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Food photography mistakes

If you are a beginner in food photography, as we all were, the chances to make some mistakes are high.

I know I was making many mistakes too, but with time and practice, I improved a lot. In this article, I would like to highlight some common mistakes you should avoid. I hope you will find it useful and if you've done any from the below don't do this again.

1. Shooting in JPEG.

I remember when I bought my 1st camera I had no idea there is something like RAW, I knew JPG only. I also had no idea how important the differences are, especially when it comes to professional photography. After reading many useful articles from different photography forums, I understood that there is an option to capture the images in RAW format. Now that I understand the differences let me explain what is the RAW format in digital photography and what are its advantages and disadvantages when compared to JPEG.

A RAW image is a file that contains unprocessed or minimally processed data from a digital camera’s sensor. A RAW image needs to be post-processed in software before it is ready to be printed, shared or shown on a display device. The JPEG files however can be easily opened, viewed and printed by most image-viewing and editing programs, a RAW is a format that is tied to a specific camera model.

As you can see well edited RAW images (1st and 3rd) can look beautiful after the post-editing process (2nd and 4th). So don't get scared when you download your RAW files to your computer for the 1st time. They will be ugly ;) but you can edit them the way you like and in your own style.

Advantages of RAW Format

  • more shades, range and colour gamut,

  • can adjust colour space after image capture,

  • finer control and adjustment potential

  • better sharpening potential,

  • and can be used to convert to other RAW formats.

Disadvantages of RAW Format

  • must be post-processed,

  • requires more storage,

  • hard to open without dedicated software,

  • and due to the larger file sizes, the backup procedure takes much more time.

So RAW provides far more image information and allows you to capture more details, and more colour data for you to work with during the editing process. Even if it requires more storage space, it's worth, it because you have more flexibility for editing and creative control.

2. Wrong Image Composition.

Photo composition is how a photographer arranges all the elements within their frame. When we learn we naturally make mistakes and poor image composition is one of the most common photography mistakes made by all photography beginners.

You can’t capture a good picture just by pressing the shutter button. You need to compose the different elements in the scene to get a good shot. Well-composed scenes will always be more engaging, that's why it's important to know how to build a scene and what techniques to use. That’s why in food photography we work based on composition.

When you plan your scene, you have to start with planning your composition. It's important to choose the arrangement best dedicated to your story. Each composition has a different shape and leads the viewer's eyes to different points of the image.

In the beginning, it's essential to get familiar with the basics, to continue to more complicated compositions. It's also crucial to know and understand where to place the hero dish to bring all attention to it.

Basic compositions:

  • The rule of thirds

  • The golden triangle

  • The rule of odds

  • The golden spiral

  • The Phi grid

  • Negative space

Photos in the order from the list above.

All the compositions with a grid on them from the above are included in Lightroom in the crop section. This will help you to learn how to place your items to follow the basic composition rules.

More advanced compositions:

  • "L" shape

  • "C" shape

  • "S" shape

  • Leading lines

To improve your images, start by learning the basic compositions, with time you can start composing more advanced setups. You can also analyse other photographers' work and learn from it. Remember, practice makes perfect. Give yourself some time.

3. Shooting in Auto Mode.

At the beginning of my photography journey, I never bothered much about the camera's different modes than AUTO, and it was wrong. Auto mode is handy when it comes to fast-moving projects, eg. restaurant photography or event photography when you work against the clock and you have to capture a lot of images. Photos on auto mode are still in RAW format, so obviously you can still edit them as you like. I encourage you to work in MANUAL mode and learn what ISO, aperture and shutter speed are (I will talk about it in my next newsletter).

Working in MANUAL mode gives you more control much better than in AUTO mode. If you haven't used it yet, it's time to start using it now.

4. Wrong White Balance Settings.

White balance is a vital camera setting that allows you to properly calibrate your camera in order to achieve your desired image. It plays an important role in the images you capture.

The reason why we should set the white balance properly comes down to the colour of the light against the subject. Whether working with natural light or artificial, light can come in a wide variety of intensities, values, and temperatures.

These varying colour temperatures affect the look of your image unless you properly set the white balance. Be aware that it is possible to improperly white balance a camera as well.

There are three ways to calibrate this balance of most cameras, though some cameras may only offer one option: Auto, presets, and manual.

Most of the time I work on Auto White Balance Settings and with the RAW format you can fix the camera failure during post-processing.

The above images present 3 different white balance settings. 1st image is too cold, 2nd is correct and the 3rd is too warm.

5. Blurry Images.

The most common reason why your image is blurry is an incorrect use of shutter speed. The faster your shutter speed is, the less chance there is for a camera shake, most likely when you capture without a tripod.

This is basically not possible to handhold a camera steady enough at slow shutter speeds. There is an unwritten rule, you should use a shutter speed, which is at least the reciprocal of the focal length of shooting. So, at a 50mm focal length, you should go for a minimum shutter speed of 1/50, for a non-IS camera and lens set-up.

The best solution to avoid shakes and blurriness is to work with a tripod. Alternatively, if you don't have or can't use a tripod set your camera to a wider aperture to have the possibility to use a faster shutter speed for sharper handheld images.

6. Wrong focus.

One important technique to understand in photography, especially when you’re starting out, is the concept of focus. If you don’t focus properly, you will end up with blurry photos even when all your other camera settings are correct. At the beginning of my photography journey, I often made this mistake, mostly with action shots. My most common oversight was not double-checking if the focus point was set correctly.

In the left photo, you can see that the focus is set above the liquid line, but on the right, you can clearly see the perfectly sharp mini splash.

Let me explain why we make this mistake. The most common issue is that we focus the camera on the wrong spot or move the camera after the focus was already set. To avoid this situation make sure that the focus is set correctly (and do not move your camera or an object where the focus is set).

7. Wrong editing.

Photography is one of the most enjoyable art forms but it's very easy to spoil the final effect with the wrong post-processing. I'm not talking about different styles and presets we all use, but incorrect colour editing.

Here are the most common mistakes:

  • Inaccurate colour,

  • Over-sharpening,

  • Over-saturation,

  • Over-smoothing,

  • Too much contrast,

  • Applying the wrong presets.

The examples above show all of the mistakes in the order from the list.

All photographers make some or even all of these mistakes in the beginning. Over the years, we all learn how to improve editing and use it to enhance our photos.

I'm curious, which of the listed mistakes you made and didn’t know you are making them? If you made any I hope you won't make them in future.

In my services, you can find Image feedback If you aren’t sure if your photo is correct I'm happy to help.


If you have any questions or struggle with any subject, send me a DM on my Instagram or email me. I will do my best to answer and help.


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