How to Capture Mouth-Watering Food Photographs

written by Georgia Schumacher 20 June 2014

Do you delight in creating new appetizing masterpieces in the kitchen? Do you take pride in the color and appearance of your culinary accomplishments? If you want to remember more than the lingering flavors after a meal, perhaps you might consider trying your hand at food photography. With some guidance, the proper technology and techniques, and a bit of practice, you too can produce fabulous images that let you document the gastronomical miracles occurring within your kitchen, or someone else’s.

Get started with these tips, consider taking photography classes to expand your skill set, and practice with other enthusiasts.

Choose a camera with a good macro setting.

Most of your food photography is up close and personal to capture the textures, colors, and shapes of the food. A camera with a good macro lens and feature set allows you to take the focal range within a few inches of the subject you’re photographing. This brings all of those details into crisp, clear relief in the photos.

Master basic lighting skills.

Most photography classes provide extensive information on lighting techniques, the appropriate type of lighting for different situations, and tools you can use to direct the light. White paper and even cheesecloth help out with food photography in the kitchen. Ideally, a kitchen would have a great deal of natural light, but if it doesn’t or you’re working in a professional kitchen, daylight light bulbs provide a similar lighting environment. Consider using a tripod when light conditions aren’t ideal and increasing the shutter speed so you have an appropriate amount of light coming through the aperture.

Work on your plating.

If you want to create exceptional food photography, look at the plating designs that high-end restaurants use to make their food look irresistible. You might not have a food stylist waiting around for your photo shoot, but you can use their techniques to help elevate your home food photography to the next level.

Mix and match serving platters and backdrops.

Some food simply looks better on a plain white plate; others look good with a complex backdrop. It requires a bit of trial and error, but taking a look at some of the popular food photography blogs will give you plenty of composition ideas.

Capture the entire process.

Don’t just snap a picture of the cooking conclusion. Take photos of the ingredients, the preparation, and the cooking process. This helps the viewer get an idea of how the entire cooking process goes, instead of guessing at the way the dish comes together.

Keep it clean.

Wipe away any drips, grease, and smudges that may end up on the edge of your plates when you’re putting the food together. You want every part of the food placement on the plate to be deliberate, so take a second look at your plating before you start snapping pictures.

Explore our photography programs at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh -- Online Division.

Finding a Picture Perfect Place for Your Photo Shoot

written by Georgia Schumacher 22 May 2014

When it comes to finding the perfect spot for a photo shoot, your main consideration is mostly simply what kind of picture you want to take and the emotions and atmosphere you wish to capture. Luckily, as you’ll learn in our photography classes, you can always find ways to capture the imagery you -- and your clients -- so desire by accounting for and adjusting to important factors like those discussed below.

Light it Up

In every photography class you’ve taken or blog you’ve encountered, you've heard it hundreds of times: lighting is everything when it comes to photography. George Eastman is quoted as saying that, "Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light... and you will know the key to photography." Eastman certainly knew a thing or two about photography: he founded the Eastman Kodak Company, after all.

Artificial Intelligence

As a photographer, you'll want to pay close attention to your lighting sources. First, decide if your location will require you to rely on sunlight or an artificial glow via overhead spotlights or lamps. If your daytime shoot is blinding you and your subject, you can use a polarizing filter or lens hood to reduce the light. The polarizing filter will reduce sun glare reflecting off of shiny objects, and the lens hood cuts down on lens flare (also known as those strange orbs that show up in photos taken under bright sunlight).

Flash Forward

When shooting outdoors, you'll want to avoid backlighting your subject, or placing him or her in front of the sun (which often happens in those difficult to capture sunset photo shoots). As a general rule, if you wish to have the sunset or light in the background, you'll have to rely on your flash.

Time is of the Essence

Photography is a fun artistic escape, but that doesn't mean you can sleep in! When determining the right location, you'll have to consider timing.

The Golden Rule

When shooting outdoors, aim for scheduling your photo shoots around what’s sometimes called the golden hour. This perfect lighting -- found during the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset -- isn't described as magical for nothing. You have two opportunities each day to capture its flattery, which is especially lovely in portrait work. Plus, this also means that you actually can sleep in, night owls.

