From tips and techniques for beginners at food photography to camera and lighting equipment and camera settings you should use, including a full tutorial on both natural and artificial lighting, The Food Photography Book from Nagi of Recipe Tin Eats is an excellent choice for food bloggers looking to up their game.
It’s earned the Blog 2.0 Seal Approval. Read on to see why.
Since I’ve been taking digital food photos on a DSLR for years now, I know many of the things that Nagi teaches in her book but I know them in an intuitive sense. I would have significant difficulty teaching them to someone else.
The Bottom Line
This is a great ebook for you if you’re relatively new to food photography or just want to take better photos using the DSLR camera you already have (or are thinking of buying). Nagi discusses using only commercial grade (not professional grade) cameras and equipment, but the basic photography information is universal.
The price point ($29.00) is higher than other digital photography books I’ve purchased in the past, but it’s the only one that is filled with the practical content a food blogger needs to start taking top quality food photographs. I’ve purchased many, many photography books over my years of blogging. If I had had this resource at the start, I wouldn’t have purchased most of the others.
On the sales page for Nagi’s book, she includes this link to a nice preview download. For sample pages, including the full Table of Contents, click here.
Nagi’s book is broken down into 18 chapters. Here are the highlights, including my assessment of how comprehensive each section is:
In this section, Nagi provides some vbasic information on entry-level DSLR camera bodies and lenses. She provides some good basic tips, fundamental brand information, and some entry-level camera body models. She also discusses some basic information on lenses, including a robust discussion of focal lengths and their effect on the process and the final photo.
As she does throughout the book, the information Nagi provides in this section is specific and highly practical, but not totally comprehensive. I consider that to be a good choice, though, since digital photography is a vast subject. If you try to cover everything, everyone ends up lost in the weeds. 🌱
- White balance: Nagi suggests using automatic white balance to avoid any problems. Since white light comes in a lot of different temperatures, I think she should have covered white balance at least cursorily.
- Aperture (f-stop), Shutter Speed (length of time shutter is open), ISO (sensitivity to available light): she discusses the basics, with visual representations of the effect of changes in each on a photo, including changes in lenses. This section is very helpful.
- Nagi always brings the discussion back to what she herself uses in her photography, which is part of what keeps the whole book very practical and ultimately useful.
- Shooting in Camera RAW versus jpeg: Nagi recommends always shooting in camera RAW, which provides a lot more options in post-processing.
Nagi’s book really shines in the area of lighting on a budget. Light is the cornerstone of good photography, so arguably this is the most important section of the whole ebook. You have to know how to use your camera, for sure, but if the light is wrong or absent, you can’t take a clear photo—or even any photo at all.
In the book, she discusses the following topics in detail:
- Directional lighting, including what angle and direction it should come from;
- Diffusion of harsh lighting with everyday items;
- Her “secret lighting test” which will allows you to quickly determine if your lighting on any given set is optimal;
- Reflectors for backfill (white) and for absorbing light (black);
- Backlighting and side-backlighting, including good tips like not to use backlighting with tall foods that will block the light; and
- Natural versus artificial lighting, including how to create a setup with two Lowel Ego lights (AFFILIATE LINK). This is really key, since many photography books focus on either one or the other. But as a food blogger, you absolutely need to be able to utilize both. And do it without a fully tricked-out, professional studio.
In this section, there is an awesome chart where Nagi indicates all the best camera angles for a million different types of food. It’s a great thing to print out and use regularly, particularly as you’re getting your feet wet.
She also provides great tips, like:
- The flatter the food or its container, the higher the camera angle should be;
- The most useful angle to show off the inside, outside and surface of a dish is halfway between eye level and overhead.
Nagi lists about 15 tips, and they’re all good to keep in mind when styling food. For example, she mentions:
- Using garnishes to make brown food more visually appealing; and
- Setting up a shot with dummy stand-ins for temperamental food like ice cream or something that oozes, like a molten lava cake
If I had had a list like this when I first started out, I would have saved so much money! The simple fact that props should largely be white, plain and small, with a low rim on plates, is worth the $29 the book costs.
As always, Nagi lists incredibly practical tips for getting great action shots of serving food, pulling apart cheesy breads, etc.
Background and Shooting Surfaces
If you only have one prop, it should be a plain, low shine shooting surface in cool tones. You’ll use it again and again. The book also has details on alternative surfaces like fabric, a used baking tray, and crumpled paper.
The book has a very comprehensive list of rules for composing beautiful photography shots, like the Rule of Thirds, shooting for the edit, photographing elements in odd numbers (it’s more visually pleasing), and placing the hero object off-center. There’s lots more in the book.
This one really surprised me. The book has an extremely detailed discussion of how to edit your food photos both in iPhoto (a nice budget-conscious option) and in Photoshop. I’ve been using Photoshop for years, and I learned new things that will my edits faster and more effective.
This section is self-explanatory. Even once you think you’ve learned everything there is to know about food photography and how to get started creating beautiful photos for your blog, it’s good to know what to do when things don’t go as planned.
Affiliate Structure and Permissions
If you use our Blog 2.0 affiliate link to purchase The Food Photography Book, we’ll receive a generous 50% commission payment on the sale. The commission doesn’t increase the cost to you. The program is run through E-junkie.
Excerpts used with the permission of Nagi Maehashi, creator of Recipe Tin Eats.