5 Tips for Great Holiday Food Photos

December 4, 2015
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Written by Erin Smith

The holidays are almost here, and visions of sugarplums are probably dancing in your editorial calendar! Creating tasty treats is only half the equation though; they also need to look great in photos. If you’re gearing up for posts about your favorite holiday foods, try these tips to create drool-worthy images that your readers will devour.

Get the Light Right

Nothing ruins a photo – any photo—like bad lighting, so turn off your camera’s flash right now! If you’re photographing that delicious holiday pasta dish inside, the indoor lights will create unflattering shadows and an unnatural shine on every piece of penne. Take your dish outside to an area out of direct sunlight and snap away, especially at the “golden hours” of sunrise and sunset.

If it’s dark outside, or you’d rather photograph inside (Brrrr!), invest in a simple light box or light tent. A light box is a cube with translucent sides that filters light to create a soft glow. Use a piece of fabric or scrapbook paper as a backdrop inside the light box. Place the food item inside the light box, aim some lamplight at the sides, and you’ve got the perfect soft light for pretty photos.


Just as you choose a coordinating shoe for your outfit in the morning, you can add some interest to your photos with background accessories. Try using pieces of the ingredients to round out the scene, like a couple of cranberries scattered around your Christmas Cranberry Cobbler. Ingredients in pretty packages also work well to fill in some space.

You can even use items from around the house as accessories. I’ve used a wizarding school scarf and wand from an old Halloween costume to fill out the scene for a post about Butterscotch Beer Iced Coffee, and a ceramic owl from my mantle in the background of my Salted Caramel Martini photos. For holiday foods, you probably have many great background items in those boxes of decorations. It’s a great excuse to decorate for the holidays waaaay early!

Make it Pin-Tastic

Holiday foods and Pinterest go together like Santa and reindeer, so make sure you maximize your Pin-tential with great images! According to Wired magazine, vertical images perform best, with an aspect ration of 2:3 or 4:5. Use a text overlay near the top of the image that shows the recipe title or food name, in matching colors and unique fonts.

When you’re taking the photo, try using the rule of thirds to position the food item in the layout: imagine the space is divided into three segments both vertically and horizontally, and position that Candy Cane Cupcake at one of the intersections. Not only does this make the image more interesting, but also it leaves some space for you to add a text overlay title.

Find Your Color Balance

Sometimes a really delicious food can look unappetizing if it’s suffering from a bluish or a yellowish hue in the photo. If you have a DSLR camera, adjust your white balance for the lighting you’re using to take photos that more accurately reflect the all the gorgeous colors in those sugar cookies. If you’re not able to adjust the white balance on your camera, you can still adjust it during the editing process. Try editing in PicMonkey, which has effective and easy-to-use color balancing tools.

Show ‘Em How Yummy it Is

That baked brie appetizer will look even more delicious with some of the ooey-gooey cheese oozing out from a sliced section! Your world-famous sweet potato casserole will look even better with butter dripping down the side and onto the plate. Photograph the dish as a whole, and then dig in! Snap a few images of your spoon diving in or take some photos of a single serving of pie topped with a giant dollop of whipped cream. Make your readers want to leap from the computer and start eating!

Holidays are the perfect time to show your readers what’s cooking, and trying these tips will produce photos that make your followers want to fire up the stove and try your recipes at home! What holiday foods are you getting ready to dish up this season?

About the Author: Erin is a teacher, blogger, wife, and doggie-momma living in SW Florida. You can find her at www.SouthtoSouthwest.com, a travel and lifestyle blog about life, love, and living out of a suitcase. Erin writes about holding down the fort at home and helping her business-travelin’ husband use up those sky miles. Stop by for easy recipes, crafts and printables, and travel tales from all over the world!

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