Giveaway: Adobe Lightroom 4

Adobe Lightroom 4

***This giveaway has ended, but stay tuned for the next one!***

The winner of this giveaway is #74 in the spreadsheet, or Tara from Tara’s Multicultural Table Congratulations!

So you’ve read my Adobe Lightroom 4 Tutorial and you’re all set to start making your food photos better, except you don’t own Lightroom 4? Well, here’s your chance to win your very own copy of Adobe Lightroom 4 (Windows Vista / 7, Mac OS X)!

Sheri from Pork Cracklins was kind enough to hook me up with a brand new copy of Adobe Lightroom 4 to give away to one lucky reader.

Enter up to three times for your chance to win by doing the following:

  1. Leave a comment below with what you find most challenging about food photography.
  2. Tweet out the following message to your followers: “Improve your #FoodPhotography with this Lightroom 4 Tutorial @norecipes
  3. Link to “” on your blog and leave a second comment below with a link to your blog post.

Deadline for entry is November 30, 2012 at 11:59pm PST. See the full giveaway rules at the Official Giveaway Rules Page.

***This giveaway has ended, but stay tuned for the next one!***

  • Julie Helmi

    What is most challenging about food photography for me? It’s trying to make the food look so good that the photo makes me want to eat it. Lighting and focus can be worked on, but it’s getting that dish just right to make people crave it. Food styling is part of it but it’s getting that right angle and finding what details and balance that make it just pop out. I’m ready to try to see what I can tweak using a computer program. Thanks for offering this giveaway!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      A big part of making food look appetizing in color. This includes what you put on the plate and garnish it with, but also the balance of colors in the photos (nothing looks worse than a piece of meat that looks grey). Lightroom can help you increase the saturation of colors and shift them so you can make the food pop.

  • David Richter

    Meat! Very few images I’ve seen, or shot myself, that convey that feeling of slicing up a perfectly roasted piece of meat, with the flavorful juices shooting out.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      There are a few tricks you can use here. The most important thing is to have your shot setup before you slice the meat. Have the plate ready, figure out your lighting and framing, and take some test shots to confirm the scene looks the way you want it to. Then when you slice the meat, you can plate it and shoot it immediately. Other things that help are to use a brush to baste the meat with the meat juices, a little olive oil will also work wonders. Lastly, color balance is super important. Your white balance should be just a smidge warm, otherwise your meat will end up looking grey instead of brown.

  • Jane Ko

    Winter lighting is always a challenge for me!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      A couple things come to mind here. The first thing is that there’s obviously less daylight in winter, so shooting earlier in the day might be helpful. The second thing is that the sun is further south, so you may need to chose a different window to get the best light possible (I’ve been known to shoot in the bathroom or by the front door on occasion). Lastly if it’s cloudy/rainy, you’re light is not only dimmer, it’s going to have a blue cast. You can fix this by adjusting the white balance warmer on either your camera or in processing software like Lightroom.

  • Mindy Cheung

    most challenging about food photography to me is how to style/compose the image so that the food pops and is the center of attention. practice sure makes perfect but post-editing is crucial too!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      This is totally a matter of personal style, but I like shooting with clean backgrounds on white plates, without a lot of props because it makes the food the center of attention. You can also use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to make local changes to contrast and saturation to draw attention to just the food.

  • ProgressiveGrae

    The most challenging will be my lack of artistic talent.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I could say the same thing for myself. It just takes practice:-)

  • ProgressiveGrae
  • Johnnye

    My biggest challenge is that I can always imagine better than what I already have. Perhaps better tools will be helpful.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      If you can imagine it, then you can do it:-) You just need to learn how to execute on your ideas. Lightroom will certainly help to an extent as it gives you a lot of creative freedom, once you learn how to use it.

