Introducing the first ever Guest post here on Healthy Living for Hot Messes! I am so excited that master photographer Samantha Sherwood agreed to share her magic with all of us on how to bring your food photography to the next level! Check out her food photography tips, and the picture tutorial below!

Fake countertop vinyl rolled out. Transforn Your Food Photography with These Tips! @photogrpahy @foodphotography @foodblogger @foodblog @photogrphytips @foodphotographytips

Do you make great food and want to show it off, but can’t seem to get anything more than a weak photo of it? I’m here to help!

This article is meant for food bloggers, but the tips can apply to any genre of photography. There are a couple of basic food photography tips that can transform your iPhone shots of your spectacular keto cheesecake from disgusting blob to delectable delicacy.

Easy Tips to Transform your Food Photography

Simply easy tips for improving your food photography! A step by step guide to taking better food photos, even as a beginner, using only a phone

Find the Light

Light is EVERYTHING in photography, and this is the number one place where shit goes wrong. Food looks best in natural light, so first things first: get your ass close to a window. Direct sunlight is a no-no, so choose either the shadier side of your place, or set up shop during a time when sunlight won’t be pouring directly in (mid-day works well for most people, because the sun is more overhead). Pro-tip: get a lot of sun at all your windows? Set up just on the other side of the line where the sun shines in. You want to be in that magical place just where the light starts to soften.

Set the Table

If you’ve mastered the light but your photos are still basic, you need to up your prop game. Get yourself a pretty fork, plate, placemat, tablecloth, cutting board, whatever you like that coordinate well together and look like they weren’t bought at a resale shop (although you can TOTALLY find unique and interesting props at resale shops! Just make sure they’re in great condition). Pro-tip: Get a signature prop, like gold or antique silverware, or a placemat or ribbon that matches your branding, and use it in all your photos to make an impact and set yourself apart! Upgrade, bitches!

chopped ingredients and how they look on the 'fake' countertop- Transform your Food Photography with These Tips! #photogrphy #foodphotography #foodphotographytips #photographytips #foodblog #foodblogger #foodbloggertips

Make it Pretty

This part – the styling – is one of the most important elements to any photograph. Let me stress this point: it’s worth taking an extra 5 minutes of effort to be creative with how you arrange and present the food. Even if it’s the simplest, under-5-minutes-to-prepare recipe, you don’t need to take the same approach with the photos. Try drizzling some berry juice across the plate, drip honey on it, fan out your avocado slices, add a little pile of chopped nuts or chocolate shavings… whatever it is, pull one of your ingredients or garnishes and add that to the set. Pro-tip: really suck at this part? Take a styling course online!

Get the Angle

You don’t have to have a fancy camera for this at all – your iPhone will do wonderfully, but keep the angle in mind. Photographs from straight overhead are attention-grabbing, since they show a pulled back view similar to what you have when you eat. Soft angles from about a foot above the food to either the left or right work wonders, too, as long as the background isn’t crazy. Set up a piece of foam core poster board behind it if you’re like me and have a clutter problem (I have 5 kids, it’s out of control).

Depth of Field

WARNING: Technical Jargon Ahead! Proceed at your own risk!

If you have a way to control the depth of field (aperture) on either your phone’s camera or regular camera, that will help the photos look more professional. Opt for a shallow depth of field (smaller number). I like to stick with something around f/4. My iphone camera doesn’t allow me to control the aperture, so I included a few iPhone shots here to show you the difference. It’s not necessary, but it can be pretty for close up shots. For tablescapes with a lot of depth, try f/8 and adjust for your preference – the smaller the number, the more you will have out of focus around the part of the photo you’re focusing on.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating fabulous food photographs!

Process shot for food photography. Simple Tips to Transform your Food Photography! @photography @foodphotography @foodphotos @foodbloggertips @bloggertips @foodblog @foodblogger @photogrpahy

Pull back of my messy table and assembly of ingredients and items. Notice there is a window just to the left side of my table for light, and yes, that is my computer set up on the other side of the table. I don’t have an office at the moment so I work where I can see outside so I don’t go bonkers.


