7 Blog Photography Food / Styling Tips

Mon 23rd, Apr, 2012

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G’day Beach Cottage ladies, hope your weekend was good…guess what we have a newly painted wall, haha I am not telling you what colour it is yet!


I haven’t blogged any how-to-blog / blog tips lately and I have had quite a few questions about photography & styling vignettes and food in the last few months, so I thought I would tell you what I have learnt along the way…I am no expert, I repeat I am no expert, but I do enjoy it and I have learnt a few things as I have gone along…

Below are the things I have picked up re taking photos for your blog…here I used food styling to illustrate my thoughts but it works exactly the same and can be applied to other areas of blog photography.


1. Light

The oldie but goodie that everyone talks about as if it is a magical pill that will solve all your photography problems.  Guess what?  It will!

Natural light is what I do, I don’t know anything about artificial lighting and my guess is I never will…never say never don’t they say ;-)

Where I live, light is mostly, good – bright, crisp clear days in my living room or kitchen means the light is nearly always good to shoot in, at the least it is ok and workable.

The key for me with vignettes and taking photos of food is getting good light, so find out where your good light area is, even if you have a dark home with a different climate to mine, you can find a window where the light will be good.


2. Position

I have learnt that photos are best for me in the sitting room, which has a big window or the kitchen under the window.   Plus because this is separate to the Family Room, it is, most of the time, ahem, pretty tidy so it’s easy to work in, I certainly don’t have the luxury of a studio (hello Summer House) so the Sitting Room works well for me.

I also like to shoot outdoors but not on a super bright, super sunny day…this makes the light too hard…with harsh shadows and very contrast-y…this sounds much more complicated than it is…take a photo outside on a bright day, look at the picture and it won’t need any more explanation.

So find your good spot…it may be a little area under a window or a whole room..it has to work for you and not involve to much stressing


3. Practice  Practice Practice and then some

I shudder at some of my early photography, particularly of food, it’s tricky, and I am highly critical of it, at the moment I am heavily into recipes & photography and am not happy with how most of them turn out…I must say I have been bitterly disappointed with some of my results but have blogged them anyway  and I guess that is part of it…learning and practicing – that is what floats my boat in life…I love learning new things….

you can see here one of my first food photos of my Go-To Muffin recipe…the light is pretty awful – now I know how to avoid that most of the time!

but here it’s better…it’s because the day was bright and clear, the blinds were pulled up and the table was bathed in nice light….




4. Props & Texture

You don’t need anything fancy, I use mostly just what we have in the house (but I am a serial china collector as you know) but I do now also keep my eye out for things that I wouldn’t normally buy for food styling and vignettes…in particular that would be china with patterns…I love white but often when I am messing around taking photos for a recipe there is nearly always a need for some colour and pattern….see how all these photos are very white, they could do with a bit of colour….but you have to get that right and I think that comes from experimenting…nowadays I am constantly on the lookout for different patterns and colours in a plate, bowl or cup, just to add that little bit of interest to my pictures..best places I have found for this, dollar shops, charity shops and Target (changes up their china range a lot and caters for many different tastes/styles)

Here the overall feeling is white but the pattern from the china adds interest & colour



Texture is big I think, whether you are taking a photo of some butter or a little vignette on your coffee table…I have learnt to add something, whether that be a shell or a piece of ripped baking paper

Here butter looked boring but with a bit of scrunched up paper texture and a bit of interest arrived to the scene…



5. The Overhead Shot

this is the easiest to practice with I think and a lot easier than trying to get the composition right with a shot like the one above…it’s easier to fiddle around looking down ….




6. Different Heights

This can prove to be a difficult one and you have to try a few different shapes and sizes until it feels right…I normally go in a three..so here the sugar in jar is first ‘height’, jug is second and eggshells the lowest are third…



7. The lowdown

This is my favourite photography shot of all, I love it whatever the setting and I love seeing other images like this, I just get down low baby low and shoot and go and hope for the best, often that means it goes wrong and turns out awfully but it’s worth it for me to spend some time lying on the floor with my camera…even better when it’s in the garden taking a photo of a flower Winking smile


So there are my blog photography / styling tips, let me know yours in the comments if you’d like to share…

oh and re yesterday and the emails I have had regarding blogging exercise plan etc, I will be adding it soon ladies, thanks for the feedback…I haven’t emailed many of you back yet, apologies, on the way





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50 Responses to “7 Blog Photography Food / Styling Tips”

  1. Selby says:

    Lovely tips. I would add if your styling anything reflective- ie shiny metal, watch what colour your wearing or you’ll get color throw in the reflection & check your reflective item to make sure your not in shot unless you should be:)

    • sarah says:

      thanks yes I have been caught out with the reflection thing showing me not looking ahem good! xo

      • Selby says:

        Hehe yes me too! Hate when you don’t realize till your half packed up as I have done several times!:)

      • Carin says:

        That just makes me think of the guy who tried to sell a metal kettle on ebay a few years back and the kettle showed his naked, pot-bellied reflection *shudder* lol. Yours can’t have been as bad as that lol

  2. Marnie says:

    I always love your photos Sarah. Keep them coming please.

