I Only Read Picture Books

I love collecting cookbooks. Over the years, I have accumulated over a few hundred cookbooks. Before I started food photography, I used to buy a cookbook based on the title and recipes. It didn’t matter if the book is all text or  illustrated with only drawings. I was more interested in the recipes than anything else. That is — until I got interested in shooting food. It was probably about a year ago, I realized being a foodie photographer have changed my cookbook buying habit.  Now, I would only buy and read picture books. The styles and techniques of the photos are more important to me than the recipes as my deciding factor to purchase a cookbook.  😀

One of my favorite places to buy books is Goodwill. They have a large selection of new and old books priced at a fraction of the original price. It’s interesting and great learning experience to see the evolution of the photographic techniques and styles of cookbooks through the years. I have learned a lot of my food photography technique and style by studying the pictures of the past and present. It’s exciting when I look at a picture and I can tell what the settings the photographer probably used to get the shot. For those of you who want to improve your food photography skills, the picture books are great for learning about lighting, aperture, composition and other technical aspects of photography.

As I sat at the table this morning having my coffee and donut while looking through the new stack of picture cookbooks I bought yesterday. Something clicked and slowly… I could sense my creativity turning back on. The beautiful food pictures motivated me to play with my breakfast. And for the next hour, I came up with these shots. I experimented with different white balance, aperture, and exposure time. For the light, I used the natural lighting from the windows. One good thing about rainy day — it makes perfect light source for food photography.

With food photography, there are many aspects of technical details to keep in mind; however from my experience, definitely composition and lighting are probably the two most important factors to get a good photo.

For me, I am most attracted to images that show the food up close. I want to be able to see the details but sometimes I don’t need to see the whole thing. Also I like using objects in the background. If it’s done correctly, the background colors created from the objects can help make the food look interesting and more appetizing. From all the newer books, I noticed shallow depth of field has become increasingly popular in food photography.





21 Comments on “I Only Read Picture Books

  1. Wow. Great post about how you photograph food, Emily. I like how you explained about buying books with great food photography and studied them. I have a favorite art book that I study that way. It is filled with famous artists’ self portraits. You reminded me of it, this post. I often study other artists’ work. For me, it expands my vision and teaches me there is more to art than only what “I” see. Thank you for this post. I want a cup of coffee, now, by the way!

  2. This is one time when playing with your food was a good thing. Loved the donut sitting on the coffee beans.

  3. I’m so glad your creativity kicked in for you! I’m still waiting on mine. Maybe tomorrow. 🙂 Your pics are great! I’m with Emily-Jane, I certainly think you have a gift for photography too. I don’t really have the desire to be a great photographer but I would like to be able to make better pics for my blog.

    I posted about coffee and donuts today too. Great minds think alike!

    Sherry @ A Happy Valentine

  4. Hey, I’m glad you didn’t stay gone long! Like you, I’m crazy about cookbooks and will never use all that I have, but I can’t resist them, especially when they are filled with great photos. My food pics need desperately to improve. My daughter gave me a wonderful book, Plate to Pixel, that is a good place to start.
    BTW, I always appreciate your visit.

  5. Emily! I’m drawing to food photography just like you—and I have way too many cookbooks for someone who doesn’t often cook 😉 I just wrote about this very topic early this week:


    Love your food photos—and yes, I see more and more shallow depth of field treatment in contemporary food photography. The industry has sure changed in the last few years—everything is more artistic, closer up, more amazing compositions.

  6. Good to see you Emily. Love those foodie shots – my son got all excited looking at those donuts 😉

    Lovely composition and really like the narrative nature of your first shot.

  7. Oh Em…these are such beauties! I think you have such a gift for photography. My mouth is watering just looking at them. I’m so happy you had a nice breakfast paging through your new books.

    Books are bliss.

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