

Food photography: Things to avoid doing?

A key mistake that is easy to make when taking photos of food is to blur them. To prevent this, it is a good idea to use a tripod for your phone or camera. Another issue is correct color reproduction. If the colors in your photos do not look realistic, it is a good idea to correct the white balance when editing and to use as much natural light as possible. This will produce more dynamic and authentic colors that will delight your audience.

It’s also common for food photos to fail to capture the viewer’s attention. It looks like any other. To remedy this, it is worth analyzing exactly what is missing from our frames. Sometimes a few minor adjustments can dramatically change the result. There may be inadequate lighting or the light source may be too far away. It’s also worth thinking about a minimalist set design that adds that ‘something’ but doesn’t distract from the food itself at the same time.

The last aspect to look at is the visual consistency of the photos. If we have a collection of photographs of our dishes, make sure they are compatible in some way. This could include similar framing, styling, or backgrounds. This will make your restaurant menu or Instagram account more cohesive, which will have a positive impact on your professional image.

Styling food for photos

Creating visually appealing culinary photos requires not only photographic skills but also proper food styling. A key element is to ensure that the dish looks its best. Raw vegetables or herbs next to a plate of food can add freshness and color, especially for dishes with a little color.

Natural garnishes, such as a basil leaf in pesto, not only add color but also enliven the composition. It is also important to skilfully choose the main element of the photo. It is also worth making sure that the proportions of the dishes match (depending on what you want to emphasize). In the case of sauces, it is a good idea to leave their addition for last to avoid them being absorbed by the food as the frame is set. Neutral backgrounds and props focus attention on the food. Avoid distracting patterns or shiny surfaces. Wooden boards, subtle backgrounds, and simple accessories such as flowers or colorful napkins can add depth and appeal to a photo. Despite the lack of professional equipment, impressive results can be achieved by focusing on the freshness and colors of the food and carefully chosen props.

Tricks and tricks in culinary photography

Culinary photography is an art that requires not only technical know-how but also creativity and dexterity in manipulating different elements of the frame. In this section, we will discuss some tricks and tricks that will help you get better food photos.

  • Using natural props – sometimes adding a few extra elements to the frame, such as fresh herbs, lemon slices, or sea salt, can significantly improve the visual appeal of a dish. These little touches not only add depth and texture to the photo but also enhance the flavor of the dish.
  • Experimenting with framing – changing the angle and distance from which you photograph a dish can make a significant difference to how it looks in a photo. Experimenting with different perspectives and proportions can help you get the best shot to emphasize the flavor and aesthetics of the dish.
  • Space in the frame – using what is known as ‘negative space’ can help to create balance in the composition, allowing the eyes to rest from the ‘intensity’ of the composition. Adding some space around the main part of the dish can provide a subtle but important visual effect that makes the overall impression of the viewer more pleasing.
  • Less is more – sometimes less is more. Using a minimalist approach to styling a dish, by limiting the number of additional elements and focusing on the main ingredient, can make a photo more striking and impactful.

Culinary lifehacks in food photography

  • Artificial ice cream – use potato paste instead of real ice cream. A little glue is all that is needed to imitate a drop of melting ice.
  • Flexible cheese on pizza – use reduced-fat mozzarella for the perfect ‘cheese pull’ effect. Avoid ‘artificial’ solutions such as adding glue to the cheese.
  • Fluffy pancakes and the perfect stack – for fluffy pancakes, add a mixture of milk and yogurt to the batter. Use cardboard discs between the pancakes to keep them fluffy when stacking.
  • Lasting toppings and drips – Use a mixture of water and glycerine to create a drip-setting effect on drinks.
  • Preserving freshness – When photographing food, especially food that loses its freshness quickly, such as salads or desserts with fruit, it is important to maintain its appetizing appearance. To remedy this, for example, it is a good idea to lightly spray them with water to emphasize freshness and juiciness. You can use monosodium monoglutamate (MSG) to prevent the food you are photographing from oxidizing.
  • Perfect froth – To get the perfect froth on your beer, use a little salt.
  • Milk or glue? – Often glue is used instead of milk in publicity photos to prevent the liquid from being absorbed by other products. To avoid wasting food, it is worth refraining from this practice, as the food will unfortunately be inedible after the photo shoot.

Culinary photography: essential and useful equipment

Culinary photography requires not only artistic sensitivity and flair but also the right equipment to enable you to achieve professional results. Here are some essential or simply useful tools to have in your photographic gear when you plan to take food photos.

Small LED lights

Small LED lamps are the perfect tool for illuminating your dish up close. Their adjustable light intensity allows you to control the illumination precisely, which is extremely useful when photographing dish details such as sauce drips or vegetable pieces. The ability to change the color of the light is an additional advantage of such devices.

Our choice: Newell RGB-W Rangha Mini

The Newell RGB-W Rangha Mini is a compact LED panel measuring 11cm by 6cm. Despite its small size, it offers high brightness that will work well in the world of film and photography. The wide range of color temperature adjustments (2500 – 9900 K) allows for both warm and cool light tones. Full control over the HSI color space gives the user unlimited possibilities to express their creativity through color. There are also 21 special effects on board. Intuitive operation is ensured by ergonomic dials and buttons, as well as a backlit OLED screen. You will also find a standard 1/4″ thread and a USB-C socket on the metal housing of the flash. A cold shoe adapter is included for mounting on your camera or camcorder.

