Food Photography Tips for Vegetarians and Vegans

If you've ever posted a food recipe or food photo here at VeggieBoards or on a blog, Facebook or Pinterest, or even just shared a food photo with friends, then you may find the following information useful.


Image above by Flickr user Wild Tofu

Why is vegetarian and vegan food photography important?

Excellent food photography is beneficial across the board, no matter your diet, but it's a little more significant for vegetarians and vegans. How come?

  • Often, photos of vegetarian and vegan food will be someone's first exposure to this type of diet, so you want to make a good impression.

  • Good photos can help explain a vegetarian or vegan recipe steps better, especially for less experienced cooks.

  • People love to see the end result of a recipe. For example, many vegan cookbooks out there lack photos. That's frustrating, because it's always nice to get to see what you'll be making before you make it.

  • Photographs are a great way to encourage people to eat more vegetarian and vegan foods, but only if that food looks awesome.


Vegetarian tempeh lettuce wraps image by Flickr user Stacy Spensley

Why bother improving your vegetarian and vegan food photography skills?

Start browsing the Internet (Google images) and you'll see a slew of vegan and vegetarian food photos posted that make the food look very unattractive, dull and unappealing. This accomplishes nothing, unless your goal is to turn people off to vegetarian and vegan food.

When you share recipes or photos of vegetarian or vegan dishes, you want the photos to look super tasty so people will be drawn in by the beauty of a plant-based diet not turned off by what looks like a boring or gross meal.


Get inspired

Before you start taking your own food photos, it can help to look at other people's photos, both to see what you like and what you don't. See what other photographers are doing that makes you think, "Wow that food looks amazing!" Look at how your favorite food photographers use light, setting and color and pay attention to how they present their food.

To see tons of gorgeous food photos, visit VeggieBoards on Pinterest. We're always pinning new lovely food finds, like the beautiful Stone Fruit Tarts w/ Coconut Pastry Cream & Pistachios via inspiring the everyday, shown above. Below are some more sites around the web that feature beautiful vegetarian and vegan food photos.

Tips for taking better food photographs

Some people are natural born photographers (lucky them). The rest of us have to work at it, but practice can pay off. Trust me, I'm never been great at taking photos, but slowly I've been trying to improve and with practice, I have learned to take much better photos than I used to. Still, it's a major work in progress so remember, patience can be a virtue.

As I've been practicing taking pictures, I've gathered some tips that have really helped me so I thought I'd share. No matter your camera type or skill level you can use some of these simple tips below to help improve your food photography skills.


1) USE NATURAL LIGHT!: Yes I screamed that. I used to take a ton of pictures at night, in my dining room, and none of them turned out too great. When I started taking pictures during the day, using the natural light from my kitchen and dining room windows, my pictures started turning out a lot better. You can see the difference in the rainbow cake photos above. The photo taken at night is too dark and not a great representation.

You should also pay attention to where the light falls on your food. Indirect, but still nice and bright light works well. If you're lucky enough to have a kitchen flooded with too much natural light and your food pictures appear to be glowing way too brightly, use shades or tissue paper on your windows to mute the light a bit.


2) No natural light? Go outside: My kitchen is naturally darker because it's shaded on all sides by trees. If you lack a lot of natural light too you should get up and get cooking earlier in the day so that you can get pictures in the best light possible - for me that's about midday.

If it's cloudy, and I live in Oregon, so that's often, I'll often take my food outside for better pictures. For example, I took pictures of the rainbow cake slices shown above inside at first, but it was really cloudy, and far too dark in my kitchen, so you couldn't see the different colored cake layers well. I decided to take a few slices outside on the patio and I got some better, brighter shots. Not as realistic, but it does show off the cake colors better for those who want to know what they'll be baking.


3) Use the right background color: In the picture above, you'll see that I first took pictures of my rainbow cake in my kitchen but everything was so white. The cake, platter, counter and walls were all white, making the cake look boring. When I took a picture of the cake with a black background, it made the cake pop out better. You don't just have to think in terms of white and black though. Light blue, for example, makes a nice background color.


4) Be careful with the flash: I took both the tomato pictures above during the day.The top image was taken with the flash and the bottom one was taken using only natural light. Obviously the bottom image, while not perfect, looks a lot more natural and tasty vs. the top picture which looks weird, too shiny and yellow-tinted. The flash is not the enemy though. There are times - even when you're in full sunlight when you'll want to use the flash. Learn about when you should and shouldn't use the flash via the links below.


5) Get up close and then back away: Some food looks really cool photographed close up. Some looks better when you take a few steps back. It really depends on the food, your dishes, the presentation and more. If you're not sure how your food will look better (up close or far away) take pictures both ways, and later you can pick your favorite shots.

The vegan truffle shots above by, show how close up and far away can both look good, but in different ways. Be sure that you never get so close to your food that no one can tell what it is though.


6) Don't use busy serving dishes, but consider breaking this rule sometimes: I think food looks a lot better on a plain white or another plain colored serving dish than on overly busy dishes - for example dishes with crazy designs or too many colors. I like the food to shine through, not the dishes. However, there's plenty of food photographers out there who do use more complex dishes in their photos, with good results, so it pays to experiment.

It also pays to be creative. Instead of using typical boring cups, the photographer above, Flickr user A Rosie Sweet Home, used classic mason jars to show off smoothies which worked very well.


7) Consider garnish and extras: The vegan pop tart image above by is very cute, made so, in my opinion, by the strawberry garnish and sweet pop of red color in the tablecloth. This image would have been much more dull if it was simply a picture of the tarts on a plate. As another example or a well garnished dish, check out the image below...


Quinoa isn't all that exciting on it's own, but yet, the image above by SweetOnVeg is one of my favorite food photos. This Blueberry Maple Quinoa makes excellent use of blueberry garnish and uses a serving bowl that's classic but has a pop of color that accents the blueberries nicely. This well shot picture makes quinoa look like the best, most exciting food idea ever.


8) Think about how people look at food: A lot of people take photos from above looking down at the food. But most people look at food straight on, or at an angle, not down at it. Sometimes I will take images from above, for example, like a sheet of cookies, to show off the decorations. But, for a meal, drink or more complicated dish, food almost always looks better if you take a shot from in front on the food not above it. The photo above is a good example. If shot from above, all you would see is the top of the bread (boring). When shot straight on though, you get to see all the yummy fillings in this vegetarian sub by Flickr user janineomg.


9) Take a TON of photos: This cannot be said enough. I'm not a great photographer, but I do believe in the law of averages. If I take three photos it's really likely none of them will be good enough to use. If I take 30 photos, the odds of me getting a decent shot increase considerably. For example, I did a series on how to make natural food dye with fruits, veggies and other foods last year and I must have taken about a million shots of the group of items above in all sorts of different ways.

Although I'm still not entirely happy with the results, my series ended up featuring a semi-decent shot of the food dye items because I had a lot of images to choose from.

Learn even more

I'm no where near a pro photographer (still learning) so if you want more food photography tips, from actual pros, check out the links below. After that, practice, practice, practice, then come share your images here at VeggieBoards. You can show off your awesome food photos in a recipe you post, a thread or even in the image gallery.

By: Jennifer C