pancake pour shot: NIna Bolders Food Photography.jpg


How did I improve my food pictures so dramatically that I ended up deleting most of my instagram account and starting over? Got noticed by brands, got asked to take pictures and make videos for them?

I even got to be a runner up twice in a food photography contest!

You can look at my portfolio here.

Here you see where I started 2017 and where I was in 2020, and what I’m doing today:

The banh mi sandwich today:

Banh mi sandwich

Here are my tips to take your food photography to the next level:

  • Light makes all the difference

Use sidelight for food and backlight for drinks, that’s what I would usually advise, at least for beginners. Always turn off the big light above the kitchen table, it doesn’t do you any favours. If you’re in a restaurant, look for a table close to the window so the daylight is stronger than the restaurant lights. Harsh direct sun can look great, but I’d say it’s more of an advanced thing.

If you have no daylight, you might want to check out artificial lighting for food photography, but don’t even try with the big light on the kitchen ceiling, believe me.

Food Photography Tips
  • Focus on what makes it tasty

What exactly is special about this food? Can you capture the texture, the steam, the beautiful food styling? Let those things shine!

A nicely layered cake or burger will look best when photographed straight on, whereas a beautifully garnished soup or buddha bowl will look best when photographed from above.

  • Compose the scene nicely

Make sure the horizon is straight, there are no unwanted paraphernalia or packages in the frame and the whole scene looks harmonious. Do the colours look good together? Does the food need anything else to look appealing, like herbs, cutlery? A little bit of a mess or a bite taken out can look even tastier and more natural, and reveal more of the texture, and storytelling with ingredients is an option too.

If your kitchen table doesn’t work so well or you would like some variation, you can buy some backdrops. For example vinyl ones from Errer backdrops in the Netherlands, where I got this “cafe table” and others.

Peanut Noodles
  • Consider taking a course

My biggest stepping stone was the amazing food photography and food styling online course with Kimberly Espinel*. I took the course during the first covid lockdown. I couldn’t believe the dramatic difference! I learned so much in that course, but the most important thing is that I found my style and voice. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s so much easier to express yourself in your pictures!

You’ll get 10% off at checkout with my code nin50. You’ll find out more about Kimberly’s courses here*.

If you want to learn to use your camera in manual mode, about working with light, composition techniques, colour theory, lightroom and more, check out Kimberly’s course.

It’s a class over the course of six weeks, very well structured into six lessons starting from scratch. So it works for beginners, but if you already know a few things, like how to use your camera in manual mode, it’s much easier to follow.

  • Lightroom and photoshop

Lightroom is an amazing way of taking your raw pictures to perfection. You can create nice rays of sun on your food, edit the colours to your liking and fix minor issues. For bigger projects you need Photoshop, and you can get a package deal from adobe.

To learn retouching food photography with photoshop I took this course by Rachel Korinek. She explains very well how to do all these magic things like for example taking the best out of these two matcha latte pour shots and turning them into one nice shot:

  • Beautiful foodstyling

One of the most fun things for me to learn as a food blogger was how to present my food in the most beautiful way, and I have come up with a formula that always works. Find out more on that in my blogpost Foodstyling 101 or in my video:

How to take your recipe reels to the next level

Most of what works for photos also works for videos. You need great light, beautiful food styling and props, an eye for composition and an editing software.

At the moment, I use my DSLR with my 50 mm lens and my 100 mm macro lens, but you can also use a smartphone like most people do. For editing, I use Adobe Premiere Rush and import the finished video into Lightroom for the colourgrading. However, I keep hearing about DaVinci Resolve and will move soon.

Here are my tips to help you shoot appealing recipe reels:

  • Plan Your Shots: Outline your recipe and plan each step in advance. Consider the sequence of shots to ensure a smooth flow. Prepare all ingredients and tools before you start shooting.
  • Lighting: Just like with photography, natural light is ideal, so shoot near a window. If you don’t like harsh light and shadows, you can use a diffuser. You can also get a professional artificial light set up. If you can ensure consistent lighting throughout the shooting process, you will have a much easier time editing.
  • Composition: Use a clean, clutter-free background to highlight your food. Experiment with different angles to capture interesting perspectives. Focus on the details, such as chopping, stirring, and pouring.
  • Camera Stability: Use a tripod to keep your shots stable and avoid shaky footage. You also might want to invest in a gimbal* for your smartphone to stabilize.
  • Camera Settings: Use a wide aperture (low f-stop) for a shallow depth of field to emphasize the food.
  • Close-ups and Details: Capture close-up shots to showcase textures and colors. Zoom in on important ingredients or actions for visual appeal.
  • Camera Angles: Experiment with different angles, including overhead shots and eye-level shots for a dynamic video.
  • Consistent Style: Maintain a consistent visual style throughout your reel. Use a cohesive color palette and editing style.
  • Editing: When editing, focus on important ingredients or actions and start and stop in the middle of the action. Unless you’re filming an onion chopping instruction video, the viewers don’t need to watch you cutting a whole onion. It’s usually enough to show one second of chopping and a slice of onion falling and catching the light. Start the video with a beautiful and dynamic capture of the dish to catch people’s attention at the beginning of the video. I use an automatic rotating plate* for a smooth turning movement.
  • Music: Add background music that complements the mood and edit to the beat.
  • Engaging Storytelling: You can narrate or include text overlays to guide viewers through the recipe if you like. It’s a good way to engage with your audience by sharing anecdotes or tips.
  • Quality Audio: You can use an external microphone to capture clear, high-quality ASMR. Avoid unnecessary background noise.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to experiment and refine your technique over time.

This reel was a runner up and praised a lot for the pacing and colours. Feel free to have a look, and you want to make sure the sound is on:

If you’re just starting out, this might all sound a bit overwhelming. Luckily, Kimberly now has a brand new online course on reels, the one I wish I could have taken years ago, and you’ll also get a discount with code nin50 at checkout. Find out more about the reel course here*.

  • Keep learning!

Since I took the class I have been devouring books on food photography. My favourites are

I also learned a lot from the youTube channels The bite shotWe eat together and Murielle Banackissa.

You can read more about my equipment, resources and journey in my blogpost on how to become a food blogger.

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