    I don’t really have any tips, except I do love using Macro when photographing anything. As for lighting, natural is always a good choice, but good ole sunny Melbourne doesn’t always play nice. I just set up studio lights for portraits (mainly for my beauty & make-up posts), so when you’re back in town…..(I don’t intend to be falling off anymore ladders either, so I might actually get to catch up…one day)
    x Marnie

    • sarah says:

      hmmm love to hear more on your macro journey marnie…

      and could you please enlighten me as to your studio lights (no worries if you are not keen to share), even tho I love natural light I like to know more :-)

      yep hopefully no more ladder falling xo

  3. Beth says:

    Thank you Srah, this was really helpful. I’m almost shuddering thinking about the food images that I have posted…
    I’m afraid that I can’t offer any pearls of wisdom except keep the kids out of the kitchen otherwise you won’t have any shots of the finished products!
    Have a great week, hopefully the rains will stop down your way.

    • sarah says:

      haha Beth, too funny…I have had lots of times where I have made something and hoped to blog it ….to come home to it vanished from thin air! …at least they like it I suppose xo

  4. Liz says:

    Natural light is the way to go! Your shots are always so interesting. You’re right; the colors and texture you use attract the eye. Add to that the beautiful composition and depth of focus and we keep coming back for more. That beautiful little china bowl is a show stopper. Thanks for sharing your tips and giving us glimpses of your growing houseware and china collection. :)

  5. just beautiful Sarah – thanks for sharing. (i’m one of those unlucky folks with a dark house – at least it’s nice and cool in summer!)

    • sarah says:

      Fiona, do you have a skylight…we just installed one in the middle of the house before the extension where it was fairly dark…has made a HUGE difference , can’t believe we lived without it for so long x

      • we have a massive skylight in our windowless bathroom that is incredible and we have another smaller skylight (about 1m by 30cm) in our dark dining room but the study area of the house is dark. it will all change when we do our next round of renovations next year. the back of our house is quite dodgy as it’s been extended several times years ago by previous owners and not done well. i can’t wait till we fix it all up! at the moment i’m just making the best of what we’ve got.
        doesnt help that today is dark and dismal our way….

      • sarah says:

        right so you know how good they are…I am planning more…

        it’s dismal here too and I had planned to do some photography ;-(

  6. Janelle says:

    Who knew some eggs and butter could look so good?! Love reading your photography tips Sarah which you so kindly do in ‘normal everyday’ language. I’m still on L plates with my big girl camera and unfortunately dont have the patience to read the instruction manual. Plus its not nearly as pretty as your blog!! Also loving that little patterned bowl!! Yummy!…xx

    • sarah says:

      Janelle, I tell you what I was the same withe the manual…but if you can force yourself to read it things will change! I couldn’t even look at mine at first but I broke it down in easy little steps…with a cup of tea I would just say ‘right I will read about xxx’ just a few pages with the camera on my lap and playing…totally worked x

      • Janelle says:

        Little steps with a cup of tea….I think thats sounding do-able. You really DO know how to keep things real! Thankyou for the constant inspiration! xx

  7. Kirsty says:

    Great advice Sarah, I had posted some photo composition on my blog last Friday that might help a little too. I’m lucky that my husband is very knowledgeable with the technical side of photography/DSLR’s so he can always help me when I get stuck on something!

    I recently invested in a Canon 430 EXII Speedlight (one of those big flashes that attach to the top of the camera) while I don’t use it to photograph rooms it’s great for food/people photography indoors, you aim it at the ceiling and it bounces perfect lighting all over the room that doesn’t have that ‘flash’ look. You’re so right that practice is key! xo K

  8. Neen says:

    Luuuurve your photos, great handy tips especially the ‘eye level’ shots, thankyou. You are being a tease though….which colour did you choose for re-paint in bedroom ???? Please share, please, please……

  9. Rukmini Roy says:

    Beautiful tips Sarah. In fact even I do natural lights…And if I am home I try and do the golden hours too at times. There is nothing like natural lighting. Also, I am an os fan…I seriously love the whole scattered platter with the bg and the contrast shot from above. It gives a picture so much depth.

    The word depth again reminds me of the depth of field photography. I love DOF as well which you do very well, I must admit. Have you ever thought of signing some coastal photographs and giving it away? :) I’ll enter the giveaway if you ever do that.

    Rukmini :)

    • sarah says:

      hmmm no I have never thought of doing that, thanks for the idea Rukmini!

      I forgot to mention the golden hour, love shooting with that on the beach…had some great and differing results, though out there I also like middle of the day, which I think most real photographers don’t, but I like my pics overly bright!


