Pretty and Not So Pretty Pictures


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I had been eying this book for awhile and decided to take the plunge and pick up this book.

Food Styling Book

I’d like to think it’s the Bible of Food Styling because it’s 400 pages, chock full of information, tips, tricks, advice, troubleshooting information, and more.

Some interesting snapshots from the book:

The tools a professional food stylist keeps in her toolbox

Page in book with professional kitchen toolsPage in book with spatulas, servers, litters etc.

How to work with difficult foods and make them look good on camera, i.e. melting, ugly, messy food

Page in book saying Chocolate - The Problem Child for the Food Stylist

Unique Obstacles such as how to get bars out of pan and make them look pretty for the camera

Page in book with Other Baked Goods- Overcoming Unique Styling Obstacles

Dealing with cookies of inconsistent size and color and recipe tweaks to make them more uniform

Book page about Drop Cookies

Working with Unattractive Food and how to beautify it

Book page about Unattractive Food - Hot to Beautify It for a Shot

Making a slice of pie look perfect in pictures isn’t just slice and go. It’s toothpick and go.

Page in book making a slice of cherry pie look appetizing

How to Build a Soup (or burger, salad, ice cream cone, sandwich, you name it, it’s covered) for the camera

Page in book showing step by step for building a soup

Everything you see in photos in magazines, ads, or in print was carefully staged and “built”.  Soup doesn’t just fall out of the ladle and into the bowl looking perfect.

Page in book showing finished bowl of soup

Great care is taken to make peanut butter pretty and tips are given on how to spread it properly.

Page in book on how to make Peanut Butter prettyI bet most bloggers and blog readers could write the manual  “How to Spread Nut Butter”.

And this is the woman, Delores Custer, behind this amazing book.   

Page in book Trends: Food and Food Presentation

You name it, this book covers it.  I will cherish this book for decades.  Seriously, it’s that good.

Food Styling Book on countertop

And I have a lot of cookbooks and books complete with reviews on them all.

Shelves filled with various books


From my last post on Movin’ & Groovin’ with Caution, it was interesting to hear what things or people in your life you are a little gunshy or leery of, or that you proceed with caution around them.

Because they’re the pictures I’m most proud of to date, No Bake Vanilla Cake Batter Chocolate Truffles are the dessert du jour.

No Bake Vanilla Cake Batter Chocolate Truffles


1. Do you have any tips or tricks that have helped you take better photos? Not necessarily just food pictures either, but all types of photos.

I know photography isn’t everyone’s passion.  I never used to be  mine, but that has changed and I love it!

For anyone who has ever tried to take pictures of anything from food closeup shots to nature scenes to capturing another person’s essence, you know there is an art to getting what you see with your own two eyes in real life to translating that well in photographs.

Flowers, kids, cookies, your pets, or the drops of rain on the window… they never seem to look quite as good in photographs as they do in real life, unless real care is taken to preserve the shot.

My tips and tricks for getting the best shot are:

to take time with your shot.  Don’t rush if possible.  Easier to do with inanimate objects, of course.

take lots and lots of pictures, more than you ever think you’d need

walk around and capture your subject from all different angles, sides, and vantage points

resist using your flash, especially with food

don’t be afraid to get creative and sometimes what seems like it will look really silly or that it would “never work”, when you upload the pictures, it’s the setting, shot, or angle that you thought was the corniest that turns out to be the coolest.   This is also true in modeling.  The worse, unnatural, and awkward  a pose feels, that usually means the shot will turn out great!

And I am not an expert, not trying to be one, just sharing what I have learned, 25,000 pictures and two years later in my blogging career because before that, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures.

2. Do you think there are some things that are just ugly very hard to shoot and no matter how many times you shoot them, it’s just not pretty?

White foods such as bread, pasta, lasagna, noodles, sugar cookies, taco shells, all are so awesome tasting and can look wonderful in person, but white foods just don’t seem to photograph well for me.

