The Evolution of a Food Photo

The Evolution of a Food Photo |

Just because I think it’s funny, today I’m showing you the evolution of one of my recent food photos. It’s for the eCookbook I’m writing and it’s delicious and healthy and it’s made in the crockpot and OH YEAH BABY.

Which reminds me, if you wanna know what’s the dealio with the eCookbook and see some behind the scenes…

Pinch of Yum VIP Team

join the Pinch of Yum VIP Team on Facebook! It’s really fun because, well, you guys have all been awesome. So newcomer, I’m welcoming you with a virtual side hug. And that was not awkward at all.

Okay, so back on track: today I wanted to just walk you through this recent photo shoot I had because when I really stopped and looked at this progression of photos in Lightroom, I was like, Lindsay. WHAT. What are you doing?! It’s such a funny and weird progression. But yet so normal for me. Is it normal for you? This is why I like to start conversations about workflow and behind the scenes stuffsies, because then I can figure out if I’m normal or not.

The captions under each photo reveal what I would have been (er, was) saying under my breath as I was taking these shots. In the end it all worked out. In the meantime, well, you’ll see.

So let’s dive right in with this mediocre first set up.

Evolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food PhotoEvolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food PhotoEvolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food Photo Evolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food Photo Evolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food Photo
Evolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food Photo Evolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food PhotoEvolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food Photo Evolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food Photo

Evolution of a Food Photo |

Evolution of a Food Photo

(For more specific information on the editing process, check out the eBook link at the end of this post! There are lots of video tutorials for editing in Photoshop and Lightroom included with my food photography eBook, Tasty Food Photography!)

So am I weird or … am I weird? Okay fine don’t tell me. But do tell me – do you say things like this in your head as you photograph your food? Do you rearrange and re-sprinkle cheese and get all worked up over bowl colors? Because these voices in my head are sometimes overwhelming. I MEAN FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY. Food photography voices.

At the end of the day, I do like to eat healthy soup made in the crockpot that tastes delicious with Parm on top, so I guess I am at least 20% normal.

Like food photography? —> I’ve got more stuff for ya.

Household Items for Food Photography


Lastly: are you looking for a practical resource with simple tips and tricks? —-> Tasty Food Photography is right up your alley.

Tasty Food Photography on an iPad

Tasty Food Photography - Buy Now

Thankz friends! I can feel my foggy head cold lifting just by talking about food photography on this happy Tuesday. Naturally.

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  1. Totally do the same back and forth thing! No, you are not alone and totally normal in your thinking and editing as you go. I love white dishes :) Thank you for sharing!

  2. I bought your book few days back and it is a lifesaver!!! Thank you so so much and a BIG virtual hug to you as well :)

  3. Love this post so much! Thanks so much – virtual hug right back at ya!
    I’m just getting into food photography and unfortunately I thought my to-and-fro was just me being lame. But turns out even the experts do it!

    The Macadame. xx

  4. You are normal! I obsess over props & garnishes every single time.

    Your colors look so nice and bright! I’ve noticed that the color of my photos looks fine on my blog, but when my pictures are published to sites like Foodgawker, they appear much duller (since I’m obsessive, I checked your FG gallery and a couple other people’s and compared them to the blog shots, and yours and theirs look the same both places). Any idea why this might be? I just switched to shooting in raw with a DSLR, so maybe I am doing something wrong…

    Love these posts on food photography!

    • YES! I had the same problem and it drove me crazy. The solution was uploading really small sized images so that FG didn’t do any compression. I think they have some kind of auto compression on their site because they have so many photos, so the larger your photo, the more likely that it would be compressed and therefore get some unnatural coloration. I just figured out the exact dimensions and uploaded photos of that size (it’s either 250×250 or 200×200, I can’t remember).

  5. That’s pretty much how it goes down in my house. Only I say them very loudly and Josh keeps asking why we’re yelling.

  6. Such a great post and so glad to see that I am not the only one, sitting in front of my computer talking at it while my husband looks at me like I am crazy (then again he does that he even when I am not in front of a computer….over it.)

