Camera Settings for Food Photography and Food Preparation (and Other Notes) from Andrew Scrivani’s Workshop

 Camera Setting for Food Photographers

In this workshop, Andrew started the session by explaining the Exposure triangle and White balance. Then the discussion moved to starting to shoot using Manual mode. Later Andrew taught how to prepare food for maximum effectiveness and take beautiful food photos.

Camera Settings

There are four basic camera settings that every photographer should know. You need to wrap your mind around these settings and understand them so that this becomes a second nature and you don’t have to think about them when you are shooting.

Using Exposure Triangle


The lowest number you can choose will give you the highest quality of the image on your camera. Start with 100 or so. Andrew tries not to go above 800 specially for commercial work. Although new cameras have higher quality sensor, the preference always is to keep ISO as low as possible. The lower the ISO, the less noise is in the photo. Start with ISO of 100 and then adjust per the triangle.

Explaining Aperture


Best way to understand is human eye and specifically pupil of your eye. When you are in darkness, the pupil is wide open. If you are in darkness, then you know the pupil is very tiny. That is how aperture operates. For Aperture try starting with 4.0.

Shutter Speed

Start with 125 if you are hand holding. Anything less than this can start getting camera shake. If you are capturing moving objects, you may want to select higher shutter speed to stop the motion. Lower shutter speed will communicate movement.

Read more: What Every Aspiring Food Photography Needs to Know

White Balance

  • In film days, this was something that was calculated before you started to shoot. Nowadays, this can be done in camera or even in post production.
  • Andrew often uses Auto White balance.
  • White card or Gray card – You take a picture of this card in your lighting environment and then sensor reads this as neutral. And based on that camera adjusts your white balance and now you have eliminated the need to adjust WB in post production.
  • Wrong white balance is what causes blue or orange pictures.
  • Color temperature in photography is generally about 2500 K (Tungsten ) to 5500 K (Daylight). In food photography, Andrew has found 5200 K suitable for food photography.

Are there some cases when you don’t want to calibrate WB for atmosphere?

If you are looking to capture the indoor shot of restaurant and there is that orange glow, then you can leave it as is. So, these may be cases where you may want to leave WB as is. But for food photography, orange lights won’t look good. So typically Andrew prefers daylight like setting for food.

Read more: Get Correct Color in Your Food Photo and Wrong Colors in Food Photos and How to Fix Them

Get Rid of Automatic Mode

Take baby steps in getting from auto to manual – these are different modes like Av mode or Sv mode.

White Balance – Turn on Auto White Balance. Most times you won’t have to do anything else for white balance.

Understand ISO

Low number means you’ve got enough ambient light. Understand what ISO does and start with not changing it.

Understand What’s Your Priority

  • Learn about Aperture Priority.
  • If that’s the case, and my aperture becomes a priority and then ISO and Shutter is automatically calculated.
  • Then go to Shutter Priority.
  • If you have move then, shutter is the priority and then it will automatically adjust the aperture in the camera.
  • The order of priority is not necessary but should be done in either ways.

Understanding Light Meter

This is a great item to have in the camera bag. You can use it to set one of the elements like aperture or ISO and then start playing with other settings.

Andrew believes reading light meter is an essential skill and using that reading to set your camera settings. You can set the ISO by pushing a button and then next set up your shutter speed. Using ambient mode, I can change shutter speed and then it will tell you what aperture is needed.

Now based on this setting, you can make a decision if this setting will work for you. If the aperture will not work for you (for example lens doesn’t have that low f-stop) then you can change ISO and see how aperture changes.

[Neel’s comment: I haven’t personally never used Light Meter, and haven’t found the need for using this tool. Typically I have used in-camera (in viewfinder) display.]

In camera metering – Use Spot metering in Camera rather than Matrix metering. Since we shoot/focus on a spot in food photography, you should use a spot metering so that onyl the point of interest is rightly exposed. Matrix metering will start to auto correct for points that you don’t really care for.

Food Photography Workflow

Food Photography Workflow

Andrew defines food photography workflow from shopping and picking up the ingredients to delivering the photos. Here’s what was discussed in this section:

Selecting a Prop

Picking props, I set out the table and then pick out what I try to use. I set up all my props and lay them out so that I can take a quick look and view these props. (we’ve talked about something similar)

This way my prop table is filled.

Shopping for Food Photography

If you pick bad ingredients, they will not make good photos. So what you put in the process highly influences what comes out of the process.

But the least perishable first and then buy most perishable on your way to photo shoot. This is specifically true with herbs. So shop herbs last.

Food Preparation

“I want my life as easy as possible on workday. So I would like to do as much as preparation before hand.”

You can cut and prepare for everything before.

There is a window of food viability, after this window, food is no longer shoot-able. The clock starts as soon as the food hits the plate and once the food hits the plate, clock is ticking.

Being able to plan out your shoot appropriately helps you to avoid running around with hairs on fire.

On the shoot day, my creative energy needs to be focusing on creating an image.

(Read more: Food Photography has at least 9 roles). Even though not everyone will be playing all these 9 roles, you have to know what each person does and the better you know this, the better you’ll b e able to shoot.

The more you can plan and the more you understand what prep has been done? This wil help you focus your creative energy on making your better photo.

After Photo Shoot

Once your shot is done, from this point on until you deliver your photo to your customer/blog, you need to protect your photos.

As you come off the set, take it off your camera back it up. The first thing is to do is to back up your file.

First Andrew does a rough edit. This rough editing is to quickly look at what photos need to be selected. Once this is done, the next step is to do the final edit.

Andrew sets up Lightroom/Photo Editor to read RAID and any changes that are done are automatically saved to the hard drive.

Finished files are again backed up and then stored and sent to the client in the file sharing way that they would like it delivered.

Workshop Summary from Day 3 and Downloading the Entire Workshop

Receive workshop summary from Day 3 and at the end of it all, we’ll create a FREE downloadable pdf summary of this 3-day food photography workshop.

LFP Insiders will receive this free pdf in their email. Become LFP Insider and get this pdf and special food photography projects to improve your food photography.

The full video course can be downloaded for $99 can be found here. Price goes up after workshop ends.

  • Very Interesting and informative. I am going to spend the next hour going through the whole article more focused. Thank You.

  • Dear Neel,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience.

    So many questions, a couple of burning ones;

    See you use natural light. Any views on flash/soft boxes/ permanent lighting with LEDs?

    Can you see a use for Tilt and Shift lenses in food photography?

    Best wishes

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