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Holiday Photography Day 3: Food

Paperclipping Holiday Photography Tips

This is a post from my 7-Day Holiday Photography Tips, which I sometimes gift to Paperclipping Members around the holidays. I wrote this with December holidays in mind, but I decided to share the food tips post for free before Thanksgiving starts!

Note: I’m not an expert photographer. But I’ve had some relative success with many of my photos and want to share what I know at a time when we most want stunning pictures.

Good food photos require basic photography skills: good composition, good (especially natural) lighting, great angles, etc. Food can be tricky, but hopefully you’ve been practicing the two previous lessons and you’ll be ready to apply what you’ve learned in a new way!

Holiday food shots can vary between close-up’s of Christmas goodies, to a plate of food on a table, to the entire banquet. The type you’re taking will determine your photo settings. Let’s talk about different types of food shots and some of the approaches you can take so you can get photos that capture the magic of holiday food.

Uniform Food Shot

Sugar Cookies
If you’re photographing a uniform picture of a whole bunch of the same cookie, for example, you might try a low f-stop (f/4 or under) and place your focus on just one of those cookies, allowing the rest to fade into blur. With flat cookies, I usually focus on a cookie or item that is close to the foreground, but not at the very front.

With treats that are taller and have more height, I often focus on the front ones, as I did with these candy apples.
Aug10 847
There is no rule that says whether the focus should be in the front, somewhere in the middle, or even the back. I’ve seen interesting shots where it was the back food items that were in focus. Wherever you choose to put it, the shallow depth of field adds just a touch of variety to an otherwise uniform shot and gives it depth.


If you’re photographing a buffet of a whole variety of food, the holiday feast, for example, you might prefer getting more or all of the food in focus. This means you’ll need a larger f-stop. I would try somewhere around f/7, trying to keep the aperture open enough to get light, while still getting the details. This can be a challenge!

Nutcracker Tea Party

In terms of composition, remember, all the same principles apply. There are a lot of competing details in a buffet shot, so you’ll need a focal point. The most important item, which is hopefully also the most dramatic, can be that focal point. It can be the main course, some candle sticks, or the center piece.

With a clear focal point, you can then get partial views of the other dishes surrounding the main attraction, if you want a closer view. Or you can get a wider shot and show the whole bounty.

Nutcracker Tea Party

Large Single Items

Single items can be dramatic. Use natural lighting whenever possible for food, especially single items. Try shooting your item from the same direction we’re used to seeing our food — down at an angle, like this:
Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Seeds

Then try other angles, such as directly overhead.
Cranberry Pear Pie 2
Now how about just above the level of the subject itself?
Cheesecake for my birthday
If you want your food item to look dramatic, fill the screen with it. If your item is petite, and you want to show that it is petite — miniature baked goods are trendy right now — give your item some context. Put the petite item on a plate with a fork. Step back a bit and give it a little space in your composition.

Another idea is to get low, share just a hint of the table setting around the foot item, and capture some bokeh from the tree in the background (note: bokeh are the gorgeous circles lights make when they’re blurred by a shallow depth of field).

Tofurkey for Christmas Dinner


Making Cookies
Don’t forget to capture the action and the reality! Chocolate on the fingers and fingers in the mouth are at least as cute as smiles!

Because this photo captured life in action instead of as a pose, it’s okay that not everyone is in focus.

Aiden, the focal point, is in enough focus for the purposes and story of this picture. The motion blur of the hands creates movement and evokes childhood. Blake blurs in the foreground, enhancing the idea that we’re looking past him and over to Aiden.

Allowing for this amount of blur, Izzy, who took this shot, was able to lower the f-stop and the shutter speed to let more light in.

Observe and Practice

It’s all really about lots of practice and experimentation. That’s why the best tips I can give you for photographing holiday food are to . . .

  • Study photos of food that you love, paying attention to the angles and the composition. Then try it yourself!
  • Understand the basic camera rules of lighting and focus so you know which settings will be best for your shot. If you practiced the challenges of our first two lessons, you’ll do better with your food shots.

Do you want ideas for scrapbooking your wonderful new photos? The Paperclipping Membership is on sale through Sunday, Nov. 30!

CLICK HERE for info!

Scrapbook Your Schedule, Part 2 – Paperclipping 253

Robotics Club (1)
Can you remember…?

  • Any of your college class schedules?
  • What your days were like when it was just you and your firstborn child?
  • The foods you cooked as a newlywed, or how you divided the housework?
  • Why you felt so busy at an earlier time that now seems simple compared to
    your current life?

These are things I wonder about myself.

I wish I had documented this stuff in the first decade of my marriage.

Some months back I cracked open the journal I wrote in at the time I met Izzy. I was scrapbooking the story of how our relationship began for my Romantic Scrapbooking Course and I wondered if any forgotten details were inside.

Oh boy, there sure were…

I was in an epic dating phase during the week of my second date with Izzy.

