Food photography styling: Behind the scenes

As the years with my ‘big’ camera have passed, I have slowly learnt to shoot in manual and I can see looking back on old photographs how far I have actually come. One of the things I love to photograph the most is food, kids are great but anyone who has ever tried taking a good photo of the kids will know how much effort can go into it, they move around a lot and don’t always want to cooperate so still-life food or indeed flowers are the ideal subjects for me. Food with flowers? Even better!

walnut cake

 

I really enjoy putting my photographs on Instagram and often joke that there is nothing at all instant about my Instagram, it takes a lot of time to ‘set up’ the perfect shot and one that I am happy to share there and here on my blog. Most recently I have been uploading what I think are my very best shots to Unsplash a brilliant photo sharing site that allows you to download images to do with whatever you please. They really are the most awesome stock photographs and amazing for those times when you haven’t got something quite right in your own archives.

I have been seriously flattered (and amazed) to see that the few images I have uploaded to Unsplash have been downloaded more than 2000 times! As a complete amateur photographer this gives me all the warm and fuzzies and such a confidence boost that someone has seen my image and thought ‘hey I could use that shot somewhere’ it’s a really nice feeling.

I was chatting to Lucy from Capture by Lucy recently and she shared one of her articles with me Real life vs Insta life which is an interesting look behind the scenes. I loved getting a glimpse into Lucy’s photography set-up (her Instagram is beyond amazing if you didn’t already know) Lucy’s post inspired me to put this together to give you a little glimpse into how I go about taking my photographs.

I don’t really do anything special apart from attempt to find a nice background such as my favourite tablecloth from good old M&S or failing that I will use a slate paving slab left over from when we did the garden (pictured above) I always, always look for the light and never use flash. I will 9 times out of 10 do my photography sessions outside, whatever time I choose you can guarantee it will when the postman is coming who then catches me standing one legged – well we wouldn’t want shadows in the images – trying to get an aerial view of whatever I’m photographing. The last time he caught me he ended up with a fresh slice of lemon drizzle bundt cake so I think he times it deliberately now!

For my photographs I use a Canon 7D with a 17-55 mm lens. Most likely ISO 100, at about 1/125 shutter speed and between 2.8 and 4.0 for the F stop depending on how much detail I want. I generally take a few test shots at my usual settings and wing it from there. For each session, I could end up taking upwards of 100 frames that I will then cut down and edit later using lightroom and photoshop.

For props, I go into charity shops for pretty plates and cake stands and also find that TK Maxx is really good for items such as ceramic bun trays, interesting cake tins and pretty forks.

Here’s a list of cheap easily sourced items to make food styling/flat lays prettier:

  • Wallpaper as background
  • A mix of small and large plates with different colours patterns
  • Pretty teacups and saucers (charity shop is amazing for this)

Fresh roses displayed in a teacup

  • Paper napkins
  • Fabric napkins – I was lucky to be sent some from Liberty but Cath Kidston have affordable ones
  • Kilner jars/mugs
  • Coloured paper straws
  • Cake forks with floral design
  • A cake slice
  • Any type of fresh or good quality silk flowers to decorate. Roses, ranunculus and anemones photograph beautifully
  • Tile samples from B&Q such as marble, slate etc

That’s just a short list but let me know if you want more ideas I have a cupboard full of props!

Here is my set up and before pics of the lemon drizzle bundt cake. I had to go out and move all the furniture on our terrace and push the mess out of the way!

Food photography set up ‘before'

Food photography styling set up

And here are a couple that made the final cut!

Tea party with lemon drizzle bundt cake

Lemon drizzle bundt cake decorated with raspberries and redcurrants

So there you have my food styling behind the scenes which is more like plonking a cake outside on a tablecloth and hoping it won’t rain!

Let me know about your photography set-up, do you venture outdoors to do yours too?

Trackback from your site.

You might also like

Comments

  • Laura @dearbearandbeany

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    Some fab advice and tips, thank you. This is one area I really need to get better at and I will be bookmarking this post. Your photos are amazing and inspiring. x

  • Mackenzie Glanville

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    wow, it is amazing seeing the set up and then the final shots, just divine! You are super talented and I want to come eat cake with you #TheList

  • Emma

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    Great to see behind the scenes, so to speak, and to understand all the work that goes into taking a photo. Really useful tips #thelist

  • Nadia - ScandiMummy

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    Great post, hun. I always try and find areas of the house with the best natural light. But now the weather’s picking up I’ll hopefully start shooting more outside again. #TheList

    Nadia – ScandiMummy x

  • Toni @ Gym Bunny Mummy

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    I just started getting really focused on my photography, buying a new camera & equipment. I’ve got lots of practising to do though! Some fab tips here x

  • An imperfect mum (Catie)

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    That is just brilliant. I love taking photos of the flowers hubby brings me each week and you have inspired me to make more of an effort with these for my instagram account. I’m also going to go to the charity shop to look for some nice vases and table cloths. Thank you so much, seriously. I thought you’d have a fancy studio or something because your photos are so good!