  • Food Stories

    Great giveaway, Marc – Lighting is my biggest challenge in food photography :-)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Provided you get your subject relatively evenly lit, you can fix color balance issues and under/over exposure in Lightroom Ideally using a window during the day is your best source of lighting, but if that’s not possible. Satco makes some 40w spiral CFL bulbs that come in daylight color (5000k) that make a pretty good substitute when paired with a lamp that has a neutral color diffuser ( rice paper shade, or even a thin white paper bag). To get your lighting even (no harsh highlights or shadows) it’s helpful to have a piece of white foam-core board you can use to reflect the light back at the shadows.

  • Food Stories
  • profrip

    Space to work with good light in my tiny NYC apartment.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      If it makes you feel any better, I lived in a 550 sq ft. apartment in the financial district with, a windowless kitchen and a 55 story building facing my dining room windows. Get some white foam core board and some 40w CFL daylight bulbs (Satco makes some good ones), and you should be set. It sounds like there’s a fair bit of interest in lighting so stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Ken @hungryrabbitnyc

    Low light restaurant photography is definitely the most challenging.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Yea, that’s a tough one. One thing that’s worked pretty well for me is to ask if you can take photos in the kitchen (which is usually well lit).

  • aneeskA

    The most challenging part is the styling. If you are trying to photograph what your mom is cooking, then you have the additional responsibility of a stylist.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      hahaha I know what you mean, but rustic can be charming too.

  • Shirley Wong

    I’m a casual blogger and a stay-at-home-mom who constantly tries out new recipes and photograph the food that I cook based on those recipes. My biggest challenge would be using natural light to photograph them, constantly thinking of which creative angles to use, food styling and which proper props (styles, colors and texture) to use to present the food to make it pop up and enticing to my readers. 😉

    • Marc Matsumoto

      It sounds like there’s a fair amount of interest in lighting, so stay tuned for a lighting tutorial. As for styling and props, if you really want the food to pop, it’s best to go simple (white plates, plain background, minimal props). The reason why many photographers use props in their photos is to tell a narrative about the scene (not just about the food). While they can be interesting, they can also be distracting.

  • dplumly

    My biggest challenge with food photography…I only have an iPhone so my pictures are never what I know they could be! I like to travel and cook and share photos with my family and friends as I do so.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      When your scene is properly lit, iPhones can take pretty good photos. Try focusing on getting the best framing, and even lighting. Even simple things like a white cloth napkin can make for a good reflector to bounce light back at the shadows in your food.

  • haemin

    my biggest challenge is getting enough natural light into the shot. luckily my kitchen has a big window, but i’m usually cooking my best meals in the evening right after work when the sun is going down. restaurant photography is a whole other challenge too.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Try picking up some 40w CFL daylight (5000k or higher) bulbs. Satco makes a good one, and when paired with a lamp with a neutral diffuser (white rice paper shade, parchment paper, or even a white paper bag), and a white foam core board (used as a reflector), you should be able to take some pretty good shots even at night. There seems to be a lot of interest in lighting so I’m probably going to do a tutorial on that in the future.

  • Dorothy at ShockinglyDelicious

    Most challenging to me is shooting in natural light, then attempting to correct after I screw something up!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Lightroom should be able to help you out a lot here. Provided your lighting is relatively even, it can work wonders with white balance.

  • Dorothy at ShockinglyDelicious

    I Tweeted your message to my followers.

  • Paul

    Remembering to take the picture before I start eating.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hahaha I have the same problem!

  • Paul
  • Karin

    The biggest challenge is definitely… light! I’ve got a great camera, my food looks nice. But how do I light in a way that makes it looks as appealing as it is in real life? I always struggle with that one.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Check out my responses to some other comments about lighting setups. Also, stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Melika Carr

    I’m a photographer and I absolutely LOVE your photographs! They’ve definitely inspired me to delve a bit more into food photography. My biggest challenges would be finding time to make food that looks as good as it tastes — while I love cooking, I work full time and am doing photography on the side so I just don’t have as much time to try cooking new meals. And my other challenge is finding an appetizing way to document foods that have that sort of viscous shine to them that, when seen in person look delicious, but in photography come off as kind of greasy. I’ve been trying out the lightroom trial recently and am absolutely enamored with it… I cant believe I’ve gone so long without it!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks! For the shine, try adjusting the clarity slider in Lightroom.