      • Rukmini Roy says:

        You know what? I DIG high key. I like my whites to be very white and blacks to be very black with hints. I love to go high on the midtone…it somehow give photographs that crisp and clean factor. You are right about the mid day light…it defines objects very well.

        I have been shooting with a 1000D and SX130…hopefully this year I’ll shift to a Rebel. Which camera so you use? I love the tinge and the tone of your photographs. Is there a special lens you use?

  10. Surely Sarah says:

    Thanks for these great tips. I had fun on the weekend mucking around taking photos of some vintage teacups we were given for our wedding. So much fun with my mum’s fancy camera and some natural light!
    I especially like the tip regarding heights and keeping them stepped to create interest. Gold.

  11. tinafreysd says:

    I really appreciate his kind of tips..I had fun reading on it..Hope you will continue sharing with us…Thanks for sharing..

  12. Love your pics and tips. I only have an i-phone which I am experimenting with to take photos and am addicted to instagram. I’m going to try some of your tips and see how I go. You pics are always so fresh looking.

    • sarah says:

      I take a lot with my iPhone but it is a different learning curve…actually love the quality for quick food snaps and also mega-easy to get an overhead shot with an iphone

      good luck with it x

  13. Tammi says:

    Having been an avid Beach Cottage reader for a few years now I have enjoyed seeing you go from strength to strength not only in your writing style but also in your photograph Sarah. You just keep getting better and better :)
    I love that a lot of your tips can be applied to real life too.

  14. Ellie says:

    What a coincidence. I annoyed my daughters at the weekend by dragging them away from a game they were playing and making them stand by the livingroom window so I could photograph them in the sunshine. They thought I was bonkers as I asked them questions to distract them from what I was doing so I could get a natural look in the photo. But I did get some lovely pics. What you say is so true – you can’t beat natural light. And I love seeing your old photos because that shows how much you have learned – a great inspiration for people like me who know very little.
    Thanks for sharing.

    ps. Do I get the feeling you might be working on a cookery book? If not, you should!!

  15. rebecca says:

    Your pictures are always so crisp and fresh looking…. I love them.. I have just spent the weekend in our garden in the Sunshine Coast hinterland taking photos of all things flora and fauna. Out of about thirty shots only five are worthy of being a screen saver. I discovered a tiny green tree frog on my poinciana but unfortunately is out of focus despite the light and colour being perfect… oh dear I guess I need to upgrade from my Canon powershot A520.

  16. Myrtle says:

    They thought I was bonkers as I asked them questions to distract them from what I was doing so I could get a natural look in the photo. Thanks for the great tips.

  17. Cheryl says:

    This is a great post. Often I am caught short, and don’t prepare my shots. I am going back to reread this!! Thank you!!

  18. Carla says:

    Hello, I m not receiving your e-mails . Do you know why?
    I think there is a problem. But I don’t know how to fix. I try to sign again.
    But its say I was already signup.

  19. Myrrtle says:

    Great tips.. I am sure a lot of people would definitely want to use these tips here.. Thanks for the help..

  20. Some great tips. I loved seeing that Im on the right track as I had started to think some of those things especially the overhead or lowdown shots but I ultimately really need a good camera. Hopefully soon. Do you have tips on the choice? Fiona

  21. samantha says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, I’m always trying to improve my photography, it must take you forever doing a food post, I’ve done a couple my self and it seems to take forever.

  22. Deanne says:

    thanks for the great tips Sarah, love that bowl!!!

  23. alison says:

    Thanks Sarah. I love reading about how people develop a skill like you have done. It’s a great reminder to us with perfectionist tendencies that immediate success in something is not the norm. This is why I love your blog…it’s real…and funny…and entertaining.


  24. Carin says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My photography, and especially my food photography, could really do with some help, so always grateful for your tips and tricks.

    Btw, I’m having a heck of a job getting onto your blog lately. That swirly round thingy (whatever it is called) just keeps on going, and going. Refreshing doesn’t work. I have had to go through all kinds of hopps to get onto your site, which is why I am so late to the party. I think the problem is my end, but just wanted to let you know in case it is your end and you notice a lot of regulars going missing….

  25. Liz says:

    It’s a great reminder to us with perfectionist tendencies that immediate success in something is not the norm. Thanks for letting me stopped by.

  26. Jam says:

    I think the problem is my end, but just wanted to let you know in case it is your end and you notice a lot of regulars going missing….Thanks for the reminders.

  27. Rigel says:

    Hi Sarah

    Love this post. The tips are great! I was wondering what camera you use? I really need to upgrade mine (I’m just using a sony Cyber Shot or instagram on my iphone). I’m not getting the detail I’m after and really want to take my images to the next level.

    Again, thanks for sharing your knowledge!


  28. Thanks for sharing Sarah, beautiful photos as always. I love so much visiting and staring at gorgeous photos.

  29. Karen says:

    this is a great post, thank you for sharing your tips and techniques! I love your blog…so glad I found it. I have a beach cottage too and you’re style is very similar to mine :)