(I tended to go on lots of dates over a couple of weeks and then ban dating for the next two weeks, back and forth between these two extremes).

Fortunately, I recorded all of the juicy details in my journal.

It included…

  • How after my second date with Izzy I was starting to realize how much I liked him.
  • And how I hung out with him right up to my third date and right after the fourth date, until I asked the last guy to take me home early so I could go hang out with Izzy instead.

I now have this dating schedule on a layout in my story album about how Izzy and I fell in love.

Thank goodness I recorded it!

But let’s be honest…

As I’ve been talking about scrapbooking our schedules lately, has the idea sounded boring to you?

Do you still think so?

Here’s a comment I got from Cara after my last video about scrapbooking your schedule (part 1)…

“I wasn’t convinced that this was something I would want to do until I watched the video and saw your older schedule layouts, and now I’m definitely going to do this. What a great thing to be able to look back on.”

And that video didn’t even include the juicy dating page. :)

Scrapbook Your Schedule, Part 2 is now available.

If you want some ideas and to see me put together some of these types of pages, you might look into getting a membership. Just click below…


Shine On,

PRT230 – Documenting the Food in Our Lives

This week we’re talking about documenting our connections to food (just in time for Thanksgiving)…

The Panelists

Click here to see more…

PRT229 – Paper Gifts

This week we’re talking about paper gifts…

The Panelists

Click here to see more…

PRT228 – The Fall Light

This week we’re talking about scrapbooking the Fall season…

The Panelists

Click here to see more…

Scrapbook Your Schedule – Paperclipping 252

paperclipping 252

Ten pages and counting from this one topic.

You know how we love to dig into a topic around here at Paperclipping?

Last week I suggested we scrapbook some pages about ourselves and I shared some topics, committing doing a few of them for the next Paperclipping video.

I picked three topics and got to working on the first one:

Document your current schedule.

Well, I ended up digging enough into this one topic that it turned its entire self into two videos, parts one and two.

Maybe the other two topics I picked (a success and a struggle) will come along a few videos from now.

But your schedule…

This is a topic that keeps on giving.

That’s because our day-to-day lives change so much from year to year. You can repeat the exact same topic a dozen times still have unique pages with unique stories.

Our schedules show a breath-taking picture of who we are.

It might not seem like much now.

But as someone who has been documenting my schedule since around 2007, trust me — you will ADORE these pages in a few years.

But there are also all kinds of variations possible on the types of schedules.

Here’s a list of more than ten variations…

  1. Your regular weekly schedule.
  2. The schedule of an unusual week.
  3. The schedule of a day that’s always the same.
  4. The schedule and events of a day that is unusual.
  5. The schedule of a favorite indulgence or hobby that you regularly do more than once a week.
  6. A place or thing you schedule your life around.
  7. A schedule you’ve created in order to achieve something.
  8. A schedule of your holiday/vacation.
  9. A schedule of the outfits you wear (yes, this is neurotic, and yes, I did this in 9th or 10th grade!!!).
  10. A schedule of meals, of when things bloom in your garden, of your favorite tv shows, etc.

Need design ideas now? I’ve got lots!

We released the Part One of this video to the Member’s Area yesterday.


Stay tuned for Part Two to come in a week or two.

Shine On,

PRT227 – The Secret Life of Me

This week we’re talking about using scrapbooking to help us through the hard times…

The Panelists

Click here to see more…

PRT226 – Where the Boys Are

This week we’re discussing capturing boys…

The Panelists

Click here to see more…

Design That Tells a Story – Paperclipping 251

paperclipping 251
Have you seen these fake trailers?

The Shining posed as a romantic comedy?

And Jaws as an uplifting Disney movie?

There’s a whole bunch of them —

*Forrest Gump as a gangster flick.
*Breaking Bad as a romantic comedy.
*Stephen King’s It as an inspiring family film.
*Mrs. Doubtfire as horror.

Yeah, it’s a thing. (You know, YouTube)…

No matter how much Jack Nickelson’s, “Here’s Johnny!” terrified you as a kid, you will still feel a stirring of love and joy with The Shining posed as a romantic comedy.

It’s mostly the music that wreaks this emotional havoc.

Music is the dressing that tells you what to feel in a movie.

In scrapbooking, the design does that.

The design sends an immediate message, so it’s very much like a movie trailer — an introduction of what’s to come, meaning the story in the journaling.

So what happens if we don’t know how design works, and the design conflicts with our story?

Then it’s kind of like those mixed up movie trailers.

I mentioned last week in an email that I ought to share a page of mine that totally contradicts what I was trying to say. I decided to go ahead and do that. I made a video tutorial on the subject and it’s in the Member’s Area now.

It’s a subject I approach in all kinds of ways throughout the 250 videos in the Paperclipping membership.

If you want to get good at this, you should check it out:


PRT225 – Run Away, Run Away

This week we’re discussing questions from the Paperclipping forum

The Panelists

Click here to see more…