We're going on a two-week vacation in August! Believe it or not, but I haven't taken a two week vacation in 11 years. I'm super excited.

Now our vacation is booked, I'm starting to make plans for how to spend our time. Other than spending time with family, going on hikes, and reading a book or two, I'd love to take some steps towards food photography. Why food photography?

The past couple of years, Vanessa and I have talked about making a cookbook. In our many travels around the world, we've eaten a lot of great food, and Vanessa has managed to replicate and perfect a few of these recipes: the salmon soup we ate in Finland when we went dog sledding, the hummus with charred cauliflower we had at DrupalCon New Orleans, or the tordelli lucchesi we ate on vacation in Tuscany.

Other than being her sous-chef (dishwasher, really), my job would be to capture the recipes with photos, figure out a way to publish them online (I know just the way), and eventually print the recipes in a physical book. Making a cookbook is a fun way to align our different hobbies; travel for both of us, cooking for her, photography for me, and of course enjoying the great food.

Based on the limited research I've done, food photography is all about lighting. I've been passionate about photography for a long time, but I haven't really dug into the use of light yet.

Our upcoming vacation seems like the perfect time to learn about lighting; read a book about it, and try different lighting techniques (front lighting, side lighting, back lighting but also hard, soft and diffused light).

The next few weeks, I plan to pick up some new gear like a light diffuser, light modifiers, and maybe even a LED light. If you're into food photography, or into lighting more generally, don't hesitate to leave some tips and tricks in the comments.



Have you done any food photography, Nick? I didn't know you were into photography.

Nick Hofstede (not verified):

Photography is somewhat of a hobby. I have tried to make pictures of dishes on several occasions, and found that it is extremely difficult. I haven't taken a food picture yet that I'm proud of, but it did make me look up some of the dos and don'ts in order to improve.

Lighting, angle, presentation of a flat dish is already challenging, and that's before worrying whether it looks appetizing :)

Also, for a cookbook I think you'll have to pick a style and stick with it. Normal lighting or high-key, from the top or from an angle, with ingredients as decoration or without, ... You should probably do some experimentation upfront.

Suffice to say, I'm looking at cookbooks with new eyes now. I'm sure very soon you will too :)

Shannon Culpepper (not verified):

That's pretty awesome Dries, and it sounds like a really fun project. Of all of the different kinds of commercial photography, food photography is up there with other challenging subjects like photographing shiny objects. But it sounds like you have the perfect mindset for this which is experimenting, trying different kinds of light and enjoying the challenge. My only couple of suggestions I can give you is shoot the pictures while the food is hot, the longer it cools the worse it looks. Try side lighting or skim lighting for your main light and add a gentle fill light from above. The other things many food photographers do, like if you were shooting a bowl of soup, they have special bowls that push up the contents of the soup so you're not just getting pictures of the broth. You could achieve this with large marbles in the bottom of the bowl. Lastly because you're going to be repeating this many times it's super easy for the last picture you take to look very different from the first picture which will look strange compiled into one book. So I would suggest, just like in Drupal web design, figuring out your method before you start and trying to keep a consistent tone and look to your pictures. Good luck!


Thanks for the pointers, Shannon! Very clever to put marbles in a bowl of soup. I would never have thought of that myself.

I expect this creating a cookbook will be a multi-year project. We're not in a rush and have plenty of time to learn and experiment.

Roland Tanglao (not verified):

just use an iPhone or high end Android phone and an LED panel :-) Don't overcomplicate things unless you have a signed cookbook contract :-) #ymmv Also sign me up for the ebook mailing list! Love your photography! Love to buy the ebook version!!!

Mike (not verified):

Hey Dries,

Don't hesitate to ask for advice: www.mikevancleven.com
A few years ago I did a book on 25 Belgian CEO'S and 25 chefs de cuisines.


Willy Vanelderen (not verified):

Dries, for inspiration, take a look at Belgian Tony Le Duc http://www.tonyleduc.eu, one of the greatest food photographers and if you can find his books, buy them.

Joke Dehond (not verified):

Great idea! And if you are looking for a graphical designer to do the layout of your book .... I'm a volunteer!

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.