Food photography has become more and more important in our online world today. Whether it’s a food blogger trying to beautifully photograph their recipes or a commercial food photographer making an ad for a top restaurant chain, we see amazing food pictures everywhere.
If you’re an aspiring food photographer you may have wondered how much time you need to spend practicing to get to a high level of skill. Food photography is complex and requires many skills to master.
So How Much Time Do You Need To Practice Food Photography Before You’re a Good Food Photographer?
It can take anywhere from 1 month to 10 years to become a skilled food photographer but a more precise estimate is about 1 year. Take this with a grain of salt of course because there are many factors that will affect how fast you learn food photography.
It took me at least 3 years before my photos stopped being trash. Not gonna lie, it was a struggle. Food photography is difficult and I had to work hard. You can read this post about why food photography is so difficult to see some of my earliest photos. They were BAD.
To be fair, I didn’t get a DSLR until later and I was pretty new to photography in general. I’m still learning a lot about food photography everyday I pick up my camera. There is always more you can do to improve your skills.
That doesn’t mean it will take you 3 years to learn food photography. Let’s talk about some factors to consider.
Things that will affect how quickly you can learn food photography.
Past Photography Experience:
If you’ve been doing other types of photography for years then you may have plenty of knowledge and skills that translate well into the realm of food photography. You will likely have a good understanding of how to manipulate light and compose a good shot.
Past photography experience will almost certainly help speed up the process of learning food photography.
What Kind of Camera You Start With:
I started with a point-and-shoot camera when I started. Look, there’s nothing wrong with a budget camera and it will definitely help you focus on food styling, lighting, and depth of field, but it’s not ideal. If you can at least start with a DSLR camera you will learn much faster.
The skill of a photographer is by far the most important factor but the type of camera does matter.
How Much Time You are Willing to Invest:
If you are hoping to listen to a Youtube video and buy a new camera and be off to the races then you’re probably going to struggle like I did. Don’t get me wrong, Youtube is amazing and I recommend searching there. It’s just not going to do much for you if you can’t devote some time to get your hands dirty (literally) and play with your food.
The more time you spend practicing the faster you will learn.
Tips That Can Help You Get Good at Food Photography Faster
A very obvious tip, but a solid piece of advice. There is endless information available today and you can spend time taking it all in (and you should get as much as you can), but nothing beats action. You will never get a better understanding of how light works or how you like your composition than you will by doing the thing.
You will be able to learn about your camera and how to be in control of the settings. You’ll learn how adding food to your chosen props and backdrops responds to color theory, and how frustrating it is when you’re using natural light and the sun won’t stay still. Point is, you have to experience taking photos yourself and styling real food before you will really see results.
2. Read Books & Listen To Podcasts
There are many resources to learn about photography for free online or in books. Youtube, as I mentioned above, is a great resource and there are plenty of channels to teach you the fundamentals.
Podcasts are a great option to learn while you’re cooking, working out, or doing whatever. I am always listening to podcasts throughout the week.
3. Take a Course or Attend a Workshop
There are many online food photography courses today. Skillshare is great for basics and even some more advanced learning. Other places to look are food bloggers who have their own course on food photography.
You can also look to see if there are any food photography workshops coming up in your area. Many food bloggers/photographers will host local events like this. It’s more likely you’ll find one if you live in a larger city. Social media is a good place to search for local events like that.
Ideas for Getting Practice as a Food Photographer
1. Play with Lighting Situations
Try setting up a small home studio and using a window to practice with natural light. Then try switching it up and taking photos outside, in a dark restaurant, inside with just indoor lighting, and so on. You will quickly get an understanding of how different light makes food look.
Once you’ve gotten some practice at different light try using different levels of diffusion, filtering light, with a window. Also try some black and white bounce cards to see how the light and shadows change with different color reflectors.
2. Offer to Take Photos for a Small Business
A really great way to dip your toe into the shallow end, so to speak, is to take photos for small cafes or restaurants for free or trade. This allows you to have the task of taking photos for a client without the pressure of big money on the line. If you don’t preform well under pressure this is a good option for you.
When I first started out taking food photos for other people I offered to do test shoots for small coffee shops and diners. I did them either for free or in trade for a gift card or something like that.
It was a way to force myself into difficult food photography settings and have to deal with only what (very small amount) of gear I had. I know this was a huge factor in helping me learn more quickly. I had to think on my feet and learn to deal with clients in a low-pressure kind of way.
3. Start a Social Media Page or Hobby Blog
I started food photography because I wanted to make my blog recipes look better. It gave me motivation to keep getting better even when things were challenging. Try starting a small social media page or blog, even if you don’t want to become a blogger or influencer. It will give you a place to post your work for people to see and give you feedback.
4. Set a Challenge for Yourself
Try a challenge like 1-photo-per-day, or 20 photos per month. Something you can achieve that can be a goal to work on. This would go well with the last idea of starting a blog or social media page. Start a challenge and tell someone about it at least so it’ll keep you accountable to keep at it.
You can expect to get good at food photography at a speed based on how much time and practice you put in. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and put your early work out there. Every journey begins with a single step.
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