15 Ways to Get Better Food Photos from Food Photographer Claire Thomas

15 Ways to Get Better Food Photos from Food Photographer Claire Thomas
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15 Ways to Get Better Food Photos from Food Photographer Claire Thomas

"Most of my shooting I do on my camera phone," food blogger and photographer Claire Thomas tells us. "I take a picture with my iPhone and then one with my Nikon." Whatever photography device you use, these easy tips and tricks from her will help you get mouth-watering photos.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Don't Use Flash

Claire's number one rule is don't use flash. "You might be in a dark restaurant, you might see this beautiful looking thing and you take a photo of it with a flash," Claire proposes. "First of all you've annoyed everyone in the restaurant, but then secondly you end up getting all these weird highlights. It looks kind of greasy. It looks kind of messy. It does not look like what you were hoping."

Image Credit: Getty Images

Be Patient

"If you are in a super dark restaurant and have to take that photo, hold the camera very still (a lot of times I'll put the camera on the table itself and hold it so it is stabilized) and then take a ton of photos in a row—five or six to make sure. Then you find the one that's the sharpest and the most in focus and you use that," Claire recommends.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Have Good Tools

"I love using VSCO because you have so much control, and it's also very user-friendly," Claire shares. "You can change the color, temperature and exposure. You can bring the shadows up. You can really do a lot to make the food very easy to see, even in the worst conditions."

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Lighting can be expensive

"If you want to invest in a really amazing light kit, that is totally fine. For instance, I work as a commercial director, and on commercial sets I definitely use lighting because you have to control the look the entire time. You can definitely create light that feels natural, but that just means you have to be a really good gaffer and you also have to have access to really good light which most people don't." The next best thing, that won't cost you a penny, is natural light.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

3 PM Is the Best Time to Shoot

"If you really do want to commit to being a food photographer, you have to be ok with the fact that you are going to be eating at 3 pm every day. I shoot all my food by natural light," Claire tells us.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Never Shoot In Direct Sunlight

"It is kind of the exact same thing as flash but just a really big flash," describes Claire. "Directional sunlight just doesn't make things look pretty. What you want to do is have it be indirect sunlight."

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Shoot by a Window

Claire shoots all of her food near a window, so that she can "scooch things six inches this way or six inches that way if it is too hot or too directional." She also reminds us to turn off other lights in the room. "Otherwise, you can have light balance issues," she explains. In a nutshell, "use natural light, make sure it's not straight on it, let it work for you and take a ton of photos," Claire quips.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Draw the eye with garnish

Basic food styling can do wonders, and one easy trick is to add garnish. "How do you make chili not look like dog food?" she uses as an example. "You take a piece of cilantro or a piece of cheese or whatever, and you put it on one little perfect section, and you take a close-up shot of that with the focus being on the garnish. What that does is it forces your eye to go directly to the spot which is green or yellow or bright or textural and it is interesting looking."

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Don't worry about a little mess

"I love crumbs. I love mess. It doesn't need to be prissy and fussy. It should look kind of effortless," Claire tells us.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Start with an overhead shot

"A no brainer one is just do an overhead shot. if you don't know what to do, stand over your food and make it really graphic and take a couple shots that way," suggests Claire. "It'll look pretty. It'll look different. It'll have a very graphic feeling to it, and that is a very easy way to shoot your food."

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Shoot Both Overhead and at an angle

No one rule fits all when it comes to the angle at which to take photos of food. That's why Claire always shoots both overhead and at an angle, and then assesses how best to bring the photo to life.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Create Layers in a Food Shot

Sometimes an overhead shot looks flat if the subject is all one color or lacks textural differences, so Claire has an easy trick to build interesting layers in a shot. "I'll come from the side and focus on one element, or take a fork full and pull that into the foreground and focus on that. When you create those kind of dimensions of something in focus and out of focus, it gives the food a cinematic quality and makes it look really beautiful," Claire advises.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Build Your Own Filter

Claire avoids using a preset filter for food photos because it's difficult to get the right look. "It yellows things out too much or muddles the black a bit," she reveals. "The thing with food that you are always struggling with is to get clean, white light and for the shadows not to compensate too much." She uses photo editing application VSCO to build her own filter before sharing edited photos on Instagram. If she does use an Instagram filter, she always goes for Walden.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Symmetry or Asymmetry?

"Sometimes it looks really fabulous if there is a lot of symmetry happening for it to be smack in the center," says Claire. On the other hand, some foods can create a powerful impact if they're positioned off to the side. "It is really fun to play around."

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram

Get experimental

The bottom line is there are no hard and fast rules to instant Instagram appeal, and it's important to try new things. "I just say have fun with it!" says Claire.

Image Credit: kitchykitchen/Instagram


"Most of my shooting I do on my camera phone," food blogger, stylist and photographer Claire Thomas tells us. "I take a picture with my iPhone and then one with my Nikon." Whatever photography device you use, her proven tips and tricks solve common problems like dark lighting and unappealing-looking food. Discover the best time for natural lighting, which photo-editing application she trusts for touch-ups and her one easy trick to spruce up boring food.

Check out the slideshow above to discover 15 easy tips and tricks from Claire Thomas for mouth-watering food photos.

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