Quesadillas (Vegan) taste great.  Look meh on camera.

Close up of Vegan Quesadilla

Beans, lentils, chili, soups, also need to be careful with them or they look like brown slop.   Or you know what.

Vegan Chili tastes great, looks not so great

Close up of Vegan Chili in bowl

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding is ugly in person and on camera!

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding close up in bowlAnd it’s a gray food which I think are ugly to begin with.


The Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding isn’t much better although chocolate anything is good.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding close up

And Raw Vegan Chocolate Coconut Snowballs aren’t the prettiest but you cannot go wrong on taste or simplicity of recipe with these.

Raw Vegan Chocolate Coconut Snowballs in bowl
Close up of Raw Vegan Chocolate Coconut Snowballs with scoop taken out5 minutes, cocoa powder, coconut, sweetener.  Despite the less than pretty exterior, they taste wonderfully.

Now that I have poked fun of my own food pictures, it’s your turn!   What subject matter or foods do you think are difficult to photograph well?

3. Do you have any ugly food pictures on your blog?

The majority of the pictures on my site I used to think looked “good” but now I go back and cringe at all my old photos.  And even some very recent ones.

I think all bloggers feel that way though!

We all have to start somewhere and it’s a journey, and evolution, and looking at the ugly ones makes me appreciate the better pictures.   Growth is a beautiful thing.

*Edited to Add*

Please Go Bid on Katie’s Vegan Blog Bake Sale for Japan items.  Dozens of bloggers are donating vegan baked goods and the bid proceeds go to the people of Japan.

I am donating Raw Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls


Two Raw Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls in bottom of container

Go Bid!


About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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  1. I know this is an old post but I just tried to photograph rum-banana bread pudding. The photo looks something like your photo of your vanilla chai seed pudding. AAARRRGGGHH!!!!!

  2. I find food styling really interesting. I always play with angles, and take MANY shots when photographing my food (or anything).

  3. I bought that book but was a bit disappointed just because I felt like it focused SO much on commercial food styling, which is rarely dealing with edible foods. I was hoping for more how to create depth, etc. but admittedly I haven’t read it cover to cover.

    1. you are right, it DOES focus tons on commercial food styling. I also had hoped there would be more photography tips, not just food styling tips, but I have barely scratched the surface of that big honkin’ book either :)

  4. Hi Averie,

    I read your blog every single day, I love it and I’ve made a lot of your recipes. Yesterday I made the non bake vanilla truffles and OMG! I’m inlove!!!
    Thanks for sharing so many amazing recipes!

    hope you are feeling better

  5. Averie,

    I just wanted to get in touch to say how much I love your blog – yours was one of the main ones that got me hooked on healthy living blogs :)

    I’ve tried several of your recipes (kale chips tonight!) and they’ve not let me down yet so thanks!!!

    I really love your positive outlook on life and it’s obvious you must be a great mum because Skylar is ALWAYS SMILING! she’s so cute!

    Anyway, I just wanted to give you some positive feedback, I will carry on enjoying reading your blog! :):)


    1. Thanks, Katy, for such a sweet comment and glad you’ve like all my recipes…and the kale chip, too! :)

  6. That book does look very cool! I love reading about all of the “behind-the-scenes” type things.

    I don’t really pay much attention to how my photos come out. Although I do love looking at the beautiful ones taken by my favorite bloggers like you!

  7. Sure looks like the Bible of Food Styling. What you posted is amazing.

    I use ice cream scoops or tea / coffee scoops for muffins, cupcakes, and cookies. All depends on the size I want them to be. When I used regular spoons, the size difference is embarrassing.

    Photo tip: follow the light. That’s the only one I know. It has made a difference in the photos I take – although my husband is the one who takes 99% of the photos.

    I’ll be making some of your Raw Vegan Chocolate Coconut Snowballs this weekend for a party. They are always a huge hit.

