Quick! Which foods do you find difficult to photograph?

by Matt on December 20, 2011

Hi folks! I’m working on my book on food photography and wanted to ask you, my dear awesome-n-groovy readers, which foods you find difficult to photograph. Now I know you are all a super talented bunch, that’s no question, but what foods pose issues? Is it that casserole causing you catastrophes? The dagwood sandwich creating dilemmas? Stumped by a pile of holiday stuffing? Please tell me!

As an incentive I will pick the top 5 responses here and send you an autographed copy of my first book, On A Stick!And I’ll randomly select one winner to receive not only my book but also a copy of Susan Russo’s Encyclopedia Of Sandwiches, too! We worked with Susan on her project and it’s really a fun book, if I do say so myself!

So let me have it! What do you have problems with and why?

The Fine Print: I will happily pay for postage when sending out the books to the winners. I will ship internationally but please note I cannot guarantee delivery. Leave comments by January 1, 2012. Thank you!

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Quick! Which foods do you find difficult to photograph? | Shelterholic Now Food
December 20, 2011 at 9:10 am


Amy December 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

Anything brown! Beans, stuffing (like you said!), bean dips!

Deborah H December 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Beige food, especially if all I have handy is a white plate to put it on!

Jimena December 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I hate lasagna and cannelloni, with all that white sauce that make the dish all look the same and flat… It’s really hard to find a good angle that make them look good and tasty.

Christopher December 21, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Enchi-freakin-ladas. Worst food to shoot, like, ever. It resists being modern, demanding to be styled to death, made orderly, “cooked” dishonestly. And it’s both garish and frumpy at once.

Steves December 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Coffee & related beverages, like lattes, cappucinos and the like. The opacity of drip leaves a lot to play with in terms of color and oiliness, the latters have the difficulty of a time sensativity — milk foam of a good, melted ice-cream consistency made into proper latte art is hard to maintain but for a few moments.

Garrett December 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I find that the hardest thing for me to photograph are drinks and cocktails. I tell myself often to play with the sweat, refracting light, and color but it always seems to come out rather flat. In fact, it’s the main reason I try to avoid doing them on my blog. I can jazz up a dish of brown stew with a pretty plate and garnish, but doing either of those tricks with a cocktail just makes them look tiki and tacky. Ick. I want high class looking shots but don’t have the uplighting or proper backdrops and props it seems. Matt, how do I make a cocktail look like more than just a boring glass of colored water?

Steph F December 22, 2011 at 3:29 am

Beef stew. Any type of stew, really, but no matter how many differently colored ingredients you put in – orange carrots, purple onions, green celery, etc. – any photo attempt of the finished product just turns out so.. brown. And dog-food-like.


Anna December 22, 2011 at 6:47 am

Any non-cream based soup. Cream-based soups are ok, since you can garnish in a variety of ways, but any broth-based soup usually ends up looking pale and bland with no random bits of food peeking out. When I try to pile a garnish on top, it usually sinks before I get a good shot! What’s the trick??

Brianne December 22, 2011 at 8:16 am

Ugh, I tried to shoot a roast a couple of weeks ago, and it was atrocious! I garnished slices with greens and some cracked peppercorns, but the texture of the meat was so flat, and the glorious juices did not photograph well.

Also, white foods. How? I’m at a total loss.

Holly Postler December 22, 2011 at 11:04 am

Scrambled eggs, Ethiopian food, and stews – especially when they have some oil residue in them.

Domestic Executive December 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Definitely stews which I fail miserably to make look appetising or stop my camera lens steaming up!

Megan December 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I have a hard time photographing scones. I find that they hate looking pretty next to each other. What’s that about? I think the only answer is to keep making scones and eating them until they’re supermodels.

Alice December 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Beets, raw and cooked. Peach cobbler – the fruit always looks sad. And beef tongue. Home fries, for some reason. Stuff to work on for 2012, that’s for sure! Maybe not the tongue.

dterdal December 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm

i dont take food photos, but i think it may be difficult banana :)

Jessi @ Quirky Cookery December 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm

White-ish foods definitely. Mashed potatoes? No thanks. Pasta with white sauce? I’ll pass. I know how to adjust white balance to get the color itself right and I can garnish to my little heart’s content to make it more colorful. It takes so much more effort to turn it into something that looks as appetizing in a photo as it is on its own.

Also, soups, especially broth-y ones. There are only so many times I can scoop out a spoonful to show the ingredients while hoping the brothy base behind doesn’t show off little bubbles of oil/grease/whatever.

kale @ tastes good to me! December 22, 2011 at 4:41 pm

One word: drinks.

the Minty December 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Coming from a restaurant blogger perspective, I find soups the most difficult. And also ungarnished cocktails.

