Food & Light: Photography Tips

Food and Light started promptly at 8:00am.  I was up at 5:50am and went for that run which actually energized me for the morning session and the rest of today.

Our teachers: Jen, Todd & Diane

Matt & Todd


I was sitting in the back row next to Elana of Elana’s Pantry. She is the sweetest, kindest, and most friendly person.  Truly just a sweetheart!

Loved her!

Everyone was excited to learn.

But we all had to really put our thinking caps on because our first morning session and lecture was from Jen on camera settings.

Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, controlling depth of field.  Pretty much it made my head spin.

I am not a numbers girl.  And camera numbers and settings make me especially cross-eyed and really tax my brain and take me back to 9th grade algebra class wondering if these concepts will ever click for me.

Algebra finally clicked by the end of 9th grade and camera settings and numbers are beginning to click after reading about them over and over, for months and months.

Like most people, I shoot based on trial and error rather than on studying the numbers and knowing how shutter speed and depth of field and ISO settings all integrate.

However, knowing and understanding the fundamentals and knowing what the numbers do and how they effect your photos is really powerful.

I suggest reading anything you can online about these concepts.  And read from many different sources.   Google it.  Someone will explain it in a way that will click for you.  Also in Helene’s book that I reviewed here, she does an excellent job of going over these concepts.

After Jen’s presentation, Matt gave a lecture and here are a few of my lecture notes from his presentation:

Camera Angles

Vary your camera angles in a series of shots

Shoot top down, 3/4 and straight on

Flat food shoots well from top down

Top down shots often give a very graphic composition

Food with height shoots well from straight on

Straight on gives height and drama


The best photographers tell a story with their shots

A visual story keeps photographs interesting

Fake it if you have to!

After Matt’s lecture it was time to start shooting.

I was ready to get up and just dive in.

The food table with everything from radishes to fresh flowers to peppercorns to desserts.

Guess what I chose to shoot?

You guessed it: cupcakes!

I chose, plated, and styled, and accessorized the cupcake

And then shot it.

The pink sugar sprinkles were the icing on the (cup)cake for me <— pun intended

And after that, we broke for lunch.

It was an intense morning.  I learned tons.

It will all continue to sink in as the days (and weeks and months) pass.

But for now, my internet connection is painfully slow and so I am going to sign off and explore a bit of Boulder in the evening before it gets too late.  We start again bright and early tomorrow!

I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures of the early morning Boulder run I did.  Yes, it’s super pretty here!  I won’t lie, I love San Diego and the beach and ocean will always be my true love, but it is so pretty here!


1. What are your photography challenges?

I have these photography tips posts, too:

Food Styling: Books, Props, & Photo Quality: It’s not just your equipment that matters
Food Styling: Pretty & Not So Pretty Pictures
Plate to Pixel: Book Review & Photography Tips

2. When you’re in lectures, do you take a lot of notes or do you just try to absorb what you can and not stress out about writing it all down?

When I was in school, yes, I stressed out about writing every single word down that I possibly could.

But for lectures like this, there is so much information, and there are no “tests” and I didn’t try to write it all down.  I remained mindfully present, wrote down some key pointers, and worried less about writing it all down and more on just listening and absorbing.  In a few weeks I may wish I had written more down!  But they are sending us the Powerpoint slides so I’m not too worried.

Reminder to enter the Giveaway for the Healthy Cookies & Brownies

52 comments on “Food & Light: Photography Tips”

  1. All such great tips!!! Your a natural. :)

  2. that’s WONDERFUL that you had such a great day, averie. thanks for sharing a few tips.
    the math would make my head spin, too. those tips that you share from matt are super helpful, esp for a novice like me. but even something like, “shoot from the top down, 3/4, straight on” is really helpful.
    i’m a HUGE note taker! i take notes even when you don’t really need to. it helps me retain info to write it down.
    i would LOVE x 1000 to run in boulder!!!!
    enjoy your eve!

    • I completely agree on the note-taking. Writing keeps me more focused.

      I’m finding being pretty new to my dSLR, I’m slowwwwly figuring out how all the aspects work together and what numbers are better combinations in which settings, but I can never talk about it because I constantly forget all the words for them!

      (Pretty new to your blog. Hello! I’m really digging the photography class share.)

