How to Get Started with Commercial Food Photography

If you want to break into the commercial food photography market, you’re in luck! This guide lets photographers get up and running; commercial food photography can be daunting. Learn how to start and make your photographs mouth-watering success stories!

What is commercial food photography?

Commercial food photography involves taking professional photos of food products, dishes, and meals for commercial use. These food photographs can be used in advertising, packaging, menus, cookbooks, and other marketing materials. (1) Commercial food photography differs from other types of commercial photography because it requires a high level of skill, creativity, and knowledge of lighting and colors.

Why is commercial food photography important?

High-quality food photography attracts customers and increases sales. Good food photography can break a business. Eye-catching images can evoke emotions, stimulate cravings, and persuade customers to try a dish or visit a restaurant. Compelling commercial food photography can help establish brand identity.

Understand the types of food photography – from close-up product shots to editorial-style plating images

Food photography has evolved over recent years. It’s now a captivating art form, showcasing culinary delights in all their mouthwatering glory. One can choose from various styles, from close-up product shots highlighting intricate details to editorial-style plating images creating a feast for the eyes. Let’s take you on a journey through the various types of food photography, shedding light on their unique purposes and offering insights to help you make informed decisions for your food business or personal projects.

1. Close-Up Product Shots

These food photographs focus on individual ingredients or products, precisely capturing their intricate details. Whether it’s the glistening droplets of a sauce, the delicate texture of a dessert, or the vibrant colors of fresh produce, close-up product shots allow viewers to appreciate the beauty and quality of each element. 

These images are often used in product packaging, advertisements, or menus to entice customers and showcase the essence of a specific dish or ingredient. (2)

2. Editorial-Style Plating Images

Editorial-style plating images go beyond just capturing the food; they aim to create an atmosphere, convey a story, and evoke emotions. “Editorial” means something outside the box, something meant to inspire. (3) These photographs showcase the entire dish, including its arrangement, garnishes, and surrounding elements such as props or background settings. They often feature beautifully composed compositions, incorporating styling, lighting, and creativity elements. 

Editorial-style plating images are commonly seen in cookbooks, food magazines, and restaurant promotions, where the goal is to inspire and transport the viewer into a culinary experience. 

3. Lifestyle Food Photography

Lifestyle food photography focuses on capturing the food in a natural and relatable way, often depicting people interacting with the food. These images aim to evoke a sense of ambiance and a feeling of being part of a shared dining experience. Lifestyle photography, in general, is the art of storytelling with your photos. (4) Whether it’s a family gathering, friends enjoying a picnic, or individuals savoring a meal, lifestyle food photography adds a human element to the composition. 

This style is popular in social media posts, blogs, and food advertisements, targeting a more casual and approachable audience.

4. Documentary Food Photography

Documentary food photography tells a story by capturing authentic and accurate moments and scenes related to food, often highlighting cultural aspects, traditions, and the people behind the dishes. It goes beyond aesthetics; it aims to capture and share the deeper connections between food and society. (5

These images can depict chefs in action, local food markets, traditional cooking techniques, or even the process of food production. Documentary food photography is often used in travel magazines, food documentaries, cultural exhibitions, and storytelling projects.

Food photography is a dynamic field that offers various styles to suit different purposes and objectives. Whether you aim to showcase the intricacies of a specific ingredient, create an immersive culinary experience, capture the essence of shared dining, or document cultural food traditions, understanding the types of food photography will empower you to make informed choices for your photography business or personal projects. So, next time you embark on a culinary photo shoot, consider the style that aligns with your vision and let your creativity shine through the lens.

How to Get Started with Commercial Food Photography

Essential techniques to learn as a successful commercial food photographer

Now that we’ve covered the common types of food photography, let’s explore some critical techniques to create stunning commercial food photographs:

1. Composition and Framing

Composition refers to the arrangement of elements in your photograph, such as the angle of the shot and what items are included in it. (6) For commercial food photography, you want to ensure that viewers can see all the details and ingredients that went into making the dish. When shooting a plate of food, focus on capturing an exciting perspective or angle instead of just shooting from above.

Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find each dish’s most visually appealing composition. Play with the rule of thirds, leading lines, and negative space to create balanced and engaging designs. Consider the overall layout of the image and how it will be used in marketing materials or websites.

2. Lighting and Exposure

Mastering lighting techniques is crucial in food photography. Use natural light to highlight the food’s textures, colors, and details. Diffuse harsh sources to create soft, flattering lighting.