  1. white foam board for fake wall
  2. random blue cup that I left on my table on accident
  3. baker’s chocolate
  4. bag of walnuts
  5. mason jar glass with handle (yes, I’m a little country)
  6. roll of vinyl marble contact paper for fake countertop (because mine are not pretty), got it on amazon for about $20
  7. Hershey’s cocoa

Fake Countertop Vinyl Rolled Out- Transferm Your Food Photography with These Tips! @ photography @foodphotogrpahy @foodblogtips @foodbloggers @photogrpahytips @foodbloggers

Fake countertop vinyl rolled out

Fake countertop vinyl rolled out. Transforn Your Food Photography with These Tips! @photogrpahy @foodphotography @foodblogger @foodblog @photogrphytips @foodphotographytips

Assemblage of items on my regular (ugly) countertop, with my slate cheese board for prettiness

chopped ingredients and how they look on the 'fake' countertop- Transform your Food Photography with These Tips! #photogrphy #foodphotography #foodphotographytips #photographytips #foodblog #foodblogger #foodbloggertips

chopped ingredients and how they look on the ‘fake’ countertop

pulled back view of everything set up on the fake countertop with the fake wall (poster board) behind it- Transform your Food Photography with These Tips! #foodphotography #foodphotographytips #photography #photographytips #foodblog #foodblogger #foodbloggertips

pulled back view of everything set up on the fake countertop with the fake wall (poster board) behind it

close up of the it all put together #foodblogging #photography #photographytips #foodblogphotography

close up of the it all put together

close up of the it all put together #foodblogging #photography #photographytips #foodblogphotography

another close up of everything all put together – it doesn’t have to be complicated to be pretty!

Straight on! I wish I would've had enough smoothie to fill the cup, but you get the idea here. #photographytips #photography #foodblog #foodblogphotography #foodbloggers #foodbloggertips

Straight on!

Samantha Sherwood is a portrait and lifestyle brand photographer who serves the St. Louis, Missouri area. She loves hiking, sushi, beating her husband at video games, and hanging out with her 5 teenage kids. You can check out her work at or hang out with her on Facebook at Samantha Sherwood Photography or Instagram at @_samanthasherwood

Easy tips to transform your food photogrpahy pin! Process photos of a chocolate smoothie. #photogrpahy #foodphotography @foodbloggers #foodblogging #photographytips #foodphotography #photographyforbloggers


  1. Anna January 17, 2018 at 5:51 am

    You can also “fake” shallow depth of field by taking the blur tool to you background and leaving your food + the foreground in focus (“unblurred”)! You just need an editing app for your phone, or photoshop if you want to have a bit more control.

    1. MandiEm January 17, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      Wow awesome tip! Can you do that in vsco??

      1. Anna January 18, 2018 at 1:01 am

        You can do it in any editing program that has some sort of blur tool that allows you to adjust the intensity. So you can’t do it in VSCO, Snapseed, or Lightroom Mobile (no blur tools) but you could do it with a couple others. Unfortunately their names are escaping me right now and I can’t actually remember their names XD

        Personally, though, I prefer to send the photos to myself and do the effect on desktop in Photoshop or a similar program if I can; there’s all kinds of free programs out there (both browser based and downloadable) that can do roughly the same thing as photoshop without the price tag- and it definitely makes it so much easier to edit your photos.

        1. MandiEm January 18, 2018 at 6:20 am

          This might be why my photos suck I don’t really do anything with them *yikes*

          1. Anna January 18, 2018 at 10:35 am

            Always post process!!!!!!! It doesn’t have to be much. In fact, common grumps revolve around over editing your photos. But a little post processing to pop the vibrancy and colors- or color grading an image set- really does do miracles for even the most simplistic images 😀

          2. MandiEm January 18, 2018 at 12:34 pm

            Thanks for the tips Anna! This is one of my goals

          3. Anna January 18, 2018 at 4:02 pm

            Np, hun!

  2. Yaa Yaa January 17, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    I am bookmarking this post! These are great tips. Thanks, Samantha!

    1. MandiEm January 17, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      Isn’t she rad?

  3. countrycleannfit January 27, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Love these tips!! I’m gonna have to look into fancy paper rolls like that one! I think that’s great.

    1. MandiEm January 27, 2018 at 8:54 am

      Personally I use contact paper on a board but I could use a background one like she has here!

  4. SewGeekMama February 17, 2018 at 4:47 am

    Great tips! I just invested in a few nice cutting boards myself because the one I regularly use is not so pretty. I was like…this is ruining my shot! lol


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