  7. Ahhh the white bowl! I have so many amazing looking bowls, but when it comes down it it, white always looks the the best 😀 Love this breakdown. PINNING FO SHO!

  8. Love this post! Thank you so much – you and poy team rock. As a newbie food blogger, I’ve found your blog, recipes and photos, etc so inspiring. Keep up the awesome work chef! :)

  9. This is totally how it goes for me too! I’m usually trying to work as fast as possible to catch the light before it disappears : ) I can’t wait until summer so I can shoot until 8pm!

    • Abby, did you see this post I did on artificial light? I am just thinking of you because I do the same thing with scrambling for the natural light. But maybe this will help in the winter months!

  10. Very fun, thanks for sharing.

  11. N I thought it was just me who doesn’t get it right with the first photo! I recently started blogging & have been following you for a while now. My food photography has improved tremendously but I go through the same process most of the times and I had begun to wonder if it’s just me! Its good to know that you need more than 1 shot and 2 food styles too!
    Thanks Lindsay! :)

  12. Love this! I blog on the recipes of my travels and these tips are definitely helpful. I usually don’t go through as many changes as you do though! Definitely need to pick up more dishes and silverware.

  13. Too funny, and so true! I found your ebook very useful, thanks for sharing all your tips with us :)

  14. I do the same thing! It’s a little different because I’m taking pictures of people as opposed to food so it’s a little less controlled, but I definitely will noticing things in the first photo and make changes — either take things out, put something else in, change the angle or camera settings. Often times my last photo in a sequence is my favorite for this reason!

  15. I absolutely love this! Sounds exactly like me :) I don’t think I’ve ever photographed something NOT in a white dish. Quick question: what does editing the curves do? I’m all for white balance and color but I’ve never toyed with curves!

    I seriously need to buy Tasty Food Photography. I don’t know why I’m waiting… all I’ve heard is good things!

    • Curves is really fun – it basically deals with contrast and light. I usually pull up on the middle (lightens it), down a little bit on the left side (defines shadows and contrast a bit more), and then adjust till I like it. For some dark photos I end up pulling up on the shadows a bit. :)

  16. Great tips on food photography! Thanks, love the transformation!

  17. I am forwarding this to my guy right now! I’m not the only one who thinks like this! I do scrutinize, but not nearly as much as I should because my photos sometimes come up short… Maybe I’ll take an extra minute or two from now on. :)

    • This was actually over the course of two separate days. That first picture is the set up I was using the first day, and then I ended up not liking any of the final photos which is why I moved to the second set up. It doesn’t usually matter that much to me, but I wanted to have one that I felt good about for the ecookbook. :)

  18. As a total rookie in the food photography game, it’s so interesting to see your process. I tend to take photos from a lot of different angles, but only change my props/background up maybe 2-3x with each dish. I’m also currently stuck with using an old phone camera which is NOT ideal haha. Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!

  19. Love it! I definitely do the same thing – but maybe that’s because I get most of my photo knowledge from your Tasty Photography eBook? So I’m channeling you a little bit?

    I actually take most of my pictures while the house is empty so there’s a lot of mumbling under my breath. And sometimes yelling when the sun doesn’t agree with me.

  20. Quick question for you. Are you taking these, uploading them to your computer to view, then going back and making adjustments? Or are you doing this via the camera preview screen? I struggle with this type of though process and I think I’m trying to do too much before I start looking at pictures on my computer.

    Thanks for this post!! Helpful to see your method!


    • Well, both, but I don’t usually tether to my computer and I usually just use the camera screen because my I end up doing more adjustments with composition which I feel like I can get a good feel for just by looking at the screen. Lighting is a little more touchy though and I think it helps to view it on your actual computer screen if that’s what you’re trying to adjust.

  21. Great advice, as always! I really like to see other photographer’s progression of shots as well as the set up. I used your trick of using a cookie sheet for a background on a post I published today. It works great every time! Now my next step is to try out editing software. I use PicMonkey at the moment but will have to read through your ebook again to gain confidence before trying Lightroom or Photoshop.