3. Styling

Food styling is an art form in itself. It involves meticulously arranging the food, props, and accessories to create an appealing visual narrative. Every detail matters, from selecting the perfect plates, cutlery, and linens to garnishing the dish precisely. Pay attention to the visual elements surrounding the food. Consider the color palette, textures, and overall aesthetic to create visually appealing images. Experiment with different styles and techniques that align with the mood and theme you want to convey, and let your creativity shine through in the presentation of the food. 

4. Depth of Field

Controlling the depth of field in your images can add depth and dimension to your food photographs. Use a wide aperture (low f-stop number, about 1.4 to 5.6) to create a shallow depth of field and blur the background, drawing attention to the main subject. (7) Experiment with different focal points and aperture settings to achieve the desired effect.

5. Storytelling

Food photography is not just about capturing a beautiful image of a dish; it’s also about telling a story. Consider the narrative you want to convey through your photos. Think about the emotions you want to evoke in viewers and how you can achieve that through composition, styling, and lighting. Create images that transport the viewer into a culinary experience.

6. Post-Processing and Editing

Once you have captured the perfect shot, post-processing and editing can help refine and enhance the final image. Use editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to adjust colors, contrast, and sharpness. Remember to maintain a natural and realistic look, avoiding over-editing because natural is the way to go regarding food photography.

Enhance the colors and tones of your food photographs while maintaining the natural look of the dish. Adjust the white balance to ensure an accurate representation of the colors. Use selective editing tools to make specific areas of the image pop. Experiment with different editing styles and techniques to develop your unique editing aesthetic.

Invest in quality equipment for stunning photos

Now that you’ve learned about the basic types and techniques in food photography let’s dive into the necessary equipment. Investing in quality equipment is a vital aspect of any professional photographer’s toolkit. Whether you are a seasoned pro or just starting, the right gear can make all the difference in the images you create. High-quality cameras, lenses, lights, tripods, and other accessories are all essential investments that can improve your skills and elevate your work to the next level. With so many options available on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right equipment. But by researching and investing in top-of-the-line gear, you can ensure that your photographs are sharp, clear, and visually stunning. So don’t skimp on your equipment – invest in quality tools that will help you capture the best possible images.

Here are some essential equipment and preparation tips to consider:

1. Camera

Invest in a quality digital camera with manual settings to control exposure, focus, and other essential aspects of photography. A DSLR or mirrorless camera is ideal for professional-grade images.

2. Lenses

Consider using a macro lens for close-up shots and capturing intricate food details. A wide-angle lens can also be beneficial for capturing the ambiance and surroundings of a restaurant or food setting.

3. Lighting Equipment

Lighting is also essential for creating a stunning food photograph. Natural lighting is often ideal, but artificial lighting will be necessary when shooting indoors or during dull weather outdoors. Experiment with different light sources to determine which works best for each dish and adjust accordingly to create the perfect mood and highlight the food’s texture and colors.. Additionally, consider using reflectors or diffusers depending on the scene to soften harsh shadows and make a more even light. 

4. Props and Background

Props and backgrounds can add depth, context, and visual interest to your food photographs. Choose props that complement the dish and help tell a story. Consider using various textures, colors, and materials to create a visually enticing backdrop that enhances the overall composition. Gather a collection of props, such as plates, utensils, and backgrounds, to improve the visual appeal of your food photographs. Experiment with different styling techniques to create captivating compositions. Consider the overall theme and aesthetic you want to convey through your images. Whether rustic wooden surfaces, vibrant fabrics, or elegant table settings, props, and backgrounds can elevate your photos and make them stand out. 

Building your brand and marketing yourself as a commercial food photographer

Now that you have mastered the basics of food photography and practiced creating stunning shots, it’s time to start marketing yourself as a professional commercial food photographer. 

Start by creating an online portfolio website where potential clients can browse your work and contact you for further inquiries. In today’s digital age, having a portfolio website is more important than ever for showcasing your work and attracting your target client. With so many people turning to the internet to search for services and products, having a solid online presence is essential. Your portfolio website can act as a virtual storefront for your skills and experience, providing potential clients with a glimpse into your past work and capabilities. Whether you’re a freelance writer, graphic designer, or photographer, your portfolio website is a place where you can showcase your creativity and expertise. With the right design, content, and approach, your portfolio website can attract potential clients and help you stand out. You should also create social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to promote yourself and build a fan base. You can post your work, a daily video or two of your process, and engage with your audience and potential clients.

