Take Better Food Photos At Home

Taking pictures is easy! Taking good pictures is hard. You know this well, don't you? You tried to take pictures of your beautiful dinner last week and the final result looked like more like the scene of a crime than a dinner that took two hours to make. You posted it on Instagram anyway, getting a dismal 4 likes. One of them was your boyfriend. One of them was your friend who likes everything. One was a scantily clad woman who wants you to know that for $4.95 a month, you can gain hundreds of followers. The other one was you.

Like I mentioned in last week's photography post, you don't have to spend a ton of money to take great (or maybe I should just say "better") photos. In the near future, I'll detail my tripods, straps, and all that other fun stuff, but here are 5 cheap and easy ways to vastly improve your home photo set up.

Table & Poster Boards

If you're really trying to get into this photography game, I recommend that you stop trying to use the tables you already have and take a trip down to IKEA. I have two tables that I use interchangeably: the taller, larger table you see below, and a smaller one that fits underneath it (not pictured because I forgot to put it back). The smaller is the LACK in high-gloss white, the larger is MELLTORP. Combined, these two will cost you a whopping $44 or so.

Why both? The taller table makes shooting straight on or slightly angled above much easier. The short table lets you take overhead shots without having to go get the step ladder. Another great thing about the LACK is that the legs pop out easily and you can just set the top down on the ground.

The other key purchase: two poster boards from Michael's. You have to go to the framing area and ask them to get them out of the back—they're not the floppy pieces you get up from. They were a little more expensive than I expected ($15 or so each?), but they've held up well and make for easy backgrounds.

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 bourbon smoked paprika

bourbon smoked paprika

Lowel EGO Light

While I don't often use it, sometimes you need to take a picture at night or add more light to fill in a dark subject. This little guy works just fine. The temperature of the light is very close to natural light, meaning there's no weird blue or yellow hue cast on the food.

To be perfectly honest, I thought I had been duped when it first came. The box looks like something from the '90s and it feels like something you might give a kid, but for $100, it has impressed me.

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Reflector

Rather than use a light, I'd rather just make better use of natural light. I do that using this nifty reflector. Do I need to explain what this does? I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. This reflector reflects light. It's like copying and pasting sunlight onto an object that isn't facing the sun.

What's neat about this one in particular is that it's collapsible. When you get it, it's the size of a LP or so, but then you unzip it and BAM IT EXPLODES IN YOUR FACE. I'm so glad no one was near me when I nearly sharted from opening this. Think of this scene from Elf.

Chances are high that you're never going to be able to figure out how to fold it back up again, but that's fine. It's still a manageable size. You can unzip the side and switch out the color reflector (using the gold to get a warmer color, for example).

Note: the power cord is for the light it's resting on.

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Diffuser

You're all set up, right? You've got your table and your reflector ready to go. You've got it all right next to a window or two. No one is going to take better pictures of brownies than you're about to. Now I'm going to need you diffuse that sunlight—especially if it's a beautiful, sunny day. The harsher the light, the harsher the shadows, and the worse your food is going to look.

Google diffusers and you'll see tons of options. Pick whichever one best fits your house/shooting area. It's probably a good idea to go over to Schiller's (my favorite camera store in St. Louis) and take a peek at them in real life. I personally enjoy my diffuser sheet that is taped to my window—it makes it look like something out of Dexter when you drive by my house.

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