      • Melika Carr

        hmm I’ll have to try that

  • Ken G.

    My biggest challenge is producing quality shots with only ambient light.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Ambiant light can be a good thing if you’re referring to daylight. Try using white foamcore board to reflect the light you have around to fill in shadows and make your lighting more even.

  • Nick

    Obtaining the best results from natural lighting available is always the challenge.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Daylight can be challenging because you can’t move the sun, but it’s the best if you can harness it. Try getting some white foam core board and have an assistant hold it opposite of your light source, angling it towards your food to bounce some light back at the food to prevent harsh shadows.

  • Clodom

    I love cooking but I have a tiny, poorly-lit kitchen in Brooklyn. Most attempts to document the food I make and enjoy at home turn out dull and dark. And iPhoto can only do so much to fix that!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      For most of the time I’ve been writing this blog, I lived in a tiny FiDi apartment with no windows in the kitchen, and two small windows facing an airshaft in the living/dining. You can overcome this challenge with a few Satco 40w CFL 5000k bulbs, a few ikea lamps (with a frosted glass or white paper shade), and some white foam core board to use as reflectors. Stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • clodom
  • Melika Carr

    here’s the blog post:

  • Paul
  • Shanna Schad

    My biggest challenge is not enough natural light coming into my house so I have to work with artificial lighting most of the time and I am such a beginner food photographer that it is very obvious I use artificial lighting

    • Marc Matsumoto

      If you’re using artificial light, make sure you’re using a bright daylight (5000k or higher) color bulbs. Also, since the light is very directional, it’s important to diffuse it (white rice paper, parchment paper, or a thin sheet of white paper all work) before it hits your food. You should also have some white foam-core board to use to reflect light back at the food to fill in shadows that a single light source will inevitably produce. There seems to be a lot of interest on this topic, so stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Shanna Schad
  • catK

    Finding the right light especially at night.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Check out my responses to some of the other comments here and stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Bev @ Bev Cooks

    OMG I’ve been dying for Lightroom foreeevvvuuuuhhhh.

  • jan


    • Marc Matsumoto

      Check out some of my other responses to lighting questions, and stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Rt

    Lighting is my biggest problem- especially finding natural light in a tiny apartment.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Check out some of my other responses to lighting related comments, and stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Lori Holtzman

    Until I started blogging, I had no idea how difficult food photography is. Food can look good in person, but it definitely doesn’t always look good in pictures. I think the lighting and angle makes all the difference. But finding that good light, when cooking at night, is by far my biggest challenge.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I took many of the photos on this blog in a dark apartment at night. Have a look at some of my other responses to lighting questions for my setup, and stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Lauren DeDecker

    the hardest thing for me is making my ridiculous paleo concoctions look as delicious as they actually are!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      It’s hard to give specific advice without seeing your creations, but color is an important part of making food look appetizing. Using software like Lightroom to color correct can help, but adding a contrasting garnish can also make all the difference.

  • Lori Holtzman

    I didn’t know how difficult food photography was until I started blogging. Something that looks tasty and delicious in person, doesn’t necessarily look that way in a photograph. I find that the lighting and angle makes all the difference. Finding that good light is my biggest obstacle when cooking at night.

  • Rosie

    What I find most happening is that dinner is in the evening, so I’m always trying to take pictures of the finished dish without enough light! :)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I have the same problem. You can build your own lighting setup for under $50 with some 40w CFL daylight(5000k or higher) bulbs, a few cheap ikea lamps (preferably with a white or frosted glass shade), and some white foam-core board. Stay tuned for a tutorial.

