Cookbook photography is slightly different from food blogs or advertising. It requires the same attention to lighting, design, and presentation. However, unlike photos for a blog post, a book may be flipped through and read in a single sitting. So the photos need to complement each other.
The first step to photographing for a cookbook is to have a good understanding of food photography. While it’s easy to get lucky with one or two decent photos, consistently being able to take good food photos requires practice. This post isn’t about how to take photos. It’s about how cookbook photography is different from food blog photos.
Check out my post on food photography for general advice on taking great food photos.
Cookbook Versus Food Blog
I was concerned about having similar recipes in my cookbook and on my blog. How could a cookbook on fermenting not include basic recipes for yogurt and sourdough? Yet, I already had that content on Fermenting For Foodies. However, my publisher assured me that it wasn’t an issue.
People don’t just buy cookbooks for recipes. They want the experience of working from a cookbook:
- No need to scroll between the ingredients and the instructions.
- All the information is easily organized.
- Food bloggers don’t always fully test their recipes, whereas any decent cookbook will have involved extensive testing including external recipe testers.
- And beautiful full-page, high-quality photography.
A Cookbook Photography Tells a Story about the food
Cookbook photography differs from food blog photography in 3 ways:
- All of the necessary information about a recipe needs to be captured in a single photo (with a few exceptions). Whether it’s a recipe step or the finished product, the single picture must tell the reader as much as possible.
- People usually flip through cookbooks, looking at more than one recipe. So the photos need to have some diversity of color and texture, otherwise, they will be repetitive and boring.
- A cookbook is a story about food and the writer’s connection to food. The photography needs to reflect that.
Cookbook photography Tips
I am by no means an expert on photography. However, when I first considered writing a cookbook, I did everything I could to learn about photography. I read books, talked to some of my friendly neighborhood photographers, and seriously studied the photographs in a LOT of cookbooks.
Here are some of the tips and tricks that I used for my cookbook photography.
- Always use the same lighting for a cohesive feel throughout the book.
- Since cookbooks tell a story about the food, make sure all the photos fit with the chosen style and tone.
- Most cookbooks include a few food-related lifestyle photos. These help to add to the story and feel of the book.
- Include a few shots of ingredients or food prep steps, not just all plated food.
My publisher also wanted all my photos to be unedited and uncropped. I found this to be particularly difficult… because editing photos is how I choose which one I like best. But I got used to deciding between unedited photos and in the end, only submitted 3-4 shots for each photo.