It’s All About the Pictures: Food Photography

Patti Cook, BA, MS, Ed.D., Culinary Grad and B & P Student (Photo Credit)

When people find out I’m a student in an online culinary and baking and pastry program, they usually ask me how such a thing is possible. I say it’s all about the pictures. The assignments include short narratives with each picture, explaining key points, but I rely on the pictures to demonstrate how I correctly prepared and plated a recipe. A valuable part of the program is that all the assignments (with pictures and narratives) are captured in an e-portfolio that anyone can view. I’m very proud of mine. It captures my passion for all things food and cooking as well as my love of food photography.

I’ve gotten compliments from prospective employers, colleagues, fellow students and others on the pictures in my culinary portfolio and in my food blogs for Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy. People who like to take food-related pictures, too, often ask for suggestions on how to take better ones.

Above all, light really matters. The more light, the better. I use a small tabletop setup with lights; such tabletop photo “studios” are easy to find and relatively inexpensive at most camera shops. I also use the lights when I’m a taking a picture at the stove or on the counter to create a brighter picture. I’ve even been known in restaurants to move a candle or lamp to shine get more light into a picture. Bottom line: Turn on as many lights as you can.


Once lighting is set, figure out what you want the “center” of the picture to be. What are you trying to capture? If the garnish is what’s beautiful to you, zoom in on that. If the whole plate wows you, remove other things around it and zoom in on that. If you’re trying to demonstrate a technique, use a program like Pic Monkey to take pictures of the different steps and compile them into one picture.


I also suggest—OK, sometimes crazily—that you have to take a bunch of pictures at different angles too. I might take 10 pictures and get one really good one. Even though they might initially look similar, when you really go through them you realize some are much better than others.

Another suggestion is to look at pictures in food magazines, books and blogs that you like and notice what stands out for you. For example, I’ve found I love pictures that have table settings and beverages in addition to the food, so I try to include napkins, silverware and glasses in my pictures.


From my kitchen seat, capturing memories of beautiful food we’ve enjoyed holds it in our hearts. I remember using my parents’ Polaroid when I was 5 to take a picture of floating meringues (although in retrospect I realize they weren’t quite the success I thought they were). I’m clearly not alone. The trend is for more and more people to enjoy taking and looking at pictures of food. It’s like eating your cake and having it, too: captured so you can look at it again. How sweet is that?

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