Quick and Inexpensive Food Photography – Bake Like a Chef

Quick and Inexpensive Food Photography

Getting your lighting “right” like a photographer can be extremely difficult and take a lifetime to perfect.  Fortunately, we’re not concerned with perfection.  We just want you to share your work so that the Bake Like a Chef Community can provide great feedback.  Our hope is that the following article will get you to “good enough.”  Our goal with food lighting is to help you get closer to a food photo solution so that you can:

  • Get started with little to no money
  • Set your photo shoot up quickly
  • Take consistent and true-to-life photos
  • Take your photo setup down and store it quickly

Some of this requires establishing routine in your life so you can retrieve and return your setup quickly to its home.

If this is helpful to you please make a point of sharing it on social media!

Tips for Making a Good Photo Shoot Happen Every Time

One: Don't procrastinate.

Get an ok shot today in good light today is better than waiting for a perfect shot tomorrow (when you might not be able to guarantee good lighting).  Getting feedback sooner on “good enough” is better than feedback much later on “perfect.”

Two: Scout a good window or light source ahead of time.

Take the basic setup we have below and try it around the building or space where you will practice your baking.  Take an object with you such as an egg, a piece of fruit, your breakfast, etc. and practice taking photos in your desired space.  Try taking photos:

  • At different times of day when speed and timing aren’t an issue.  
  • At the time of day when you will typically have time to practice your baking, more specifically when you will most likely have a final product.  This will help you understand lighting conditions when you will typically have a product ready.
  • In different weather (overcast, sunny, rainy, with snow cover etc).  

In short, know your environment and how the lighting will change on your subject in different conditions.

Three: Practice setting up and taking down quickly. Know your conditions.

So many variables can impact how you shoot your photo.  Is there something that consistently sits on the sill of your favorite window? Is there already a table there? Is the place where you will put your food item at the height of a pet that might want to eat what you place there? Is this room heavily trafficked? Will you have to remove other housemates to use this window? Where is your backup window?  The act of taking a photo shouldn’t be an additional drain on your time and energy.  If you want to be a food photographer, take your time here. If you want to be a chef, get a good photo and move on so you can make the next thing!

Just like cooking you want to have your photo kit setup such that it is easy to retrieve, setup, use, pack-up, and put away.  Mis en Place is as critical here as it is in the kitchen. Learn as you go and always have a backup plan.  If you can leave your photo area set up it will help you with any impromptu photos that you need to take.

Four: Setup, take your photos, and clean up!

Have a neutral test object.  Setup the shot when you aren’t in a rush.  Are you waiting for a shell/crust to cool before you fill and garnish?  Take this time to setup your photo and test all angles.  Depending on the amount of time you have this might also be a great moment to brainstorm creative shots and create a quick shot list.

When the time comes to shoot, capture the following angles:

  • Top down
  • Eye-level side (from multiple sides if it helps better communicate the dish)
  • Customer angle
  • Creative Shot

Getting the top and side shots out of the way first will help you better understand the subject; improve your lighting; and improve customer angle and creative shot.  

Five: Write down the details for each photo.

Keep a journal of your shoots so that you can reference them in the future. Include the weather, which window, lighting setup, and any special settings you may have used on your camera or phone.  It’s also good to take a photo of your light setup per shot.  Share what you find with bake like a chef so we can all grow our abilities to shoot better food photography at home.

Six : Ask a few people for feedback.

Try the following.  

Ask the question: “I’m working on my baking and pastry and want to submit my work for feedback to an online community that supports my growth. Would you mind helping me by tasting my work and answering a few questions?” 

  • What 5 words would you use to describe this?
  • What flavors do you taste?  

Sharing feedback

  • Try to keep your photos at least 1000px by 1000px.  
  • Show the entire dish for all shots (the creative shot is a possible exception).
  • Share the photos on the Bake Like a Chef Feedback Group.  
  • Include the feedback you received during your taste test in post. 

Photo setup. What does it look like?

From this point forward we’re going to focus on lighting setups, and more “show” than “tell.”  Most shots are made with natural lighting and I strongly recommend you use the window + one bounce card setup for your shots.

For some shots I used a relatively inexpensive light kit that I made to help support photos for small dishes like this teacup (2.5″ diameter by 2.5″ tall) and up to a 12″ plate.  The lighting rig of an inexpensive foam-board bounce card and is supplemented with a foam board light (this required some soldering skills).

For now, if you don’t have a lighting rig, get started shooting during the day using a window (see below).

Artificial lighting rig during daylight
Artificial lighting rig in a dark room

Window source with a single bounce card

Here, my subject and card are supported by two stools.  Use anything that you can to make this work.  Clips on chairs, window sills, etc.  

Window source with a side and back bounce card

Two bounce cards with a window.  I’m using a folding bounce card that I custom-built. 

Here, my subject and card are supported by two stools.  Use anything that you can to make this work.  Clips on chairs, window sills, etc.  

Light rig with one bounce card.

Artificial Lighting Rig with a Single Bounce Card (daytime)

Here, my subject and card are supported by two stools.  Use anything that you can to make this work.  Clips on chairs, window sills, etc.  

Customer View

Window Only
Window + One Bounce Card
Window + Two Bounce Cards
Rig + One Bounce Card

Customer View

Window Only
One Bounce Card
Two Bounce Cards
Artificial with One Bounce Card

Top View

Window Only
One Bounce Card
Two Bounce Cards
Artificial with One Bounce Card

Side View

Window Only
One Bounce Card
Two Bounce Cards
Artificial with One Bounce Card

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.