Food Photography at its Finest Part 2 : Liquid, Glass, Metal and Concepts

In Part 1 of our series on “Foodtography”, we explored the world of food styling and its essential role in determining the overall caliber of your imagery. In Part 2, we are going to explore the other essential ingredients that go into creating professional and saleable food images for microstock. These include tips for lighting difficult reflective surfaces such as glass and metal, and simple techniques for photographing liquids. We will also review some stock-friendly food concepts that can help you create best-selling images.

 Liquid, reflections, pours


© artjazz, duskbabe, sriba3

wine honey oil

Pictured above are three examples of liquid and glass photographed to perfection. There are hundreds of photographic techniques designed to deal with the reflective qualities of glass and metal. Some are very complicated and require a lot of expensive equipment, but many of the most effective methods require just a few simple items from the craft store and some do-it-yourself knowhow.

When shooting glass as your subject, the direction of light is of the utmost importance. Lighting objects from behind or underneath are two effective ways to avoid reflections altogether. The upside to this approach is that it also illuminates the liquid contained in your vessel and brings out the color and texture. If you are going to light glass from the side or the front, you will create reflections that need to be managed. A specular highlight is simply the reflection of your light source (and sometimes the photographer and camera as well!) visible on the item you are photographing. The closer your light source is to the object, the smaller and more intense the highlight. If you move your light source further away, it becomes larger and more diffused (and most times, less distracting). By using window light, you can sometimes utilize the reflection of the pane to create an aesthetically pleasing reflection that doesn’t require retouching. But whether you are using natural light or strobes, you can always use fill cards or reflectors placed strategically just outside of your scene to reflect clean, controlled highlights in place of the distracting ones. These cards don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Foam core is all you need.

The following tutorial by “prophotolife” does a wonderful job of explaining these principles as they pertain to food and product photography.

Splashes, pours, and popping champagne corks have traditionally been executed with very specialized equipment, such as extremely high-speed strobes and laser devices. However, with all of the recent developments in digital technology, you can now achieve comparable results using traditional strobe or flash units. If you opt for a continuous light source, use a shutter speed that exceeds 1/1000 second and it will create sufficient stop action for splashes and pours. Whichever of the many possible techniques you choose, just be sure to keep a stack of towels nearby!

The following is a simple and effective lighting set-up by Forrest Tanaka for photographing pours.

From Superfoods to Junk Food: Culinary Concepts That Hit the Spot

We have already dedicated an entire blog entry to the importance of concepts and catchphrases, but it bears repeating. This is a cornerstone of creating successful stock photography whether you are shooting lifestyles, destinations, food or drink.


© buccaneerklenovaklenova

Northern Highbush Blueberries © buccaneer at Soup Bowls and Vegetables © klenova at Wild rice in wooden bowls © klenova at

Superfoods: These are foods that are touted in the media as having health and wellness benefits. These include flax seeds, leafy greens, brown rice, blueberries, cinnamon, barley, salmon and garlic, to name just a few. The market for this type of food imagery is vast. From fitness magazines to pregnancy blogs, “superfood” is something that is topical in a wide variety of demographics.


©  photosoupyekophotostudioOG_Visionzkruger

French fries © zkruger at Ice Cream Sundae with Whipped Cream and Cherry © OG_Vision at Sliced Pizza in a Pan © photosoup at Stack of Colourful Donuts © yekophotostudio at

Fast Food Favourites: On the opposite side of the spectrum is the ever-popular junk food category. Often used to illustrate the concepts of decadence, unhealthiness, obesity, and indulgence, these images can both stand alone and be paired with images of healthy food options to illustrate choice.


© ElenathewiseOG_VisionElenaT

cupcake turkey Easter

Holidays and Celebrations:  These iconic food items are among the most saleable images in microstock. It’s always advisable to shoot new holiday images every year as the props become available in stores. Items for Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Christmas are usually in stores at least six weeks in advance of the holiday. You could potentially get new images shot, processed, submitted and into a collection in time for immediate sales. More general holidays, such as birthdays or Bar Mitzvahs have sales potential all year long. Turkey dinners are always in demand to represent a variety of holidays from Thanksgiving to Christmas. They are also used more broadly as an icon that represents autumn, family, and comfort.


© sparkiaiodrakon

Child with Melting Ice Cream Cone © sparkia at Farmer's Breakfast © iodrakon at

The Human Element: Last but not least, is the impact that can be added to your photos by including the human touch. A melting ice cream cone in the hands of child evokes memories of innocence and wonder. A man’s hands poised ready to conquer an enormous breakfast could represent eager indulgence, not knowing where to start, or being spoiled for choice. Food has social and cultural significance all around the world so incorporating that element of humanity alongside your food can create a powerful combination.