A Must-See Photoshop Tutorial for Food Photographers (plus before and afters)

Red cabbage with knife edited

Food photographer William Brinson is a true artist. In a video I watched yesterday, he talks about getting a shot exactly how he and the client want it while they’re on set. Although he uses editing programs post photo shoot, his goal is to get it right the first time.

He approaches his art with the skill of his own hands, not the digital fabrication of perfection. Gosh, I love that.

I’m teaching myself how to be that kind of artist. I’m learning composition and maybe more importantly lighting, “the language of photography,” as some say.

And I’m learning Photoshop. Because even if we shoot photos without depending on Photoshop, we still use it to enhance the greatness we’ve captured on set.

If you’re new to food photography or Photoshop, you must watch this video tutorial!
It’s worth all 18 minutes. Promise.

Skyler Burt from Yellow Street Photos shows you how to—

  • Create adjustment layers: create contrast, add a gradient, and desaturate your photo’s background to make the eye-catching parts of your photo pop
  • Sharpen your image to be optimized for the web and print: which lets you decrease the size of larger or RAW files while maintaining the photo’s crispness.
  • Decrease the time it takes to process a photo: I already knew some of the tutorial’s concepts, but the tools Skyler uses in Photoshop are less clunky than those I’ve edited with in the past (like in my shot of the pumpkins)

Putting the Tutorial to Use: Before and After Photos

After I watched Skyler’s tutorial once through, I opened Photoshop and imported a couple shots I took the other day when playing around with the lighting in our home office. As I re-watched the tutorial, I started editing.


Red cabbage unedited


Red cabbage edited

Following the tutorial, I adjusted the contrast using the curves tool and added a gradient, and I used the layer masks to keep the cabbage and foreground bright.

I also sharpened the image, cropped the image slightly, and removed that small purple fleck in the foreground using the clone stamp.


Red cabbage with knife unedited


Red cabbage with knife edited

I increased the contrast, added a gradient (slightly lighter than the first image), and sharpened it a bit. I’m more keen on this photo because of the composition and additional elements (cabbage shreds and knife).


The lighting is a bit harsh in both images, especially the first, but I think I like that here. The high contrast enhances the redish-purle and the pattern of the cabbage’s layers, which are so visually interesting.

Looking back, I could have captured a richer black in the original photos if I had worked more with my lighting. And I would have decreased my ISO (realized later it was way higher than needed). I’ll consider these lessons learned.

But overall, I’m happy with these! What do you think? What you like about the edited photos, and what do you think I could have done better?

Leave me a comment! I’d love your feedback.

Psst…wanna see more? Check out my first attempt at food photography.


4 thoughts on “A Must-See Photoshop Tutorial for Food Photographers (plus before and afters)

  1. Excellent tutorial … I will be using some of these tips in the future. I really like your second image. Much better composition and I can see a greater difference between the before and after processing. Well done Sarah!

    • Thanks, Beth! I’m super appreciative of your opinion–what’s funny is that I almost didn’t process that second image. Also, I shared both of those photos on Pinterest, and the second one gets repined a lot…I think the first one has been repined only once.

      Always good to hear other perspectives because it helps me to see past mine, which is often limited.

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