  3. Such great tips! Honestly – I’m pretty surprised…I never would have guessed in a million years that the numbers – the “math” in photography, settings and how they all work together, etc. make your head spin; You look like a true professional! It will all click for you soon :)

    My photography challenge…is the motivation! Not for the stuff I do “for business,” but the blog-related stuff. I always start out with grandiose ideas, but when it comes to shooting it, I kinda loose the drive halfway through. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I just don’t have the drive to be a true food blogger and photographer, and that’s okay with me.

    That’s definitely one thing I admire you for, because I never really realized how much time, effort and…messes…go into being a food photographer. I’ve done a couple shoots where I get ingredients all over and such so it looks neat and “rustic,”…but dang, it’s a drag to clean up after it all! haha.

    • dude it’s a freakin full time job to be a GOOD food blogger with 1. recipe development (not everything you ‘develop’ even works out!) and then there’s the 2. photography piece with shoots ranging from an hour to mannnny more including cleanup 3. the editing. 4. typing, uploading, posting, etc..yes FT job!

      You could be a true food blogger if u wanted to be. You have amazing recipe development and your photog skills are already amazing. Motivation…well, can’t help ya there :)

      Numbers..yeah i shoot instinctively…NOT according to #’s. Today I shot in MANUAL ALL DAY!!! WOOHOOO FOR ME! :)

  4. I wish I was there with you!!

    your cupcake photos look fantastic!

  5. Love that you’re there!! I love Todd & Diane. I know you’re having tons of fun. I love the photographs of your cupcakes! Can’t wait to read more!

  6. wow this is awesome!! I feel like I just learned a ton within a few sentences. I particularly liked this, it kinda stuck with me! “The best photographers tell a story with their shots”. And I think that can go for any kind of photography really. :)

  7. Have you ever considered not bleaching/darkening your eyebrows? I think it would really flatter your already beautiful face!

  8. Those are absolutely BEAUTIFUL shots! I am impressed!

  9. Wow – your cupcake pic is really great! You deserve a kudos, girl!

  10. Averie this looks like a great class — I bet you are having such a great time! Yes in classes of any kind I love to take notes — somehow the act of writing helps me remember things.

  11. Aweeeesome! Aperture and shutter speeds totally get me too. It’s one thing on paper but a whole other beast when it comes time to shoot. I’ve been learning this stuff since grade 10 and it still confuses me! I like your cupcake photos :)

    • really? ok that helps me to know! I swear it’s like h.s. algebra all over for me some days :)

      • Yeah. I took photography courses through high school and could pass the written tests on the numbers fine but I always kind of winged it when it came to taking photos. I am NOT good with numbers at all and hated math so I don’t know if it’s related. Unfortunately after high school I only had a point and shoot for a while and kind of fell out of it…relearning is fun though!

  12. Great tips Averie, thanks for sharing! I usually love to tweet tips during live conferences and compile a list of what i’ve learned into a post :)

  13. I seriously need to get a better camera. Mine was a spur of the moment buy for fifty bucks. I am planning on getting a Rebel… but I still really need to work on my skills anyway. Your amazing! Thank you for the tips!

  14. You’re making me miss my camera! I still need to get it fixed. I’ve been working on a point and shoot for so long now. Sounds like a great time Averie!

  15. Good tips, seems like a great class so far. I am definitely a note taker, not because I necessarily study it again later but because the act of writing it helps me learn it.

  16. I love when there is not the pressure of a test, I actually listen and absorb concepts so much more because my mind isn’t trying to grasp every word to write down. Thanks for sharing some of your notes, they are some great points!

    • “I actually listen and absorb concepts so much more because my mind isn’t trying to grasp every word to write down. “—

      that is what i was trying to succinctly say in my post but didnt. that is exactly what i mean about the notes!

  17. I always love to take notes for future references :) I find it really helpful and makes me let the speaker know I’m actually really listening to what they have to say.

  18. Those are great tips. I hear ya on that math thing. Yikes!

    Cool that you met Elana! I totally bop by her blog sometime. It’s good stuff!

    Your cupcake pics are lovely, and yes, that part of the country is absolutely gorgeous. Hey, just realized that Prana might being doing their annual 40% off everything clearance while you’re there. It’s usually in early August. Keep your eyes peeled just in case, doll! ;-)

  19. Those cupcakes look perfect! Great photos.

  20. Wow, great post with tons of tips and information – thanks! What a fun day, love the food table.

    1. Probably angle and lighting. And sometimes patience. :-)
    2. Both, depends on the lecture. I take notes, but not loads of them. At the raw expo I just scratched down words of wisdom, helpful tips, and things I’d like to further research.