  22. I love these posts- they are really helpful. Thanks F

  23. This is a great post Lindsay, I do exactly the same thing talking to my husband though as we shoot together. Getting the angles of the silverware just right to suit me is sometimes the hardest part of the food styling for me. My husband sometimes goes to sleep while I’m still trying to get it right :)

  24. Ahh.. the adventures of food photography. The things I go through while shooting a photo are unbelievable! Sometimes after i shoot like 50 pics and give up I go back with a new approach to photographing the food and it usually all works out in the end! Food blogging is all about trial and error and more importantly, taking a TON of pics until you get things right!

  25. I hope this won’t be the last of the behind-the-scenes type of posts. I absolutely love your blog and love seeing how you do what you do, since you are beyond amazing.

  26. Great post – I too have the voices in my head although there is usually cursing and heavy breathing involved as I race back and forth from the sunroom to the kitchen because I’m never prepared enough and I’m racing the light and trying not to let the food get too cold. It’s not a pretty sight. :-)

  27. I kinda do the same thing … still working on my photos … but the voices in my head are interrupted by my ‘out loud’ voice saying things like “No! Kitty!” and “Git Down!” and “Bad Dog!” Then … “Honey, will you do something with these animals?!”

    I’m almost ready to trade in the pets for another round of toddlers … but not quite!

  28. Ohmygosh totally laughing my way through your entire post. That’s completely me too!!! Especially with the add more props, oops too many sprinkles, wait that spoon needs to be tilted just 1 more millimeter, move the camera angle a teeeeeny bit more… I’m such a perfectionist, so it’s really refreshing to hear that I’m not the only one who has random thoughts subconsciously running through my head during a photo shoot!

    P.S. LOVE this type of photography progression post. I really hope you’ll do more in the future!!

  29. Food photography voices. Glad I have a name for that now. And yes, I do the bowl/plate change and prop change and readjust how the food ‘falls’ onto each other and then scrap it all when I change my mind again. That’s the toughest part about food photography, having to do several takes and then look at the used useless plate or bowl and go “Gee, now I have yet another thing to wash”.

  30. I am constantly looking for cute new props for when I take pictures, and at the end of the day, I always say, “Nope. Lindsay always says white is best.” And even when I try to step outside of that ‘white box’ I seem to be in … I almost always come back to the white in the end.
    Love this progression of pics. Feel free to do this more often! Also, feel free to share more and more and more of these food photography tips. I love ’em all. Also, if you are ever in Ohio, I would love take a photography class. From you. Please??? :)

    • Ah – I love a good colored bowl but IMO it’s really hard to find ones that work well for food photography. When you do, they’re like a little gem, but in the meantime white is always a safe bet!

  31. So glad that even the professionals have to adjust for white balance in post. It’s always so frustrating to me to get that balance and color right! Thanks for posting so I know I’m not alone! :)

  32. I’m so glad for this post, I totally do this! And if this is not normal, wutevz. We can be 80% abnormal together :)

  33. I love the styling aspect of things and tend to go with what feels natural and stick with it … although I’m sure I’m probably deluded and need to play around with things a bit more! What I am more aware of struggling with though is the lighting (like almost everyone else!!) as I can’t buy lighting equipment right now as I”m travelling (and, well, it’s WINTER!) and also getting things sharp enough. I do have a tripod and know how to use it but I feel so much freer and easier without it. Do you use a tripod for all of your photos, Lindsay?? :-)

    • Actually I hardly ever use one for the reasons you mentioned. I try to keep my shutter speed at 60 or higher so as not to get too much blur. I also do a lot of focusing by pressing halfway down, and then moving up a bit to reframe the picture while still keeping the focal point, and then shooting. I think that has a technical name but I can’t think of it at the moment…

      • Thanks for the tips, Lindsay … especially regarding shutter speed. I usually shoot in aperture priority so don’t check the shutter speed as often as I should, so when I’m struggling for light the sharpness is a bit hit and miss. I often do the focusing and moving thing but usually to control where the focus is rather than to help with sharpness, but good to know that it does help. Thanks again!