Once you have established an online presence, it’s time to start getting the word out about your services. Reach out to restaurants, catering companies, food bloggers, magazines, and other businesses needing food photography and pitch them why you would be the perfect choice. You can quickly make a name for yourself as an expert commercial food photographer with hard work and dedication.

Network with local restaurants and chefs to develop relationships and gain experience

Aspiring chefs and foodies know that networking is everything in the culinary arts world. Building relationships with other commercial food photographers, local restaurants, and chefs can provide valuable experience and create exciting opportunities. By connecting with industry professionals, you’ll learn about the ins and outs of the restaurant scene, gain new perspectives on cooking techniques, and potentially even land a job or internship. Building a reputation within the local community can open doors and help establish your brand. So feel free to reach out, attend industry events, and get involved – who knows where your network could take you!

Discover the power of kitchen studio rentals for aspiring commercial food photographers

As an aspiring commercial food photographer, you may dream of having your studio create stunning culinary masterpieces. However, building a dedicated photography space can be a daunting task that requires significant investment in time, money, and resources. Fortunately, a fantastic alternative allows you to bring your vision to life without needing a permanent studio: kitchen studio rentals. Let’s explore kitchen studio rentals’ benefits and endless possibilities, empowering you to build your career as a commercial food photographer quickly.

1. Access to Professional-grade Equipment

One of the key advantages of opting for kitchen studio rentals is access to top-of-the-line equipment. These studios have high-quality cameras, lenses, lighting setups, and props designed explicitly for food photography. By utilizing these professional-grade tools, you can elevate the quality of your work and create images that truly capture the essence of your culinary creations.

2. Versatility and Variety

Kitchen studio rentals provide a versatile workspace that can be customized to suit your specific needs. Whether you’re shooting a simple product shot or an elaborate editorial-style plating image, these studios offer a range of backdrops, surfaces, and props to enhance your compositions. With different kitchen setups and styles, you can experiment with various themes and aesthetics, adding depth and creativity to your portfolio.

3. Cost-effective Solution

Renting a kitchen studio is a cost-effective solution, especially for those starting their careers in commercial food photography. Instead of investing a large sum of money upfront to build your studio, renting allows you to pay for the space only when needed. This flexibility helps you manage your budget efficiently and allows you to experiment and grow without the financial burden of maintaining a permanent studio.

4. Collaborative Opportunities

Kitchen studio rentals often attract a community of like-minded professionals, including chefs, food stylists, and other photographers. This environment fosters collaboration and networking, providing opportunities to learn from and collaborate with industry experts. By connecting with fellow creatives, you can expand your knowledge, gain insights into trending styles and techniques, and even build valuable relationships that may lead to exciting collaborations or client referrals.

5. Convenience and Support

Renting a kitchen studio eliminates the hassle of setting up and maintaining your space. These studios are designed to provide a seamless experience, with amenities such as prep areas, cooking facilities, and storage spaces for props and equipment. Additionally, many rental studios offer on-site staff who can assist with setup, lighting, and technical support, ensuring a smooth and productive food photo shoot.

Building a commercial food photographer career is an exciting journey filled with opportunities for creativity and growth. Kitchen studio rentals offer a practical, cost-effective solution that allows you to bring your visions to life without needing a permanent studio. With access to professional-grade equipment, versatile setups, collaborative opportunities, and convenient support, these rental spaces empower aspiring photographers to showcase their talent and create stunning culinary imagery. So, embrace the world of kitchen studio rentals and unlock the potential to elevate your career in commercial food photography.

If you’re searching for the perfect kitchen rental studio in Atwater Village, Los Angeles, to bring your culinary project to life, look no further than Salt Worth Studio! Our fully-equipped dual kitchen setup is highly customizable and designed to fulfill all your needs. Each booking includes a basic grips package and kitchen kit, and we offer additional prop and gear rentals.

But Salt Worth Studio offers more than just a rental space. It’s a passion project run by a talented husband and wife team specializing in food photography and styling. Haley, our skilled photographer and videographer, and Ryan, our expert recipe developer and food stylist, are here to make your project shine. When you book with us, you can even bundle their services with the studio rental to ensure your vision becomes a reality.

Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Book with Salt Worth Studio today, and let us help you create something extraordinary!


Commercial food photography is a delightful blend of two passions: food and photography. Following the tips and techniques discussed in this blog post, you can start your journey toward becoming a successful commercial food photographer. 

Remember, practice, educate yourself, review techniques, or take classes now and then; don’t be afraid to learn from top food photographers and experiment on your craft to master the art of commercial food photography. Enjoy the process and have fun capturing the beauty of food through your lens!