Large LED panels

Larger LED lamps are often used in professional photo studios or during larger-scale photo shoots (advertising or catalog photography). Their greater power and size allow them to illuminate large areas evenly, which is essential when photographing entire culinary scenes. Large LED panels can also be used to create more advanced lighting effects.

Our choice: Newell RGB Vividha Effect

The Newell RGB Vividha Effect LED light is a square lighting panel, ideal for film and photography applications. With a maximum output of 60 watts, 576 LEDs (including 288 RGB), and a wide range of setting controls, it will be the ideal choice for those who want to adjust parameters such as color, color temperature or light intensity. Such solutions as division extend the creative use of the lamp into 4 independent lighting zones (12 Pixel FX effects) and 15 special effects (including fireworks or explosions). A control panel with an LCD screen or a free mobile app allows convenient control of the device. A mains power supply is included. 2 NP-F sockets will also allow the use of rechargeable batteries. The product comes with a 40-month manufacturer’s warranty.


Diffusers are used to diffuse light and soften hard shadows. They are mainly used with natural light or studio lamps to achieve soft, even illumination of the food.

Our choice: Newell RGB-W Rangha LED lamp diffuser

The Newell RGB-W Rangha LED Lamp Diffuser is a versatile light modifier of high-quality silicone. It will give you optimum light diffusion and effectively get rid of unwanted shadows. It is the perfect choice for vloggers, photographers specializing in portraits or product shots, as well as macro photography enthusiasts. It will give you soft, uniform lighting, get rid of unwanted reflections, and produce natural skin tones. The sturdy and flexible silicone ensures quick and convenient installation. The Newell RGB-W Rangha LED light with a diffuser is the perfect duo and a “must have” in the essentials of every creative photographer and video maker.


Light swords are long, narrow lamps that allow you to precisely direct light onto a specific area of the dish. They are ideal for highlighting the textures and details of the dish and for creating unique lighting effects with a slightly more artistic touch.

Our choice: Newell RGB Kathi Pro LED lamp

The Newell RGB Kathi Pro is an LED lamp designed with creative photographers and filmmakers in mind. Its distinctive lightsaber shape and 64 cm length will give you great creative freedom, both when working “handheld” and when installed on a tripod with 1/4″ thread. The light offers adjustable color temperature (2700 – 6500 K), the possibility to change the color of the light within the extensive HSI color space, as well as 12 preset special effects (including a fire engine, thunderstorm, or bonfire). The USB-C port allows for fast charging of the built-in battery or power supply via a power bank. It is the ideal choice for people who want to play with colors, take atmospheric photos and videos, experiment with special effects, or create spectacular “light paintings”.

Barn door

The gate is an accessory that allows you to direct the light precisely, eliminating unwanted reflections and shadows. They are particularly useful when photographing food with a shiny surface and also such as glass or metal.

Our choice: Newell BD-200 gates

The Newell BD-200 gate is a universal light modifier compatible with 18cm diameter canopies, which are widely used in the world of video production and photography. The ergonomic mounting system ensures a quick and convenient installation. The high-quality black finish helps to eliminate unwanted glare and the high-quality hinges will allow the precise positioning of the wings to suit your framing needs. The gate comes with a circular honeycomb (grid) that you will place in a compatible socket. With its help, you will increase the contrast and direct the light precisely. Also included are 4 circular filters – yellow, green, blue, and red. Thanks to a combination of hooks and magnets, you can install the effect film frame of your choice on the gate housing in seconds.

Ring light

A ring light is a circular light source that surrounds the camera lens. It is ideal for illuminating small objects such as dishes as it eliminates hard shadows and creates soft, even lighting.

Our choice: Newell RL-18A – WB (3200 K – 5500 K) – Arctic White

The Newell RL-18A – WB (3200 K – 5500 K) – Arctic White LED ring light is a versatile unit that will find use in portrait, product, and macro photography. It will also prove successful for vloggers and those creating videos for Twitch, TikTok, or YouTube, complementing the home studio. The Newell RL-18A will be sensational for make-up and make-up work, providing even facial lighting. Ergonomic power and color temperature adjustments will allow you to fine-tune the lamp parameters to suit your current needs. The remote control, tripod, and smartphone holder will allow you to quickly and conveniently change frames, manage the light, and create even better photos and videos!

Shutterless tent

The shadow-free tent is a kind of portable photographic studio. It is the ideal tool for photographing food under controlled lighting conditions, eliminating unwanted reflections and shadows.

Our choice: Newell M80II

The Newell M80II shadowless tent is a mobile photographic studio enclosed in a small briefcase. With its help, you can take attractive product photos for online auctions, and professional catalogs, as well as for online shops and popular sales sites. The kit includes a set of backgrounds and LED lighting with a maximum intensity of 15,000 lux.

And what are your patents for food photography?

Creating appetizing culinary photos is not an easy art. It requires developing the right sense of aesthetics and many practice sessions. We hope this article will inspire you. You don’t need much to start your food photography adventure. Remember that the key to great photos is experimentation, patience, and creativity.

We also encourage you to share your patents and techniques for photographing food. Do you know any culinary-photography lifehacks? Be sure to let us know! 📸🍽️

photos: Unsplash

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