Michelle McKoy Photography | MY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNEY


June 20, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

For some time now I have been wanting to write this blog about my Food Photography Journey. Sharing the challenges I faced along the way and lessons I learnt. This genre of Photography I found incredibly frustrating and although I enjoy a challenge, have to admit I almost quit several times. 

As a Landscape Photographer I often wondered why anyone would be interested in shooting Food images.  My sister Lyn asked me to take some photos for her new book called THE RECIPE. HEALING WITH WHOLE FOODS. I agreed but realising my images where going to be published I thought had better do something about learning the art of Food Photography. I enrolled in the Photography Institute's Advanced Food Workshop, run by one of the best Food Tog's in the world George Seper.

Looking back on my early Food images is really quiet embarrassing, as they are just so bad, but hey I had to start somewhere, and the only way from here was up!! 

Pumpkin SoupOne of my first attempts. I spent ages preparing the soup but still couldn't manage to capture a worth image. The light is all wrong as well as the composition, and I also discovered messy bowls are impossible to fix in post processing Icecream with Choc ToppingTrying out some new props and a different room in the house with different natural light I really struggled with lighting in my home. The walls are all brick which doesn't make for a good background and creates a colour cast and incorrect white balance, unless I was to custom white balance with a grey card. 

Google became my friend and I spent hours and hours looking at Food images. I created a Pinterest board of images that I loved and hoped to try some time. https://www.pinterest.com/michelleduthie/food-photography/

Realising I had very little in the way of props, meant trips to Home Emporium, Spoltlight and many second hand shops. I spent a load of money and unfortunately purchased some expensive props that were all wrong. Photography props are better to be simple and plain in colour so as not to distract the eye from the food. I also went crazy using too many props in my shots and the focus was more on them and not the food.  Hot Chocolate and loads of props :) I loved the vintage look of some photos that were trending presently and was trying to create something with that feel. Home-made Choc Chip CookiesHome-made Choc Chip CookiesI had now moved a coffee table into the family room near a large window for back lighting my images. I was using some Poly boards to bounce light into the front of the setup Morning CoffeeMorning CoffeePlaying with props again and trying to tell a story with my images

I had learnt by this stage that the lighting was an essential aspect to creating a feel or mood to the image. Props helped tell the story but used excessively wouldn't work either. I was now looking at the balance between composition, light, props, the food itself, colour and the  story I was trying to convey.

Sunday Breakfast. Rosemary Eggs on Spelt Toast with Dandelion TeaSunday Breakfast. Rosemary Eggs on Spelt Toast with Dandelion TeaTrying more new props with basic white crockery and some linen instead of the brown table I had been shooting on.

I eventually converted a room in our house to a studio to use for my shooting and props storage. It has a large west facing window and a smaller North facing window. I was excited as the light in this room was much better than any other area of the house and this really made a difference. I used a coffee table and large white Poly boards and found this helped immensely. 

Herbs and spicesI experimented with different backdrops. This one was the back of an old baking tray Chocolate BrowniesChocolate BrowniesThis was inspired by one of the photos I had saved to my pinterest board.

Time management becomes a big factor with Food Photography. I hadn't realised how time consuming it would all be, from researching recipes and images to create, shopping for ingredients, cooking, setting up the shoot, trying different lenses, angles and lighting. Worst of all .....the cleaning up afterwards :( My house usually looked like a bomb had hit it with all of my cooking mess in the kitchen and lenses, poly boards and props everywhere. 

 I spent hours on this Chocolate Brownie photo trying to get it right. Eventually it was the improved by changing my shooting angle to overhead. 

I  learnt that its no good to go through the entire process above only to find after packing it all away and uploading your images for viewing, that you didn't get what you were hoping for. Especially when there are family members waiting to eat the food, once its gone its too late to reshoot. 

On that subject for those of you with indoor pets- Close the studio door if you need to leave for a minute. My dogs both realised that when I am in shooting that means food. Both of them have quietly crept in and eaten the food or cleaned up a bowl of cream. Not to mention the cats coming in for a sticky beak and to photo bomb the shoot Haha :)


Driftwood Back dropMy husband found this old driftwood table top on the beach. SpicesSpicesTrying some images with a Macro lens

Changing Lenses

Up until now I had been using my Canon 70-200mm for most of my shots and occasionally my Canon 24-70mm. I decided to start experiment with 100mm Canon lens too. Prime lenses give a sharper images and I could get up closer to the food subject itself. 


Another habit I got into was shooting using different apertures. I often couldn't tell just from the back of my camera which Depth of Field would work best, and again once its all packed away its too late to reshoot. 

Less props and more about the food

Organic Buckwheat Pancakes with Maple Syrup & Strawberries. Backlit with natural lightOrganic Buckwheat Pancakes with Maple Syrup & Strawberries. Backlit with natural lightI covered the window with a large with sheet to diffuse and soften the light Sunday Session. Western Australian Crayfish with Chips & BeerSunday Session. Western Australian Crayfish with Chips & Beer

Afternoon BakingAfternoon Baking This one took me a few hours to achieve and much frustration again. I knew what I had pre-visualised but getting it to work was another thing. I was looking for a high Key shot and eventually I got there. This was the final image I took before submitting my portfolio. 

If I could re-do it I would have gone out into some commercial Food places and worked with Chefs and Food Stylists. Receiving feedback from George telling me I need to get out in the industry and off my table has motivated me to continue improving and create an improved portfolio with professionally prepared food, varied lighting and backgrounds. 

My submitted portfolio is on this website http://www.michellemckoy.com.au/p1042047548#h185d5cd2

 along with my current Food Portfolio http://www.michellemckoy.com.au/p159102330

Here are a few of my more recent images 

Rapberry TartsFrom a Photoshoot at Flowvitaltiy Raw Food Restaurant

Cauliflower RiceFlowvitality Photoshoot Marinated PearFlowvitality Photoshoot Vegetarian NachosFlowvitaltiy Photoshoot Zucchini StackExperimenting with images for my sister's book Sweet Potato with Beetroot sticksAnother experiment for my sister's book

The previous 2 images are practising for the book recipes we will be shooting in the coming months. 

Canon 6D


Canon 6D

Including a couple of Phone photos of my setup for this shot also.   Lemon Tart studio setup Using an old door as my base, back lit and white poly boards to the front sides



Lemon Tart set-up

And my final image was my most recent taken just for fun. I have actually grown to love food photography, its amazing what can be done with some patience and time but most importantly the right lighting, equipment and food subject to begin with. In a future blog I will share the image making process for THE RECIPE. HEALING WITH WHOLEFOODS  book. 

Thanks for reading. Feedback or comments are welcome and appreciated.  Cinnamon SticksThis one was just for fun!


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