  • Stacy

    My biggest challenges are editing the photo for lighting and finding a creative angle so that the cropping emphasizes the right part of the dish and is interesting. Thanks so much for your tutorial and this giveaway!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      There seems to be a lot of interest in lighting, so stay tuned for a lighting tutorial. As for framing your shot, always keep the Rule of 3rds in mind. Mentally divide your photo into 3 segments horizontally and vertically (some cameras will actually show you lines), then place your subject at the intersection of these lines.

      • Stacy

        Thanks, Marc! I will keep that in mind. I think it is finally time to upgrade to a better camera with lines. :) I look forward to your lighting tutorial.

  • Nathan Turner

    I discovered that getting the proper lighting is the most challenging. Most of my shots are not near natural light or are taken a night time and without some specific equipment (ring flash, white box, etc.) it is very tricky to make it look as appetizing as it tastes! Composition and plating can’t seem to rescue bad lighting.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Lighting is huge, but you don’t need an expensive setup to get have good lighting at night. Get some 40w CFL bulbs in daylight color (5000k+), put them in some lamps you have sitting around. Then stick a piece of translucent paper between your light source and your food. Have an assistant hold a piece of white foam-core board opposite of your light source to bounce some light back at your subject and you’re good to go. Then it’s just a matter of positioning the light and the foam-core board to achieve your desired effect.

  • Jessica K.

    The hardest thing about food photography for me is lighting. The lighting is not good in my place, and most restaurants I go to are pretty dim. Also, it’s hard for me to find a good background for the photos.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Check out some of my other responses to lighting questions, and stay tuned for a lighting tutorial. As for background, if you’re shooting with a DSLR, use a large aperture (f1.4 or 2.8) and your depth of field will be be reduced enough that it won’t matter if you have a pile of dirty laundry in your background because it will be blurred out.

  • Nicki

    Lighting! I have one window in my tiny space. So frustrating!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I had a similar problem for years (lived in downtown Manhattan). You can get around it with artificial lighting, see some of my other responses to lighting related questions here. Also, I’ll be doing a lighting tutorial at some point in the future.

  • Lisa

    My biggest challenge is styling. Some folks just have that knack, I’m trying to learn it.

    Great giveaway!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Try starting out simple. While props can help tell a story about your scene, they can also distract from the main subject (the food). That’s why most of my photos are on white plates with few or no props.

  • Robert

    Just like everyone else lighting and space, live a small place.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I lived in a tiny manhattan apartment with no windows in the kitchen for most of the time I’ve been writing this blog. You can get around these limitations using a makeshift lighting setup (no need for pro lights). See some of my other comments for my setup and stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.


    For me, having time during the right part of the day with the most natural light through my biggest window is the challenge. Guess I just need to work different hours or move :)

  • angela

    I have a lot of natural light, and my challenge is how to use it to its potential.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Get a few sheets of white foam-core board. Although daylight is your best light source it has the disadvantage of not being movable, but using white reflectors, you an bounce the light around to more evenly light your food.

  • Recipes in Good Taste

    No natural light in my house (townhouse). :(

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I lived in a place with the same problem for years. You can get around this using a cheap artificial lighting setup. see some of my other responses for the setup I use and stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Bonnie T.

    I’ve always had a simple point and shoot camera and would simply snap photos here and there without putting much thought into it. But ever since my dad bought a DSLR camera, I’ve been trying to improve my photography skills. What I find challenging is adapting to the natural light and finding the right camera angles.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Try getting some white foam-core board to bounce the natural light around. This can help fill in harsh shadows. As for angle, taking photos with a DSLR is cheap, so go wild and take tons of photos from a bunch of angles. Then you can go back and pick out the ones you like best. Over time, you’ll learn which angles work best with what kind of food.

  • Stephanie S

    My lack of counter space is probably my biggest challenge…I’ve always got something random in the background unless I move everything of the counter first.

  • Joseph

    Plating! If it doesn’t look appetizing then nothing else matters.

