How to Take Great Food Pictures

Blog Button HTML WEBHow to Take Great pictures of Food at Walt Disney World

by Amanda Johnson


#1: Get Your Camera Ready

I think the hardest part of taking food at WDW is remembering to get your camera out. It seems when the food finally arrives you are so hungry you want to dive right in and completely forget to take a picture of the cuisine. So the first step has to be, get your camera ready. I wear my camera across my body unless I’m riding a ride. My camera is always at the ready. That doesn’t mean I remember to take a picture of the food though.

Roy with camera web

f/1.8 | 1/100 | ISO1600


#2: Review Your Settings

While you are getting your camera ready take a few minutes to review your camera settings. Nine chances out of ten the dining room will have atmospheric lighting. In other words it is going to be dark. You are going to need to either crank up your ISO or get out your external flash. I try not to use any flash at all, so I always start with these settings on my Nikon D50: Aperture Priority | f/1.8 | ISO1600. I let the shutter speed fall where it may. To compensate for the slower shutter I brace myself well in order to minimize camera shake.

If you are using a point and shoot, turn off the flash. I promise it will make a better picture. You can brace the camera on the back of the chair or booth or even use a mini tripod in order to minimize camera shake. At the very least brace your elbows on the table and make yourself into a tripod.

beaches and cream sundae web

f/2.5 | ISO1600 | 1/125


#3: Check Your Composition

The food is here! You are ready to take your shot but wait. Think about composition.  When you are shooting at f/1.8 your depth of field is going to be quite narrow. Move your plate back and forth. Take a picture of your table companion’s food from across the table. Sit up very straight. Slump down in your chair. Always check the edges of your frame before you take the shot. With the advent of digital you can check your LCD screen and make sure you have the picture you want.

cheeseburger web

f/1.8 | 1/100 | ISO1600


#4: Edit Your Shot

You are home and missing Walt Disney World already. You load up your pictures to your computer and do a full screen slide show. You pick out the food pictures you want to share with your friends on your favorite photography message board, Magic in Pixels. It will only take a few minutes to really make your pictures shine in post processing. I’m a firm believer that every digital shot needs a little post processing work. Even if it’s just to re-size and web sharpen.


Garden grill food sooc

f/1.8 | ISO1600 | 1/80


Edited with crop, exposure adjustment, white balance adjustment, Coffeeshop’s Tiny World Action.

garden grill food web

f/1.8 | ISO1600 | 1/80


A: Adjust the exposure:

Sometimes you just have to underexpose a little to get the shot you want. I use a curves plug-in located here: Earthbound Light. If you have the full version of Photoshop, you already have curves.

B: Warm it up:

I have found that most of my pictures end up being too cool and greatly benefit from a general warming action. I use Photoshop Elements 5 to edit my pictures. I click Filter>Adjustments>Photo Filter and adjust the opacity. Warming can also be accomplished by adjusting the white balance. I like the Enhance>Adjust Color>Remove Color Cast tool also. I just click something that’s supposed to be white and the color adjusts itself.

C: Save your work.

D: Resize and Sharpen for Web

I size my pictures to 640 pixels on the long side for posting to the internet. Then I sharpen using Unsharpen Mask at these settings 300/.2/0. I save a copy with the word “web” on the end. I now have two copies of my picture. Don’t try to print the web one. It won’t look good!


#5: Share and Share Alike.

I use I upload my Magic in Pixels Disney pictures to a private folder and then copy and paste the link into a thread.

Sometimes you are just too hungry to take a picture before the food gets there. In that case, it’s o.k. to take a picture of the empty plate, too!

Empty plate web

f/3.5 | ISO1600 | 1/80


Amanda Johnston is a mom-with-a-camera that wants to take the best pictures she can of her family, friends and flowers. She is addicted to learning new things and enjoys spending way too much time on the computer.  Amanda’s Kit: Nikon D50 | Nikkor 18-55 | Nikkor 55-200 | Nikkor 50mm/1.8 | Nikkor 35mm/1.8 | Sigma 105mm Macr.  Visit Amanda at


This entry was posted in Photography 101.

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