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com December 22, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Anything and everything soupy and brown mush :D I don’t want to win, coz I have your book ;) Let someone else get a chance to win.

Anneliese Zemp December 23, 2011 at 12:33 am

soup. always the soup.

Trevor Sis. Boom. December 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

Anything in the ‘stuff on rice’ category. I love all the Indian and Moroccan cuisines but I can’t seem to make any of them look decent and worthy of their amazing taste.

I ‘m quite excited to hear you are doing a food photo book!

Sara Rowe December 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

Anything monochromatic – especially beiges, browns and white. The first two usually end up looking the something that came out of the business end of a baby. Ick!

Amy (Minimally Invasive) December 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Chicken gumbo always vexes me with its unrelenting brownness and reflective soupy surface. It’s one of my favorite meals, so at least I’ll get a lot of practice shooting it, and might get lucky one day!

Mama Maria December 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Dark shiny foods…
Blackberry pie, deep brown beef stew, chocolate creations, coffee, yep, these are my main offenders!

Gabriele Spangenberg December 24, 2011 at 8:23 am


Sarah December 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

The food I make isn’t photogenic. Soupy, mushy and brown is often the grub I serve at my house. Rarely anything that has any architectural interest- no perky cupcakes or attractive braided breads. Also, anything chocolate ends up looking burnt for some reason.

Sarah December 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

The food I make isn’t photogenic. Soupy, mushy and brown is often the grub I serve at my house. Rarely anything that has any architectural interest- no perky cupcakes or attractive braided breads. Also, anything chocolate ends up looking burnt for some reason.

John December 25, 2011 at 7:29 am

Pastas are a challenge and also anything that is on a fork or in a spoon. I think you may need to crazy glue the pasta to the fork.

Any food that is one dimensional like a soup. We want to use lighting to create a sense of depth or texture

Bright colourful macarons are a joy to shoot

Lauren (Healthy Delicious) December 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm

anything monochromatic – especially beige/white/cream. I’m making clam chowder tonight and am shaking in my shoes over how the heck to photograph it decenty.

Joanne Kyvetos December 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Icecream, meat – anything with blood…

April December 28, 2011 at 9:59 am


Maria December 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

Eggs and fatty sauces. They’re just too shiny. I recently tried to take a picture of poached egg on smoked salmon and toast, but on the picture it just all looked greasy and limp, not fabulous and lush as in real life. How do you take a picture of eggs benedict? Or just simply fried eggs?

AnnaMarie December 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I have trouble with a lot of sauces. trying to capture balsamic onion preserves while canning….. goop on spoon!

Deanna December 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I find foods that need to be shown dripping or pouring to be really hard. Showing caramel oozing off a spoon and looking good? I just can’t seem to do it.

Tara J December 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Casseroles, brown upon brown food, sandwiches (sometimes) and soup.

Holly Postler December 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm

boiled peanuts!

katrina December 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

Tan things, which happen to be some of my very favorite eatables. My beautiful buttermilk bran muffins? Chunky oatmeal with apples? Oatmeal cookies? Those are the ones that come to mind, but I know there are quite a few more!

emiglia December 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

I have a pretty hard time with curries, but also with things that are cheesy. The pulled strands of cheese seem…. “cheesy” (for lack of a better word), but otherwise, it looks kind of dull and unappealing.

Gwen December 29, 2011 at 11:52 am

Anything with lots of ingredients together: casseroles, soups, stews, risottos, etc. They always come out looking a bit like barf.

De bouche à table December 29, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Anything that’s cook in the oven in a casserole, once you take it out, it most likely falls apart! And then try to photograph it. And through the glass container it’s not much better :(

Scott at Real Epicurean December 30, 2011 at 10:03 am

Anything “matt” – that is, things which don’t look nice and shiny – and would look strange with oil or suchlike drizzled onto them. I find it hard to get a good light balance on those.

Clare O Donovan December 31, 2011 at 7:06 am

I think anything ‘white’ in colour is hard to photograph e.g. white rice, white sauce etc. as it is very hard to make it look appetising. Equally it is very difficult to make it easily seen on a white plate!

wendy December 31, 2011 at 8:13 am

Foods without texture and/or without interesting color. (and of course… any food under mixed lighting).

laura k December 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I make a lot of one-pot rice-based dishes and I find it really challenging to make them look interesting. But casseroles, they are the most difficult. In this dish, they aren’t so bad, but plating them and photographing them to look like anything other than a big pile of mush is hard.

PS – I am so excited for your photography book! I just exclaimed aloud.

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