  • deeba

    My biggest challenge with food photography is shooting under poor light conditions which happens quite often. I struggle with post processing and tend to shy away from shooting in poor light. You tutorial makes my heart sing Marc. So much promise! What a great giveaway. Thank you for this {I do have a US shipping address}

  • Barbara Schieving

    I lose daylight so early in the winter and it’s so much more challenging getting a good shot with artificial lights.

  • Red Chillies

    What I find most challenging about food photography, albeit I’m a novice at blogging about cooking, is getting the light just right.

  • Leslie Parks

    Marc, I’d love to see the lighting tutorial. I think that the biggest problem I have is plating it so that it looks like you want to eat it instead of just dumped on the plate. I’ve been loving lightroom 3 and have drooled over lightroom 4 however I realize that what you get straight out of camera is the biggest hurddle. Lightroom 4 can’t take a bad photo and turn it to a million dollar photo. That being said I love trying your recipes.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Leslie, I agree, Lightroom can’t take a bad photo and make it cover worthy, but it can work wonders. If you want, email me one of your challenging photos (in raw format), I’ll process it and send it back to you along with a screen capture of all the settings I used.

  • Kelly Lee

    The biggest issue I have is background. I can never figure out how to crop my photo correctly. Also the flash seems to always interfere but if I turn it off it’s too dark! help :)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Kelly, one of the first rules of taking good food photos is to never use an on-camera flash (external flashes are another story but I’m still not a big fan). There are a couple ways to deal with poor lighting. One way is to increase the aperture of your lens (i.e. f1.4 or f2.8), this lets more light into the camera so it allows you to shoot in lower light. It has the added benefit of having a shallow depth of field and so blurs out the background. You can also use artificial light. Check out some of my other comment responses to see the setup that I use. I’ll also be posting a lighting tutorial in the future. As for cropping your photo, go look at sites with photos you like and compare your photos to the photos on the site. Look for things like angle (was it taken from straight above? straight in front, or somewhere in between) and framing (where in the frame is the subject). While you’re looking you might also want to check out things like the lighting (where is it coming from relative to the food) and setup (props, colors, etc).

  • Aibrean Ros

    I only cook for the purpose of eating, not publication, so when I actually decide that my experiment for the evening was successful enough for documentation, the sun has set and the lighting is inevitably terrible. I can never properly capture the colors of my food or figure out how to properly adjust the colors on my computer. (Also, my food gets cold while I fiddle with my camera.)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      You can use artificial light to make up for the lack of sunlight. Stay tuned for a tutorial on this. As for editing photos on your computer, check out my Lightroom tutorial, which should help get you headed in the right direction there. As for your food getting cold, I always get everything setup prior to plating the dish. This means picking a plate and location, setting up lights if need be, and taking a couple test shots to make sure the lighting and framing work. Then when the food is done, I just fire off a few shots, and eat my dinner before it gets cold.

  • Coski

    The lighting in my house makes it do difficult!

  • Adelina W

    Like many others I have difficulty with lighting. Trying to put together a box and light set up now.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      You can put a fairly inexpensive setup together with 2 Satco 40w 5000k “daylight” CFL bulbs, 2 ikea lamps (the type with a frosted glass or rice paper shade), and 1 piece of foamcore board. Just position the lights where you want them, use the foamcore board to bounce light back at your food from the opposite side of your main light, and shoot at a wide aperture to blur out the background. Personally I don’t use a lightbox because it makes the background look too sterile, and it takes up too much space in my small apartment.

  • Cassaendra

    I’ve had issues with lighting. For home use, I’ve meant to make a lightbox for home use and have yet to try aluminum foil.

    Most of my issues have been restaurant shots, since there are times when I can’t sit next to a window. The darker restaurants are tough, since the food ends up looking flat and off-color after I’ve had to brighten the picture a bit and adjusted the hues.

    Interesting variety of backgrounds that aren’t dead grass in the winter and summer is another issue…

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Cassaendra, there’s really no need to make a lightbox. They’re great for product photography, but look too sterile for food IMHO. I also don’t have room for one in my small apartment so I don’t use one. Check out my responses to other comments on lighting for my light setup (a cheap setup with no pro lights). As for restaurants, I usually ask if I can shoot in the kitchen as they tend to be very well lit. Most places are
      pretty accommodating as they want their food to look good too, and it gives you chance to meet the chef.

