7 Tips to Practice Food Photography Without Cooking Food

Sushi Photos Food photography is an art of photographing food. But what if you don’t have any food to photograph? What if you don’t like to cook or don’t want to cook? Is that what’s stopping you from practicing food photography?

In this post we talk about 7 tips on how to practice food photography even if you don’t have cooked food.

How to Practice Food Photography If You Don’t Cook

The one common advice from all the great food photographers, food stylists and props stylist in the food photography interviews that we have done is practice, practice practice. But how do you practice if you don’t like to or want to cook?

If you don’t cook, there are still ways to practice food photography. You don’t really have to cook food, to practice food photography. Here’s how…

7 Tips to Practice Food Photography Without Cooking Food Yourself

Let’s get to the tips on how to practice without cooking. Here are some tips that can help you.

  1. Order a Take-Out (or Get it Delivered)

    If you don’t want to cook, go and buy something from a local restaurant or any place that cooks food. Although, buying food is a very convenient option make sure you put some thought into this. Buying food and bringing it to your studio to take food photos seems easy enough, but it only works for certain type of food.

    If you buy a sub from a national chain and bring it home, from the time it leaves the payment counter to it reaches the table of your studio, it may have become a big mess and will not make a great food photo. So, give some thought before buying something that may not look photogenic once you get to your studio. For the photo shown above, I ran to a national grocery chain and bought some fresh sushi.

  2. Partner with Food Bloggers

    Here’s another tip to consider. Find a food blogger in your local community who likes to cook but doesn’t want to spend time photographing food. You can offer to help him by taking photos for his blog.

    This is a win win for both of you. It helps food blogger as he can focus on cooking and writing and it helps you because you get food and dishes to photograph. The partnership should be mutually beneficial for it to sustain.

  3. Add Some Spices

    Cooked food is not the only subject that you can shoot. If you don’t want to cook, think about all the raw ingredients and spices you can shoot. Spices can be challenging to shoot and provide a great learning experience.

  4. Use Raw

    Photographing raw fruits and veggies require no cooking. ( I hope you don’t consider washing veggies and fruits thoroughly before eating them as cooking…). Raw veggies and fruits are the nicest and friendliest subject of all.

    They don’t melt on you while you were changing you aperture and shutter speed. You can photograph them for longer than any other subjects. If you are looking for a subject that for practicing artificial lighting, these are definitely on the top of the list and are easy to handle than most subjects.

  5. Have a Drink

    Drinks are also challenging subjects and the good thing is photographing drinks does not require you to cook. You can simply buy some beverage, style it and practice photography.

    Granted drink aren’t “food” and in the strictest sense drink photography is different than food photography. Although a food photographer should be a “drink photographer” as well if you would like to make money photographing for restaurants.

  6. Convince Your Spouse/Partner/Roommate

    Executing this tip is very simple. All you need is one simple trick – the Jedi Mind Trick. Look in your spouse or partner or roommate’s eyes and say this confidently, “You are going to cook for me.”

    If this doesn’t seem to work at first, have a staring-match with them by challenging them to look into your eyes long enough and repeat the statement. If this trick doesn’t work even after second time, find another victim like your roommate’s friend (and watch Star Wars to learn how Yoda does it). On a serious note, I am sure you get what I mean.

  7. Go with the Pros

    Once you are comfortable with the quality of your results you can start approaching restaurants culinary schools and help them for no or low price. This option is only useful to those who have been taking food photographs and create decent photos consistently.

    Approaching restaurants at very early stage of food photography is not advisable as this may hurt your brand and restaurants will lose time and money if you cannot deliver a good output.

What Do You Do?

Do you always cook for taking food photos? Share what you do to practice food photography?

  • Wow, I feel like this post was written for me 😉 I’ve already applied some of these tips, and particularly like the Jedi Mind Trick.

    • The Jedi Mind Trick works in most cases 😉 Thank you for your comment.

  • ha I must need to work on my jedi mind skills, because I have not often convinced my husband to do the cooking!

    • Thank you for comment Jenn… I am working on mind tricks as well… I have found that it works when I stare in eyes for a long time… and then whisper.. it works for me 😉

  • I love food photography, and want to have it as a profession. But still couldn’t figure out how to make the transition from an amateur to a professional.

  • #7 makes me uncomfortable, Neel. When you are a good enough photographer to approach clients, your work should warrant a fair price. Offering businesses photography at too low or no pay seriously hurts the very industry that so many of the readers here hope to make their living in. Use tips 1-6 to bring your work to the level where you can ask an acceptable fee, and get paid for your efforts.

  • Wow..I’m just started to like photography

  • Paula, You know… I thought about it and you are right that if you are good enough, I agree that asking for low or no price will hurt the industry and is not a good strategy for your own career as well. Competing on price is definitely not something that helps you build a profession.

    I will update the post and clarify this. In your opinion, what else can someone do to practice and build their portfolio, if they don’t like or want to cook?

  • Iza

    Very interesting post, Neal. I was wondering about the subject for a while. I really enjoy photographing food. Just there is now way I am going to cook, I am too “stick to recipe” person, and nothing good ever comes of it. It limited the amount of time I was spending on my favorite subject. Thanks for sharing the ideas, I am planning to use some of those (mainly fruit, veggies, spices, and take-out!). And maybe other readers will share some of their tips, too.

  • Hi Neel, I think it is important for anyone interested in food photography to work with prepared foods as much as possible. I would also suggest contacting culinary schools in your area. I’m sure there would be students eager to prepare platings in exchange for images of their work.

  • melodie

    i love it wonderful suggestion and good to know due to the fact i am 11

  • Nguyen Hoang Yen

    Thank you for your suggestion! They’re great ideas!

  • i´ve been ordering my food for almost year for food photography, its helps me to photograph diferent kinds of food.

  • I could stare into eyes for a hundred years and I would still be cooking all the meals! Secretly, I will be using fruit and vegetables.

  • Susan Smith

    While house-sitting in December, I was on a cooking binge and took pics of every dish I made. I think I did pretty good at it. At the present, I don’t have access to a kitchen very often, so store-bought subjects will be my main avenue for the lessons.

  • pinarkknutsen

    I am a stay at home mom and I am working on my e-book right now so I cook two warm meals every day and I take photos of them if I can. I take with with my iPhone 6 because it is so easy but I will take with my Canon 🙂

  • Juan Sebastian Echeverri

    Raw is a good idea!