  8. That book looks awesome!! I definitely have lots to learn about food styling. I tend to just throw stuff on a plate and call it a day; and yes, most of my food is ugly! haha. I like to do a lot of one-pot meals, and I guess they’re not always necessarily ugly…just sort of…boring, maybe? Hmm. Probably doesn’t help that by then I just want to eat it :P
    I definitely have lots of ugly pics on my blog! I was looking back at old posts the other day because I needed some pictures and was sort of grimmacing a little bit! haha.

  9. Wowee! What a book. I can’t say that I’m really aiming to be a professional photographer by any means, but it’s fun to learn new tips.

    I definitely have some ugly pictures on my blog! But subject or not, the lighting seems to make the biggest difference. Though I have to agree, anything chia is just plain nasty looking. I’ve never seen a good looking chia pudding photo and there seem to be a lot of them on blogs these days!

  10. Fun that you have this new hobby- an as per usual, you are jumping in with both feet first- and it shows. Really nice stuff! And yah, the chia seeds can never look pretty :-)

  11. That book looks absolutely incredible. I would love to invest in that book too.

  12. I definitely need that book! I have a ton of photos that were taken with my broken camera that I should really re-take sometime soon.

  13. That book looks fascinating!!!! Loved the bits you showed us! :D
    And those truffles. Oh my. I will be making them.

  14. Amazing book, but it looks like way too much work for me. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the results as you do it!

    I think the color of dishware is very important. I have a set of giant soup bowls in 6 different colors: Dark blue, light blue, dark orange, light orange, purple and green. There are some foods I make that I avoid putting in some of the colored bowls because they look so unappetizing! (For eating, not photographing.)

  15. Wow, the book looks very interesting. Lots of great photos and info.

    1. That’s something I’m still learning myself, a good macro lens, lighting and color contrast seem to be huge considerations for food pics.
    2. Sure, some tasty foods lack in color and need a little jazzing up.
    3. Yeah … pretty much everything taken with my little camera. :-P I have a few that are too close, in poor lighting, out-of-focus, etc.

  16. Wow, I never really realized how complex food styling is – it looks like it takes a lot of time and hard work!

    I have always loved photography though (ever since I took a class in high school) – it is so much fun!

  17. I think some foods can be VERY difficult to photograph, such as a wrap or an item where the main ingredients seem “hidden.” And I definitely agree with your tips! NO FLASH was something I learned immediately when I started blogging, and I’ve also learned that multiple shots give you a lot more to choose from and might end up showing you an angle you would have never thought would work when you were taking the shots.

    Great tips! :)

  18. its funny because I sometimes go back to my old posts from when i first started and WHOA there are som terrible shots! the food doesnt even look like food they are so bad! I am definately no photographer, but blogging has def helped me realize to be patient with pictures and really pay attention to detail–something I usually don’t its fun and exciting now!

  19. I’ve been not so good about taking pictures of pretty much anything except Colin and our friends recently (whoops, distracted much?), and I’ve found that the best pictures come from just having my camera on me and ready to snap at any second. I hate posed pictures of people and I love being able to capture a laugh or a funny moment!

  20. That book looks awesome! I’ll have to check it out. My best tips for food photography: Use white plates as often as possible and don’t plan an elaborate shoot for something you want to eat immediately, lol.

  21. that book does look pretty cool. and huge! i’m no expert in photography, but i hear you on not using flash and taking tons of photos of the same thing.

  22. “chocolate: the problem child” – now THAT made me laugh! sounds like a fabulous resource, averie. great find!
    i am not passionate about photography…right now (never say never). the writing part of blogging is what i love, i just throw in photos for interest. that being said, i am trying to make pictures better. i pay more attention to lighting, and am learning when to use the flash, when to turn it off.
    you are really making progress! the use of the colourful scarves is a huge bonus.
    now go read your book!