  • Randi Durham

    Everything. I am just learning.

  • christine

    Lighting in my kitchen, especially when I want to photograph something I made after sun-down… if only I had some flashes or good lighting!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I shoot a lot of my food at night as well, and don’t use flashes or pro lighting. My lighting setup costs less than $50 and consists of the following: 2 Satco 40w 5000k “daylight” CFL bulbs (about ~$20), 2 Ikea Grono lamps (~$16), and a few white foam-core boards (~$5). Basically you need a bright daylight balanced lightsource, a diffuser ( the frosted glass lamp shade), and something white to bounce the light back at the food to fill in the shadows. Then you just play around with the position of the lights, and the bounce board to get an effect that you’re pleased with.

  • Mercy Jien Wada

    Definitely finding the right lighting!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      It’s tough to find good natural light sometimes, but you can do pretty well with an inexpensive lighting setup. Check my responses to some other comments for the setup I use. I’m also going to be doing a lighting tutorial in the future, so stay tuned!

  • Guest

    It’s definitely the lighting and proper aperture when I’m taking pictures in a restaurant.

  • Michelle

    It’s definitely the lighting and proper aperture when I’m taking pictures in a restaurant.

  • sharla

    finding good lighting is my biggest problem as we live in a condo where the kitchen is in a corner without any good natural light.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      You don’t necessarily have to shoot in the kitchen. Depending on where the light is coming from I’ve been known to shoot by the front door, or even by the bathtub.

  • Alicia

    Lighting is definitely the biggest challenge!

  • Mike Shih

    Love your recipes and tutorials! Been a long time follower! Thanks for all the great recipes!

  • Francis

    Lighting and plating is the challenge for me.

  • natalie

    I live in an very old apartment in the country side of Japan. My problem with lighting is from the reflection from the gaudy fake wood paneling against the dark reddish brown table in my kitchen. With my dslr everything comes out in yellow tones. If I take it on my iphone the yellow color is less but still present. So, I am wondering, how best to set up my food stage and my camera to combat this problem. White plates usually help some but one thing I love about home cooking are my unique and locally painted ceramics, I want to use them in the pictures, too!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I can relate! I spent the past 2 weeks at my grandparents house in rural Japan, and had the same problem with yellowish wood that didn’t work well with photos. If you shoot raw and use Lightroom, you can do a lot in terms of shifting the color more red so the wood doesn’t look so yellow. Also you might want to consider getting a large sheet of white foam-core board to lay down on your table to and in the background to make the backdrop neutral so the ceramic plates and food really pop.

  • Trevor Ford

    I just took my food photos last night and I found it surprisingly challenging to get the just right point of focus while maintaining a nice balance with the bokeh,

    • Marc Matsumoto

      This can be challenging when shooting at a really wide aperture (like f1.4). I usually shoot at around f2.8 to have enough depth of field that I’m not blurring out most of the subject. As for focussing at the right point, you can set the camera to spot focus, so you have more control over what the camera is focusing on.

  • Jacqueline Roll

    Great giveaway Marc! I think the most challenging element for me is the dependency on using natural light as when I use artificial light, the photos are not great. More often than not it means cooking meals in the morning to take photos during the day :-)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Natural light is definitely the best, but a lot of the photos on this blog were taken using artificial light. I have an inexpensive setup I use that I’ve outlined in responses to other comments.

