Planning Your Pictures

Just because you rushed home from work, whipped up dinner, and have 468 chores to do before tucking the kids into bed, doesn’t mean snapping a few pics cuts it when it comes to good photos. Okay, okay: we have ALL done that. But when it comes to the photos that I sit back and am proud of, it’s the ones where I put a little effort in. A little more then a spare napkin and utensil. The ones where I set the mood and build the scene.

This is something I am working on with every post. It is so tempting and easy to just snap a few pretty pictures, and call it a day. The resulting photos will make it onto food sites, and people will comment on how delicious the baked good or savory creation is. But will anyone be really WOWed?

No. No one will be “WOWed” by that. 

I’m writing this at 8:54. There is a cake cooling on my counter. It will be photographed in the morning, because I want a warm glow of natural sunlight in this particular picture, and I am already building the scene in my head. If you take some time to brainstorm your scene, plan your background and props before rushing to snap the picture, the images will be stronger from the ground up.

I’m not telling you to start a design board over on Pinterest for your next batch of cookies. But I am saying, “sit back.” Spend 20 minutes away from the food, imagining the scene you want to create. Add props and take them away in your mind. When the time comes to plate and actually snap the pictures, don’t be afraid to rip down the scene and re-do it if necessary. I always keep spare fresh herbs, cheese, veggies, and anything else that rapidly fades on hand while I’m shooting, so I don’t feel rushed. If that soup melted all of your toppings, start again. It’s okay to take your time.

There are even days when I serve the meal and use the leftovers for photography, knowing that a hot meal in my loved ones’ tummies is far more important than any blog picture. Since I work odd hours and come home in the dark on some nights, I like to plan my images before I even cook the food. A day or two before I cook, I am often arranging the next scene and snapping a quick pic so I remember what I wanted before props get put away for the night. That way, when it does come time to take the pictures, I already have a map of where I need things.

All of this sounds crazy complicated for pictures of food. But good photography is often in the details. For example, these Halloween cookies would not have looked nearly as good if I had shot them just sitting on the wire wrack with a plain wooden background. I added some Halloween props and dimmed the lights to create a spooky setting. That isn’t to say that sometimes I don’t strip it back to all white either. Sometimes I love a clean shot, where nothing but the colors of the food pop.

In this case, it worked perfectly for what I was trying to create. But if I shot all my images on white on white, I can promise they wouldn’t be very fun. Don’t be afraid to look for inspiration. (As all things though, don’t recreate an image crumb for crumb either).

Here are some other fabulous foodies that constantly inspire me with their use of light, textures, and props in their images. All three have distinct styles that you can pick out from the all others on the food sites or Pinterest in a heartbeat. They don’t blend in with the crowd, and their quality drives our eyes directly to their images. So in the end, spend a few minutes brainstorming your pictures. Additional servings, sides, extra ingredients, table linens, and fun dishes all make for great add-ons in your photo.

Remember, not every food photo has to be styled as other popular food bloggers or sites. Let it be your own. So take a few minutes, dig around in your kitchen, and see what you can come up with next time. Be your own, be original, and don’t be afraid to stand out from the pack. No one will get noticed if we are all just putting pastel plates on white boards all the time.


  1. Asiancatering 6 years ago

    , plan your background and props before rushing to snap the picture, the images will be stronger from the ground up.

  2. Thanks for the info.! I’m getting my first DSLR camera next week and can’t wait to start taking pics, but have no idea what I’m doing. Your Halloween pictures were really nice.