  23. I wish I had more time for photos, but right now, I barely have time to cook!

    I am so happy that you’ve found something you are so passionate about….quite the 180 from 6 months ago, right? ;)

  24. Right now I’m taking pictures with my phone and use my stove’s overhead lighting.. whatever works right! ^_^

  25. Wow– that book doesn’t mess around!!! I would love to get myself a copy and have fun with it!

  26. That looks like a really fun/useful book! If I ever come across it, I’ll definitely flip through!

  27. I purposely don’t worry about the photos on my blog! Part of my schtick is to be the exact opposite of professional, but more real. I care about lighting. I want colors to stand out. That’s about it! :-)

    I totally agree that some foods look crappy… chia pudding, absolutely. I posted a pic of it on FB, and one of my friends commented: How does that not make you fart? ;-)

  28. That book sounds like a winner! Thanks for sharing some of the tips. I’m always looking for ways to make my pictures nicer! :-)

  29. Wow that looks like a great book! I’m jealous :D I guess the tip that helped me the most with all kinds of photography is to see the light. I knew the basics like not taking a picture of someone standing in front of a window but it goes a little further than that. I even rotate my food around to see the light and how the food looks better because a small adjustment can look way better or way worse. That being said everything on my site is a work in progress. It’s hard not to look at other peoples photos and not feel self conscious about my own. Haha, I posted some black beans the other day. Those were really ugly, LOL. Usually things that are all one color are difficult for me. Gotta break it up with another color, but sometimes you can’t!

  30. wow, thanks for sharing that book I think I’m definitely going to get it once I’ve gotten my site configured the way I would like it.

    I love that you also shared the ugly photos lord knows I’ve taken a lot over the last few weeks while getting acquainted with food photography! :P

  31. i am loving your food styling hobby! its fun to learn these new things :) i was also thinking how cool it is how much your blog has developed over the year and how far you’ve come! now you’re such a photography lover i love it!

    i’m also kissing the ground you walk on for introducing me to chia seeds haha now i can’t living without them!!

  32. LOL I cannot believe there is a book! But of course there would be a book; there’s a book for everything.
    And girl, your balls are already up to $75!!! Expensive balls!
    (Please don’t take that the naughty way lol!)

    1. I know, i just went to your site and saw that!!! amazing! Thank you for organizing it all…I know it was a FT Job, and then some, for you :)

  33. I have definitely photographed and blogged about ugly food. I like that though. I like real food. It’s not always picture perfect, but that’s ok with me. I am definitely a work in progress when it comes to photos…I’m learning as I go.

  34. I have plenty of ugly photos… thats the worst when you make an amazing dish and you just cant get it to look good

    1. totally! I have GREAT recipes that sometimes I never post about b/c the pics are sooo…meh.

  35. I always wanted my PB to smear like that! I think orange hued foods are really hard to capture. Lately it seems my foods have been hit or miss. I’ve been trying to practice more with manual settings.

  36. I have to admit, I don’t spend enough time on my own food pics, though great pics can sucker me into someone else’s blog. I don’t have a high-end camera, but that food styling book almost makes me wish I did. Have fun with it!

  37. That book looks so cool and helpful. Sometimes I get good shots and sometimes it’s like an off day. All about finding the right light without shadows for me, and then styling. I stopped taking pictures of everything I eat a long time ago. I didn’t like posting boring or ugly pictures and didn’t want to spend 20 minutes on every meal just taking pictures. Then editing, uploading, viewing, etc. That book looks fun! I was hoping you were giving it away.

  38. Averie that book looks really interesting! I would love to place the cherries in a piece of pie — how hilarious

    I don’t think I have the best pictures, but I also don’t think they are too bad! I try to find as much natural light as possible, and I take 5-6 pictures of every shot, just to make sure the lighting looks right and there are no shadows (or the right amount of shadows, etc).

    There are lots of foods that don’t photograph too well — oatmeal, pudding, chili, some soups, casseroles, a scoby :)