  • San Jose Food Blog

    My Canon 60D with a fixed 50mm lens is awesome in dimly lit restaurants but it also makes everything blurry. I don’t know how to fix this. Haven’t had time to read the manual but I’m sure the answer is in there.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I’m not super familiar with canons lenses, but I think you’re using either an f1.4 or f1.8 lens. They’re great because they have a wide aperture which allows a lot of light into the camera (making it good for dim conditions), but using a wide aperture has the side effect of narrowing your depth of field (makes a very narrow plane in focus while the stuff in front of and behind it are blurry). Unfortunately food occupes a broader plane (unless you’re shooting a pizza from above), so you end up with most of the photo being blurry. You can fix this by setting your camera to Aperture priority (A) or Manual (M), and adjusting the aperture so it is smaller (bigger number = smaller aperture). Since a smaller aperture means less light is going into the camera there’s a trade off. I usually shoot at f 2.8)

  • Ariel

    Lighting. In dim light restaurants and when taking picture at home at night with dinner meals. Can’t make dinner in the daylight time when its best. WIsh I could afford equipment.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      At restaurants, try asking if you can take photos in the kitchen. It’s usually brighter than in the dining room and will give you a chance to meet the chef. As for lighting at home, it doesn’t have to be expensive, my setup costs less than $50 (even less if you have some table lamps already). See some of my other responses for my setup. Also, stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • c n

    lighting 😛

  • Jessica

    I find it challenging that usually my best tasting food is not my best looking..

  • Gwen Corey

    I am slowly learning Photoshop, but was glued to a segment Mark Steines on Hallmark’s HOME & FAMILY did with Lightroom 4 recently. This is just what my son needs to make his photos look as good as the food tastes! Thanks for the lighting info given to Clodom! I took notes!

  • Laura Dembowski

    Unfortunately I find just about everything about food photography difficult. I try so hard to take great photos and edit them accordingly, but it the food photography sites just don’t accept my pics. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing wrong.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      If it makes you feel any better, there’s one food photography site in particular, that regularly rejects my photos. I think part of it may be that they don’t have their monitor calibrated correctly, and part of it may be personal preference. As with any form of art, what makes a good or bad photo is largely subjective. That said, if you want to email me some photos I’m happy to take a look and give you some constructive feedback that might help you in the future.

  • Don

    Dear lord I suck at styling and lighting! Composition is difficult for me as a fledgling food blogger, learning to shoot food.

    It is especially difficult post daylight savings as there is little natural light when I return home after work.

    On the advice of a friend, I have a SB600 speedlight. I am looking into remotes and lamps.

    I really look forward to your upcoming post on lighting.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I’m not a huge fan of using flashes (of any sort) for taking food photos. Given enough thought and setup you can take great photos with a flash, but there are simpler alternatives that give more natural looking results (i.e. without the shot-in-studio look). If you have a bright lens (f 2.8 or larger), you shouldn’t have a problem hand-holding the camera and using continuous lighting. While you could spend a fortune on softboxes and stands, I’m a fan of using high wattage daylight balanced CFL bulbs. Satco makes a bulb that sells for about $12 that’s 5000k and 40w, making it plenty bright. You can stick it in any e26 socket (ikea desk lamps work good), and use anything semi translucent as a diffuser (parchment paper, rice paper, and frosted glass all work well). Having a few of these lamps give you some versatility, but you can certainly get away with one. You’ll also want some white foam-core board to use as a bounce.

  • Bethann

    Definitely struggling to make the magic happen in Photoshop, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Lightroom. Fingers crossed!

    Bethann from

    • Marc Matsumoto

      If you’re using Photoshop CS6, the tools are largely the same, so you should be able to follow along with my Lightroom tutorial and
      achieve similar results. Where Lightroom really excels though is in the workflow (processing dozens of photos).

  • Heidi @ Food Doodles

    Lighting for sure. But composition too! I have 3 little kids so taking my time to get everything looking perfect is next to impossible.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Keep an eye out for a lighting tutorial I have planned. As for composition, I usually try and set the shot up before the food is done. Pick your plate(s), lay it all out, setup your lights (if need be), then fire off a few test shots. That way when the food is done, you plate it and shoot before the food gets cold.