  34. I love that you share these behind the scenes photos! Sometimes I think I’m crazy that I spend so much time in finding the right background or angle :)

  35. Love your food photography tips Lindsey :) Going through your Tasty Photography book this month too. Thank you for the practical tips that anyone can use. It’s helped a lot.

  36. Love the progression photos!!! It’s always fun to learn from other food bloggers!

  37. It is comforting to see those last two images “Edit white balance, curves and color”.

  38. Wow! Love seeing this process. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Thanks for sharing this post. Love seeing your thought process behind your fab photos.

  40. Love this – thank you for sharing your process. I need to do more on the “trying more than once” thing. I sometimes move too quickly, and get nervous that people are ready to eat, and I’m still taking photos. Maybe I should just call dinner later, and take my time on the photography!

    Thank you again :)

  41. The biggest challenge in adding food blogging to our routine this month has been capturing images of the final dish WHILE getting a warm dinner out on time. Appetizers have proven to help, but it seems I just have to make some dishes twice. They don’t allow for a warm dinner plus “photo evolution.” Maybe with practice….

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m right there with you. My kiddo gets frustrated, “But I’m HUUUNGRRRYY””…. “BUT I DIDN’T GET THE SHOT RIGHT!!!!” Ugh…

    • Hi Mark! I talk about this a little bit in my ebook, but one thing I’ve done is eat first and then shoot the remaining food after dinner. With hot melted cheese or certain foods, it’s not always possible. But with salads or other dishes, you can reliven them with a little water or oil spray and shoot it even when it’s cold without any consequence to how it looks in the photo. Something to think about! :)

  42. I love these kinds of posts and would love to see more in the future! I don’t have a ton of props so it’s always great to hear what your favorites are. Thanks!

    • Thanks Katie! I recently bought some tiny little flat white dishes for garnishes, they’re like mini dipping bowls, like what you would get at a sushi restaurant for your soy sauce, but I’m using them in almost all my photos for the “extras” and toppings! A must have!

  43. Maybe I’ll consider buying Lightroom . I’m using Picmonkey to edit my photos , hey , it’s free 😉 I’ll pin this post , okay ? Thanks !

  44. Thanks so much to sharing al these tips. They are really helpful…. and i think that the suop was fantastic.

    Saluti dell’Italia!

  45. Bahaha YES! Exactly! I always look back at my photo shoots and realize I’ve changed bowls, props, and backgrounds quite a few times before I’m happy! Love knowing I’m not the only one =) xo

  46. Thank you for all your posts about photography. I just found your website and I read all your posts about taking pictures. I’m definitely going to implement your suggestions. I’m a new blogger and I will take all the advice I can get! Not only did I pin all your posts, I also bookmarked it for the future!

  47. I’ve just read and taken notes from Tasty Food Photography – what an amazing book. And seeing this type of progression post really helps me to see more of your thinking – it’s like having a coach by my side. I truly appreciate your generosity is sharing what you know, Lindsay!

    Any more photography on the horizon?

  48. Yes, yes, yes. The internal monologue is just like me! Glad to know I’m not alone!

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  50. haha! i love it! great idea to document all the changes… it’s fun what makes the final cut! love those geometric cheese slices, such a nice graphic element! ^__^ dang i want soup now.

  51. In the Army we had a saying 7P’s which means Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

    Sitting down and spending 15 minutes thinking about what you are about to do will save you a lot of trial and error. And the first thing to worry about in any photo setup isn’t the propping etc. its the exposure. you nail down the proper exposure and white balance before you even bring the food onto the set.

  52. Hilary Hamilton says:

    Love this post. For someone who has no idea how to edit photos of food… have any tutorials for lightroom?!

  53. I joined your VIP group although this post was from a year ago so I am not sure if it is still a thing. I have thoroughly enjoyed your photography posts. I recently joined Food Blogger Pro after blogging for a few years (not very seriously at the beginning) anyway, I am always late to the party. 😉 Even when I think I have things figured out, I realize there is SO much to learn (and yes, this is what I am doing on a Friday night while my hubby and kids play monopoly. Ha!).

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