Private Eyes

Timing also plays a crucial role when conducting photo shoots at public spots. Your schedule will change drastically depending on whether you wish to capture a quiet landscape or one filled with commuters. When doing portrait shoots, make sure to keep your subject's comfort in mind, as busy backgrounds can intimidate models and interfere with getting a great shot. Make sure to check the weather forecast, also. Nothing can ruin a great set-up like a downpour, but if you do get caught in the elements, remember that spontaneity has its photographic perks.

Core Content

In order to best capture your ideal scene, take the time to get to know and understand your subject or desired mood beforehand. What feelings do you hope to conjure in the image? The atmosphere of your location is key to producing the visual you seek.

Flattery Gets You Everywhere

When photographing people, consider what colors would look best around them or what parts of their personality your images should showcase. Brainstorm what colors, mood, and contrast you hope to present in a landscape shot. This will help you narrow down your location based strictly on aesthetics.

Plan for Some Surprises

The more prepared you are artistically, the easier your shoot will prove. Again, that doesn't mean spontaneity isn't encouraged! Go with your instincts, and don't get stressed over bad moments or imperfect conditions. Learning to handle the unexpected moments and challenges only make you wiser and more experienced.

Interested in taking photography classes? Learn more about the certificate and degree programs in the area of photography offered by The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division.

Student Work Featured for National Photo Month

written by Georgia Schumacher 6 May 2014

In honor of May being National Photo Month, we're featuring three artwork submissions from students who are taking photography classes in one of the programs offered at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh -- Online Division.

April Carlson photo
Photo by April Carlson
Student, Associate of Science in Photography

Chris Rogers photo
Photo by Christopher Rogers
Student, Bachelor of Science in Photography

Nick Chill photo
Photo by Nicholas Chill
Student, Associate of Science in Photograhy

Want to see your work on our site?

For the chance to have your artwork featured on our blog, website, or social media pages, submit your work at and complete the required release form.

Explore our Photography Programs

Interested in pursuing a career in photography or taking photography classes to earn your degree or certificate? Learn more today!

Quick Tips for Outdoor Photography

written by Georgia Schumacher 1 April 2014

PhotographyIf you love being in the great outdoors, then taking a nature or landscape photography class might be right up your alley. While it might seem like an easy specialty to master, there's more to it than meets the eye. However, it's possible to improve your skills, if you're willing to put in a little time and effort. These quick tips will have your photographs looking professional in no time.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

While natural lighting is always preferable, not all light is created equal. The light around the middle of the day is too harsh and won't show your subjects to their best advantage. The light just before sunrise and just after sunset is the best for getting great shots of landscapes and nature, but be quick as it will soon get too light or too dark.

Horizon Horrors

This might go without saying, but in photos, the horizon should be, well, horizontal. One of the common problems in outdoor photography is forgetting to keep your horizon straight. Take that extra moment to make sure that you're shooting level and your photos will thank you for it.

Shutter Speeds

Think about the optimum shutter speed for your subject. If you're tackling landscape photography then a longer shutter speed is generally best. However, if you're looking to get some great wildlife shots, then you'll want a fast shutter speed, especially if you want to catch animals in motion. For longer shutter speeds, it's more or less vital that you use a tripod to keep your camera still and ensure your photos don't come out blurred.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

Nothing shines through in outdoor photography more than a true passion for nature. However, it's still important to prepare and do your research. If you're trying to capture a particular species (be it animal or vegetable), make sure that you'll be able to find it in the area you're photographing at the time of year you're going. It's also a good idea to thoroughly explore the place where you're shooting, especially if you're looking for great landscape photographs. Taking this extra time will help you to get amazing shots that really have that wow factor.

Get Serious about Your Photography

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in photography, consider taking photography classes at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division. We have several photography programs available online, and our photography classes are designed to allow you to explore the elements of image production and manipulation, learn how to use a wide range of professional camera and lighting equipment, and gain the ability to capture a moment through your lens that evokes emotion.