  21. Beautiful shots Averie! From your last posts too! I am for sure a note taker. I love love love taking notes! I wish you well with your classes tomorrow girl!

  22. No wonder your pictures are always so amazing! Did you get to eat that cupcake!!!

  23. I’ve always loved your photos and cant imagine them being any better than they are!
    Enjoy the workshop :) And bring me back that cupcake!

  24. What gorgeous photos!! Thanks so much for sharing your notes from the lecture. Right now my biggest struggle is lighting. I’m having trouble finding good lighting in my house! I’m surrounded by other houses. I’m also concerned about the winter when it gets dark super early. Not sure what I’ll do then! But my biggest personal struggle is telling a story with my photos. That’s not something you can learn out of a book! I think once I jump that hurdle my photos will start improving.

    I definitely used to be a “take notes on everything” girl! It paid off, I did really well in school. But now I’ve been through so much class I just don’t want to think about it anymore, so I take wayyyy fewer notes.

  25. Ugh photography makes my head spin. I just sort of get lost. I love it, but can’t seem to figure out how to make myself focus to learn all the “stuff” I really should be learning.

  26. Glad you’re having fun! I would love to learn everything you’re learning there…and I hope to make more time for photography learning this year.

    The last few conferences I’ve attended have offered audio recordings (and sometimes video) of the sessions, so I’ve just purchased those and only taken notes when something really jumps out at me. Otherwise, I just listen and absorb. It’s more enjoyable that way!

  27. Ahhhh, I’m SO jealous of the awesome photography workshops you’ve been attending!!! Your photos are phenomenal!

  28. Totally impressed by your dedication to this! Think you will go far with the food photography.

  29. Oh, gorgeous pictures! What a fun workshop. :D

    I’m definitely a note taker! I write down everything, as it helps me stay focused. Otherwise, I tend to drift off and lose attention. ;)

  30. My photography challenges are 1.) not having a decent camera 2.) trying to figure out how to take pictures at night and 3.) basically not knowing what the heck i’m doing ;)

  31. Thank you for these awesome tips Averie! Your food photography is fantastic and inspiring. It’s an entirely different genre than I am accustomed to. I shoot underwater photos, and this has its own set of challenges.
    -Shutter delay/speed – Fish move fast! My current camera is not up to par in this department.
    -Exposure – different water depths and times of day produce rapidly changing lighting and color
    -Image Cataloging – I’m woefully behind.

  32. Oh my gosh, I need to attend something like this. We have classes in the city here, but they aren’t very good… and definitely not focused on food photography by any means. I’m so happy you’re sharing these tips with us. So awesome!

  33. I was absolutely a speed note-taker. I wanted to get as much info as possible. I actually loved the biology teacher I had in college because he printed out PowerPoint slides for everyone with key parts missing. So you still had to take notes, but the majority of the work was done, so I could actually sit back and enjoy the lecture without stressing that I was missing anything.

  34. I would LOVE to take a photography class!! Numbers make me cross-eyed too… my brain likes simplicity :)
    Boulder is beautiful but I lived near Denver for about a year and didn’t like it very much. I missed the west coast too much. Born in San Clemente and grew up in Mission Viejo and I think my heart and home will always be in SoCal…

  35. Sounds like you are having a great time and learning a lot.
    So cool that you met Elana from Elana’s Pantry. Hers was the 1st Gluten Free blog I ever read, and it is still one of my favourites.

    When I was in school I tried to write it all down. Now I write down key points. I still don’t like to rely on the slides that are provided in case their bullet points or choice of wording doesn’t click with me. Also, I learn my writing and doing.

  36. I’m also one of those people who takes photo’s for the “feel” and not so much for the numbers. Maybe that’s why we shoot 200 pics while they can shoot 2 for the money shot! hahaha! I’m so bad with that stuff but practice makes perfect!

    And the cupcakes was a total no brainer, as were the pink sprinkles ;)

  37. Soooo fun to relive F & L through your eyes. Such a wonderful & unique opportunity huh!

  38. Pingback: Food & Light: Photographing Challenging Food & Personal Assignments

  39. Pingback: Food & Light in Boulder, Colorado — Food & Travel Photography Blog | Atlanta Food Photographer | Dash of East

  40. I take a LOT of notes when I am in lectures for school (or anything).

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