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A Simple Recipe for Good Food Photos

A Taste of Home photographer offers writer (and home cook!) Cathryn Jakicic her quickest tips for making your food pics memorable.

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Poor photograph of three cookies on a platePhoto: Taste of Home

It’s the season of baking special treats and holiday feasts. Thanks to social media, the last step in any recipe now involves taking a photo of the creation to share with friends.

Unfortunately, these photos seldom do their delicious subjects justice. My annual week of baking Christmas cookies involves a nightly Facebook photo of the day’s three or four varieties. After a day of baking and cleaning the kitchen, my creativity is running on fumes by photo time. The best I can do is plop three cookies on a festive plate, break out the now sugar-coated iPhone, snap a couple of quick shots and call it a day.

This year’s photographic efforts will get a distinct upgrade thanks to advice from Taste of Home photographer Grace Natoli Sheldon. She offers six quick tips for photos that do your baking/cooking efforts justice without creating too much fuss.

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Ultimate chicken noodle soupTaste of Home

1. When shooting dishes like this, get close.

Even if you think you are close enough, get in tighter for recipes like this chicken noodle soup.

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Taste of Home

2. A great photo is really all about the light.

So take the food (like this delicious loaf of bread) to a window and have light coming from behind or the side. Otherwise, use your available light (in your kitchen or dining room) and then use you smartphone’s editing tools. Adjust the lighting with the hue selection and color-correct that way.

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Taste of Home

3. Avoid using the flash.

It provides bad, flat light. These cranberry cookie slices look much tastier in natural light.

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Taste of Home

4. Use your phone’s tools.

Grace recommends taking advantage of your phone’s bells and whistles, whether it’s portrait mode on iPhone, food mode on Samsung Galaxy 7, or some sort of filter app. And enhancing the exposure by playing with the contrast or saturation is always an improvement. If you didn’t get in close enough on the dish (see step 1) you can always crop after the photo is taken.

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Taste of Home

5. The light changes with the angle of the shot, so experiment with your angles.

Try a low angle on the plate or pan, or shoot overhead. Notice the difference of how the food looks and go from there. “If you are shooting in the same place, you can develop a system that way,” Grace says.

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Photo: Taste of Home

6. You can add interest to the scene by including hands holding a plate, fork or spoon.

Get your family or friends into the picture like this recipe. “This will make the shot actionable, which gives you a sense of place. It’s inviting,” Grace says.

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Taste of Home

One bonus tip, found on A Beautiful Mess, is to pay attention to the background. “Think about the whole image, not just the food,” blogger Emma Chapman writes. “You may want to move your dish over slightly if something weird or unsightly is showing in the background (like a sink full of dirty dishes!). And think about your plates, bowls, silverware and other ‘props’ as you photograph.”

The tastiest part of all this expert advice: None of these ideas requires fancy equipment or even more than a few extra minutes of attention. In no time, you can make your photographs a feast for the eyes of all your virtual guests on social media.

Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.
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