Dishes on table overlaid with text: 10 Tips for Taking Better Food Photos for Your Family Cookbook

10 Tips for Taking Better Food Photos for Your Family Cookbook

I know. I’ve tried it. Food photography is one of the hardest types of picture taking. It can make taking photos for your family cookbook more of a trial than a pleasure.

Many of our cookbook software customers have written to ask how they can improve their photo skills when taking pictures of their recipes to include in their family cookbook.

Below I give you the best tips I’ve learned over the years for taking food photos for your family cookbook.

Erin’s Tricks for Taking Awesome Photos for Your Family Cookbook

1. Use a contrasting background

If you use a white plate, use a dark background and vice versa.

2. Clear all the clutter away

Make sure you only have the items you really want in your shot.

3. Think flat!

Make sure the dish or plate is on a flat surface. And use boards or slate serving platters – they make your food easier to arrange.

4. Focus on the center of the dish

Even if you don’t have macro-focus capabilities, you can come up with a good shot by editing and cropping the photos.

5. Seek illumination!

Use soft lighting from 3 different directions to help light the food – such as positioning light sources at 11, 2 and 6 o’clock.

Natural sunlight from a window – diffused with wax paper or tracing paper if necessary – is great.

You can also shoot outside in a covered space.

Avoid any kind of fluorescent lighting. Also, avoid using a direct flash since that tends to create a harsh “blown out” photograph.

6. Use the camera you’ve got

It doesn’t really matter if you use an expensive digital camera, a point and shoot digital with autofocus, or your phone. The main thing is to hold the camera steady. An inexpensive tripod is a boon if you take lots of food photos.

7. Visualise a “story” that you want to tell in your family cookbook

Use nice props, such as an heirloom lace tablecloth, silver spoon or family pattern dishes to personalize the photos. Include mementos that have been handed down or items from your daily life. Even a slice of lemon in a glass of tea or a flower from the garden can be attractive.

8. Take photos from several angles.

You might need to get down on your knees or climb on some furniture for this! Overhead photos – or ‘flatlays’ as they’re known – are very popular these days on sites like Instagram and Pinterest.

9. Take photos from different distances

Not all shots have to be close-ups. A wide angle showing, say, the view out of your kitchen window can add to the flavor of the story.

10. Use photo editing software

It’s amazing how much you can improve even a very ordinary photo by adjusting the color balance or cropping the image. If you have a Mac, Apple’s own free Photos software offers all the basic tools you need to get your photos looking great.

Keep the above 8 tips in mind when taking food photos for your family cookbook. They’ll help you feel more confident in taking pictures to illustrate your family recipes, and make your family cookbook even more enjoyable.

Happy food photo shoots,


About Erin Miller

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