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Food Photography: How I Styled This Miso-Glazed Tofu for My Food Blog
Are you interested in food photography? Wondering how to start a food blog? Or how to improve a food blog that you have? This section of my blog, the Blogger’s Corner, is designed to help you build a food blog. One with SEO-rich content, good photography and great social media strategies.
Rather than sharing a new vegan recipe, I thought it would be fun to take you behind the scenes on one of my most popular vegan recipe posts. This dish, my vegan Baked Tofu with Miso Glaze, is one of my favorites vegan meals to cook. It must show because when I shared it on my Instagram, it was one of my best performers. It’s earned a reach of over 80,000 with nearly 5,000 likes, 274 comments, 347 shares and 1,957 saves. In addition, it’s been picked up by several vegan curator accounts, including Best of Vegan, VeganGotGame, TheVeganBuzz and VeganBowll, getting it front of nearly 2 million more vegan-curious readers!
For those of you in the know, getting this kind of exposure goes a long way toward getting new followers, driving engagement and ultimately being able to monetize your food blog. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but one of the most important things you need to have is: Beautiful Food Photography.
Why Should You Take Food Photography Advice from Me?
Good question! The answer: because I’m probably just like you. Like you, I entered the food blog world because I love to cook and I wanted to share my favorite vegan recipes with my friends. Like you, I want to showcase my vegan recipes with really, really great food photography. And, like you, I really didn’t know where to start when I started!
Here’s the thing: I’ve learned a lot in the last two years. First, with my Instagram account and then by building up my food blog and my Pinterest presence. And these are the things that I want to share you, my food blogging soulmate, because I know where you are. So, starting today, I little tutorial on how I styled this Baked Tofu with Miso Glaze.
Food Photography Tip #1: Give Yourself Time
The biggest hurdle to getting good food photographs is good lighting. And, while I’ve been acquiring the equipment to take pictures using artificial lighting, I prefer to use natural lighting. This means that I often have to time my cooking so that I can take pictures at the best time of the day.
There are two ways that I tackle this. I either plan on cooking and photographing when I know that I can hit the best time of day for taking photos. Or, I make my vegan recipe and shoot it the following day so that I can time it for the best photographs. Honestly, cold food is sometimes way easier to manage. I did that here with my No Coq Au Vin dish – the sauce stays thick on the polenta when it’s cold.
You might be wondering: what time is the best time for good food photography? For me, it’s around 11 o’clock in the morning. At this time of day, I get good lighting through a southeast window in my house. Your time and setting may be different though and you will need to experiment with time and location. If you’re interested, there’s a great tutorial on this in Food Blogger Pro’s Food Photography Course. This course is part of a larger subscription service within Food Blogger Pro, but I can’t recommend it enough. It contains so much valuable information.
Food Photography Tip #2: Using a Backdrop
Ever wonder how every Instagram influencer seems to have the perfect marble countertop or distressed farmhouse table? Here’s the tip: it’s a vinyl backdrop. These are inexpensive, easy to clean and available in a huge variety of patterns, colors and materials. My favorite are made by Ink & Elm on Etsy. I have white marble, dark wood, light wood and a rich gray concrete – perfect for any vegan meal to be showcased.
Food Photography Tip #3: Food Styling Your Dish to Look Delish
Here’s where we get into the meat (no pun intended) of how I styled this food photo shoot. This bowl was pretty carefully put together and styled with a number of different props.
Food Styling Tip #1: Think About Portion Sizes
This vegan recipe is actually delish. It’s sticky, sweet, salty and savory all in one. It screams “eat a huge, heaping bowl of me!” And while taste can do the talking at the dinner table, you need your photography to convince people to make it in the first place.
If you’d ever made tofu, you know you need to make a lot of it. This photograph was taken while I was making a batch for my Veggie-Loaded Vegan Pho. This, of course, is why I didn’t make enough for said big, heaping bowl. This actually happens to me a lot, especially for bases like polenta or rice. It ends up taking a tremendous amount of food to get the right shot and, while I may be keen on good food photography, I am do not dig food waste. My hack to solve for this? Putting a placeholder in the bottom of my serving bowl.
To take up space, I placed a smaller bowl upside-down in my serving bowl.
This enables me to give the serving bowl the appearance of being quite full.
As you can see, I took up a fair amount of space at the bottom of my bowl with a second smaller bowl. All that’s left to do is to take the reasonable about of food I made and fill it in.
Food Styling Tip #2: Getting Your Food to Glisten
I’m not kidding when I say that the #1 comment I received on this post was about how this tofu called to people. Even my friend @hannah.guthman remarked: “it’s glistening” to which I replied: “I have a hack for that.” And that’s the food photography tip I’ll share with you now: how to get your food to glisten.
When the tofu came out of the oven, the miso glaze had baked into it beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, that it lacked that sweet, stickiness look that I wanted to convey. My solution? Well, I painted it with a basting brush and some leftover miso glaze. Just a few sweeps over the top and I was able to make this vegan dish sparkle for the camera.
In this image, you can see that the bowl has the glaze fully baked in.
This is after I brushed on some additional glaze with a brush.
You might be thinking that it’s not fair of me to not photograph this vegan dish right as it came out of the oven. Here’s the thing though – in an effort to make this food look like it tastes amazing, I figured out how to make it actually tasteamazing. And that’s winning at food blogging.
Food Styling Tip #4: Work Your Food Photography Props into the Shot
So far, I’ve only shared one image of this dish on Instagram. But, to maximize this vegan recipe on Instagram, as well as on my blog and on Pinterest, I wanted several different shots. I planned them out: a close up of the whole bowl, a close up of a bite, the roasting pan with a colorful spatula in the backdrop and an image of the finished dish with some of the ingredients included.
They’re all great for sharing. One of them maybe opens up an opportunity to explore a partnership with a brand. My favorite though? That close-up bite shot. I get those using small vice contraption that I made myself. I’ll get a video up soon showing you how to make one for yourself. For less than $35, you can have your hands free for all kinds of close-up shots.
What Food Photography Equipment Made this Food Styling Easier?
Want to know what tools and resources I keep on hand to make my food styling and food photography even easier? Here’s a short list of what helped me create these images. For the complete list, visit my Shop where you can find my food photography equipment and props, the kitchen gadgets I like as well as a list of books that I recommend.
This is the camera I use for all of my food photography. It’s comparable to the Canon Mark series, with many of the same features, but at a lower cost.
I shoot all of my food photography using a fixed 50mm lens. This is an inexpensive lens to get started with in your food photography, enabling sharp photographs.
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.