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Chef Contest Photo Tips

Photo Tips:

The photos that will accompany your recipe can really seal the deal for those casting votes. Here are some helpful tips from professional food photographers below that can help you take the best photos possible.


Choose a setting that enhances, but doesn’t distract from your food. Pick a simple, plain background or tablecloth.

Use plates whose color contrasts with or harmonizes with your food, but not ones that are the same color.

Before you start shooting, make sure there isn’t any distracting clutter in the background of the shot (stray people, silverware, whatever). Using a wider aperture to blur the background will help


Use natural light whenever you can. The ideal set-up is a next to a large window, with a white curtain to diffuse the light.

If you can’t get natural light, don’t be tempted to use your flash. Flash photography is too harsh for food’s delicate sensibilities. It flattens everything out and makes for unappealing shiny spots.

Don’t Move

Hold still. In low-light situations like restaurants and kitchens, long exposures will register any camera movement as blur. Use a tripod whenever possible. If you don’t have one, try resting your camera on a water glass or the back of a chair.

Shoot A Lot

Take lots of pictures. Move around the food and see what angle looks best: down low to see the food head-on? Up high to take in the geometry of the presentation?

Zoom In

Get in as close as you can. Use the macro setting on your camera if it has one. Fill the frame with the food, so the viewer can almost taste it.


Don’t forget to take pictures of the process. Sometimes making the food (chopping, cooking) can be as interesting as the final product.

Be Quick

Work quickly. The faster you take pictures of the food, the fresher it will look. Cold, congealed meat and wilted salads just don’t look good.

Use an empty plate to help you set up your shot before the food is ready. At the last minute, slip in the real plate of food.


The devil is in the details. Check the edges of your plates and glasses for stray food, and wipe away any smudges. Use sauces and garnishes to add color to drab shots (i.e. adding a lemon wedge to iced tea).