    • Amy Treasure

      Written on 4th March 2016

      Reply

      I love photographing flowers Catie, they are perfect to practice on. And thank you – no fancy studio for me, just the decking outside!!

  • Fionnuala

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    Ha ha, I can relate to so much of this. My kitchen and garden look like that too when I zoom out.

  • Minh

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    I can’t seem to get to the point where I’m comfortable with shooting in manual mode. I think I need to just get over it and try. Thanks for all the tips. #thelist

  • Random Musings

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    Styling photos is something I really want to work on. This has been really helpful, I love the idea of taking pics outside as I often use flash and there’s always that tell tale glare somewhere! Thanks for hosting #TheList
    Debbie

    • Amy Treasure

      Written on 4th March 2016

      Reply

      Yep, step away from the flash! I never use it, even at dusk. You will find your pics improve massively once you ditch it x

  • Hannah Budding Smiles

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    Really great tips, my photography is useless and my food photography exceptionally so! I desperately need to learn some manual shooting basics and up my game, your pics are always an absolute delight to view xx #TheList

  • Jenny

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    This is great, pretty much what I am starting to do more and more. I’ve just got a pro camera so I’m trying new things out. #TheList

  • Madeline

    Written on 4th March 2016

    Reply

    I love posts like this, that show the pull backs from a shoot so you can see how it’s done! I’m a lifestyle portrait photographer and don’t like to pose people too much, preferring to capture things as they naturally occur, so it’s taken me a while to come around to the idea of setting up shots like your beautiful food images! You might just have persuaded me that it’s worth taking the time to do it, your results are gorgeous! x

    • Amy Treasure

      Written on 4th March 2016

      Reply

      Thanks Madeline, I am all about the candid natural shots with lifestyle photography so setting up shots has taken some practice. Thanks for reading x

  • Farmerswifeandmummy

    Written on 5th March 2016

    Reply

    I too love charity shops and tk max. I could do with a container for all my blog props (shipping not Tupperware ha ha)
    I underestimated how good natural light is and will take that on board. Roll on the clocks going forward for more daylight #thelist

    • Amy Treasure

      Written on 5th March 2016

      Reply

      haha this made me laugh, you should see my crockery cupboard it’s so full of un matching plates and bowls etc! Yes bring on the natural light I can’t wait!

  • Jenny

    Written on 5th March 2016

    Reply

    Absolutely love this. So full of tips and advice too. I am obsessed with food styling however not even as close as good as you but working on my skills everyday. lol I take my food outside all the time for that natural light look as I live in a cave. Keep it up hunny these are stunning.

    • Amy Treasure

      Written on 5th March 2016

      Reply

      Jenny, what are you like! As far as I am concerned you are the food photography styling queen and I have much to learn from you! Your pictures are beyind gorgeous x

  • AmyLovestoSew

    Written on 5th March 2016

    Reply

    Your photos are fab. I really struggle with getting great images, so this is really helpful (and you have a lovely garden!) :)

  • Hannah G

    Written on 5th March 2016

    Reply

    Thank you for some brilliant tips, your photos are stunning! I struggle with photographing at times so I’ll definitely be using some of your tips #TheList x

  • John Adams

    Written on 6th March 2016

    Reply

    I struggle with food photography. It has to be one of the most difficult subjects to shoot in my opinion! I see, however, you take the shots outside which is possibly where I’m going wrong. Thankfully, with a new kitchen, I now have a more inviting backdrop though (and I do own studio lights!). Useful post this. Thanks for hosting #TheList

    • Amy Treasure

      Written on 7th March 2016

      Reply

      Ah lights are amazing, but they can be a pain timewise to set up, no? Just get outside on a slab if you’re short on light :-)

  • Donna

    Written on 6th March 2016

    Reply

    I love behind the scenes photos and completely unrelated but your terrace looks AMAZING! x

  • Sweetima

    Written on 6th March 2016

    Reply

    Loved this! I definitely needed these tips as i am trying to improve my photography, so thank youAlso, your photos are stunning! Really love how bright and colorful they are!

  • Su {Ethan & Evelyn}

    Written on 7th March 2016

    Reply

    Wow! Your photos are so beautiful! I think I need more care in how I present my photos, especially in the food category. I am pinning this! Thank you so much Amy for this insightful tips.

  • Whitney Cratty

    Written on 12th March 2016

    Reply

    Loved the behind the scene post and the way you let us enter your world, your studio, your work. Thanks for sharing best wishes for the book! Roberta

  • Emma T

    Written on 12th March 2016

    Reply

    I’m rubbish at styling and props. I just don’t have anywhere to keep items, but thankfully I don’t do many food posts that need photos.

  • You Baby Me Mummy

    Written on 14th March 2016

    Reply

    I love this post and can’t believe it has taken me so long to comment! You are a very clever lady and your photos are always stunning xxxx

Leave a Reply

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close