Feast Your Eyes on THIS: Food Photographing Tips from a Food Stylist!

Nicole Young

Ever wonder how some people make their food look so utterly delectable? I was lucky enough to talk to food photography expert Nicole S. Young about her work and how you can make your amateur food photos look like the experts.

Check out these recipes and test out what you've learned: Copycat Portillo's Chocolate Cake, Olive Garden's Capellini Pomodoro Recipe, Dan's Beer and Cheese Soup, Crab and Shimp Salad with Mango, Peg's Chicken Spaghetti


Shalayne Pulia: How did you become a food stylist?

Nicole Young: Well I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘food stylist’ as much as a food photographer. The styling was just a part of being an at-home photographer. My photography is very similar to the way a lot of food bloggers work where they prepare the food themselves and then style and post it on their blogs. I think the one difference for me is that I license my images online. 


Shalayne: What’s a day in the life of a food photographer?

Nicole: I have a space in my house that’s just my office and my studio space primarily for food photography. So the way it works is:

  1. I’ll set everything up on my table set aside just for my photography. I’ll have the concept for what I want to create. 
  2. I’ll set up all my props and my camera and I’ll do a few quick test shots without even any food in the scene and then I go into my kitchen.
  3. I cook and prepare all of the food, I style it and I photograph it. 


It’s probably about a 1-hour process from start to finish. And then I process the photos and put them up on my website. 


Shalayne: What is the most important thing to remember when photographing food?

Nicole: From a photography standpoint, the lighting is definitely the most important thing. Think quality over quantity. I would say the most common light people will use for food photography is either diffused window light (natural light through a window) or off-camera light. It’s gonna be a white light and not, let’s say like a yellowish overhead light, that would be in a lot of typical houses. 


Shalayne: What about someone who’s never photographed food before? Do you have any tips for amateurs who are using Instagram or any other photo sites?

Nicole: You know it’s really kind of the same thing. I have my iPhone with me whenever I’m out eating and if I see a good photo I’ll just take it with my iPhone and throw it up on Instagram or share it on Facebook.  But still the light has to be really good in order for the photo even with iPhone to look really good. If you have good light, you have a good photograph. Remember not to use your flash on your phone or camera. 


Shalayne: Do you use any special apps when you take (pictures) on your phone?

Nicole: Yeah, actually Snapseed is probably the one I use the most. I mean if I have my phone and I want to take one you know let’s say you don’t want to put it on Instagram and use a filter, Snapseed’s probably the one I go to because you can do more clean edits. You don’t always want your food photos to be super stylized. Sometimes you just want them to look like it actually looks when you photograph it. 


Shalayne: What’s your favorite food to style or photograph?

Nicole: I like anything with a lot of texture. Pasta is really fun, you can do a lot with it you know you can add a lot of different ingredients. And let’s see, asparagus, I love photographing asparagus. There’s so much texture and it’s so beautiful. I think I also really like shrimp because it’s so colorful and the texture pairs really well with bright colors. Anything that I can find that has texture and color…is really fun to play around with. 


In her book, “Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots,” Young focuses primarily on the amateur food photographer like bloggers or people just starting out in the world of photography. She has also included a chapter on post-processing (Photoshop), which has been a hit with her readers. 


You can also find her book on www.inkling.com where you will see many added features like interactive slideshows and a search capability. (Not your typical ebook!) The entire book goes for $9.99 or you can purchase specific chapters for only $1.99. You can also find more information and more photos from Young on her website at www.nicolesy.com


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