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21st Century Photography Classes: Blending History and Technology

written by Georgia Schumacher 26 February 2014

Photography is a tremendously exciting area of study. Almost everyone has experienced the thrill of taking a great photo and documenting an amazing moment or place. Part of what makes photography so exciting is that it blends art and science as well as creativity and analytics. It's also one of the fastest changing disciplines in the art world. Photography classes taught in art schools aren't just intended to make professional photographers out of creative individuals. They're designed to create students of history and technology.

The evolution of photography has changed the way classes are taught. Technology is a catalyst that has brought a new dimension and new possibilities to this unique art form. Today's photography classes have a wider focus, and today's students have a greater breadth of knowledge. Aspiring photographers still need to learn everything that was taught in the past, but they also need to master a wide range of new technologies and techniques.

In the digital age, photography doesn't stop when the picture is taken. There's an opportunity to edit creatively, perfect the image, and apply dazzling effects. Students also have the option to apply the principles of photography to videography and other disciplines.

Photo History


The lens makes photography possible. However, the person behind the camera and the subject in front of the lens are what make photography so magical. To harness the power of this lens-based medium, students must understand how photography became what it is.

This art form has evolved tremendously since the first successful photos were taken in the 19th century. First, there were medieval precursors and projectors like the camera obscura. Then, there was the famous daguerreotype developed by French scientist Louis Daguerre, which required a 10-minute exposure period. More recently, advances like Kodachrome took small steps toward achieving photography's full potential. Students of history can better appreciate photography and can better understand the expressive nature of the discipline.

Back to Basics

Modern students are usually comfortable behind digital point-and-shoot cameras, but teachers would be remiss if they didn't encourage students to take a step back to explore photography history. In the analog age, the darkroom was the photographer's office. Safelights, film winders, enlargers, and development chemicals were their tools. Photography classes must cover the basics before skipping ahead through decades of technology. That's why analog and digital facilities are available at every art school. Both technologies are valuable when students are leaning to master the medium. Contrast and composition are the essence of photography, and these skills are often learned by taking black-and-white photos. Once these skills are mastered in the real world, students can begin to work on lighting and various techniques in the studio.

Digital Technology

Digital cameras surpassed film in 2003. Many modern students are digital natives that consider film a foreign object. Teaching students the fundamentals of film, lenses, and analog equipment is essential. Then, they can learn how to apply traditional techniques to a digital medium. Whether students are using an old Miranda camera or a new Nikon, it's important to understand the fundamentals and know how aperture, shutter speed and lenses will affect the final shot. Mastering the basics is extremely important. It also gives aspiring photographers the freedom to apply traditional techniques to a digital medium, which can produce some very unique and original results.

Image Processing

Digital image processing, editing, and manipulation programs are advancing quickly. Today's students must be intimately familiar with photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop. In many cases, the fun begins after the photo is taken. To be successful, most students need to learn basic photo editing skills as well as some advanced ones. That's why image processing has become an increasingly important part of the art school curriculum. Commercial photographers will find that touchups, background removal, and other similar techniques are essential for their work. In other areas, students may find that creative styling, high dynamic resolution, and digital adjustment tools are useful for creating high-quality pictures in a unique style.


Photo EditingArt school studies are designed to prepare students for life after university. Comprehensive programs give students the skills to pursue photography as a hobby, as an art form, or as a way to make a living.

Photographers can find employment in many areas depending on their interests and training. Advertising, product photography, communications, and portraits are excellent commercial opportunities. Other students might be more inclined to use their skills in science, law, criminal justice, or photojournalism. On the creative side, there's fine art, nature, and street photography. Finally, interdisciplinary skills are a growing area. Photographers can use their talents as a printmaker, graphic designer, or videographer.

The Future

Photography's future is as interesting and exciting as its past. The field of photography is very different today than it was just a decade ago. Recent breakthroughs include 3D photography, image stabilization, superior noise reduction, and better electronics. New technologies and techniques emerging currently will further change how the subject is approached. Because the field is evolving so rapidly, now is a great time to enroll in photography classes.