Storytelling in Food Photography

madeline final

Heyoooo! I just finished up week two of my food photography course. We started exploring the basics of storytelling in food photography, and let me tell you. It’s much, much easier said than done.

Psst…did you see my food photos from week one?

When I see a great food photo, I’m all like, “Of course they put that there, and of course they used that as a prop, and of course they chose that as their background.”

And then I attempt to do the same, and I’m all like, “What the crap. How.”

Practice. That’s how. And learning one storytelling element at a time:

Write the Story

Seems obvious, right? You can’t tell a story through your food unless you know what that story is. So our instructor asked us to write a story and capture it in a photo.

Here’s what I wrote:

I’m at my home, and my sister and mom are visiting for the weekend. We’re sitting at my breakfast table situated next to a large window. It’s morning, and I feel at peace and restful knowing I’m surrounded by some of my favorite people. We don’t feel rushed, just content to share conversation over good coffee.

And here’s the image version of the story:

version 1

I love the lighting. Without a doubt, it looks like morning, and the backlighting creates that soft, peaceful feeling.

Speaking of backlighting…

Use Lighting Purposefully

The direction your light comes from affects the mood and tone of your photo. For example, backlighting tends to give the photo an etherial, breath-y feeling (see image above).

In this assignment, I was required to take a photo with backlighting and side lighting, determining which tells a better story.

Beer bread_back lit
Side Lighting

beer bread_dark 1

My classmates favored the second, and I agree. I feel more of a story here.

Someone suggested I crop the front to eliminate the wire rack from the frame, but I actually like the way it looks. Thoughts? Maybe if it was a bit more blurred it would place more focus on the bread?

Set the White Balance

White balance is the accuracy of your photo’s colors, whether the color you see in your photos is true to real life. The colors in a photo become altered based on your camera type, the time of day you’re shooting, and even the direction of your light (i.e., north, south, east, west).

For this assignment, we had to take the same photo four times using various white balance settings on the camera to see which produced the best color:

  • auto white balance
  • daylight
  • cloudy
  • fluorescent

Bread Collage

The large photo is the best, right? (It’s the same photo as below and the bottom left of the small photos above, just a bit edited).

It’s the cloudy setting, which was eye opening for me—I always shoot using auto white balance (bottom right of the small squares).


Use Napkins as a Prop

More about props in my next post, but I’ll give you a sneak peak here.

Our assignment was to take a photo without the napkin and one with, then determine which photo tells a better story.

I shared two compositions with my class:


I prefer the second set, Balu prefers the first. Either way, they both look better with the napkin.

Pretty crazy how many elements go into great food photograph, right?

And I’m only on day 15 of the course…


6 thoughts on “Storytelling in Food Photography

    • Hi there! You’re so welcome. It’s fun to share what I’m learning. Thanks for stopping by! Stick around..I have two more weeks of my food photography course. Lots more to learn. 🙂

  1. I noticed the napkin on the very first picture! I thought it added a “cozy” element that made me want to have breakfast with you. I also loved the pic with the three glasses of coffee and the french press. My favorite part of that one was that the coffees were all different (preference of cream). I think that totally tells a story 🙂 And stories with a hot beverage…. those are the BEST.

    • Hi, Francoise–wayyyy easier said than done! Thanks for the compliment. And thanks for dropping by. I love connect with others learning food photography!

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