  • createdbydiane

    well right now it’s the sudden lack of daylight in the early evening I miss and am adjusting for, but the other part I am frustrated is when my photos seem to have a bluish tint and adjusting the color in editing won’t warm it up enough and it goes pink, yep looks like I really need lightroom!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Are you shooting your photos in raw format? If so, even basic photo processing tools should have no problem getting rid of the blue tint. If you are shooting JPEG, you should consider switching to raw as JPEG gives you limited flexibility to fix white balance (which might be why your shots are turning pink).

  • Bbqphx Tracy

    My photos would improve greatly with a better camera I’m sure-I have a Canon A1000 point & shoot. I’d love to graduate to a DSLR but I have no idea what to buy and limited funds. Marc, if I could ask what does Lightroom do that Photoshop (albeit v. 7.0) does not do?
    Thanks, I’m a big fan of your work! :) Tracy

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Photoshop 7 is about 6 versions old, so there’s a whole bunch that has changed. If you upgrade to Photoshop CS6, the photo processing tools are nearly identical, but I prefer using lightroom, because the photoshop workflow is built to process 1 photo, the lightroom workflow is built to process dozens. This makes Lightroom much faster when you’re going through a lot of photos. Keep in mind, Lightroom is a photo processing tool only, so Photoshop has a ton of photo editing tools that Lightroom does not have. Put another way if you draw two circles, overlapping each other, Lightroom has workflow on it’s side, while Photoshop has photo editing on it’s side. The area where the circles overlap is the photo processing tools. Personally I use both Lightroom and Photoshop CS6.

      As for your camera, I’m not familiar with that particular model, but if you want to upgrade, look for a camera that can store images in raw format (as opposed to JPEG). You can read more about the difference between raw and JPEG in my Lightroom tutorial. Unless you’re planning to become a professional photographer, mirrorless cameras (Sony NEX, Canon EOS M, Nikon 1, Olympus/Panasonic Micro 4/3, etc) are a good alternative to low-mid range DSLRs. The Sony and Canon systems use an APS-C size sensor (same size as in low-mid range DSLRs) and have comparable performance with a lower price tag and smaller size.

      • Bbqphx Tracy

        Yes, we roll old school around here :) I found a pretty good deal on a Canon EOS T3 which will be my first DSLR. I’m anxious to put some of the knowledge you’ve imparted to use!
        Thanks again Marc!

  • Holly

    As a beginning photographer, I find editing to be the most challenging. I am not computer savvy so I feel like I need to take a class to really understand the process. Now, I let my 16-yr-old son edit my photos.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Have a look at my Lightroom tutorial. Once you understand how the tools work, it’s fairly straightforward and is a very powerful tool to make your photos look as good as possible.

  • Wendy

    The biggest challenge for me is definitely taking pictures in natural lighting. Evening comes quickly, so if I want pictures, I need to make dinner and take pictures between coming home from school and sunset. I’ve made a light box, but I still think natural lighting is my favorite :)

  • Nada

    The hardest thing about food photography is the intention. “Why is this picture important enough to take?” is a question that must be answered before a truly beautiful and interesting photo can emerge. I find that to be the hardest thing.

  • Not Quite Gourmet

    I am always shooting in natural light! But when I have to shoot after the sun sets…oh, boy. I need help!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      See my responses to some other comments about my artificial light setup. Also, stay tuned for a lighting tutorial.

  • Tara

    My house is poorly lit, so I have to work to get the lighting right.

  • Diana


  • Leah

    I work a 9-5 job and often can’t get good natural lighting for my food photography; since I’m planning a big move, I cannot afford photo-editing software (other than iPhoto) or a better camera/lens at the moment.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      While you’re probably not interested in buying more stuff before a move, you can make an inexpensive (under $50) light setup that will help you with your night time shots. See some of my other responses on this post for the setup.

  • sp

    My biggest challenges are (1) shooting in natural light since I am usually photographing what I made for dinner and (2) fear of editing which is now much better after reading your Lightroom tutorial! Would love to get a copy of Lightroom and put your tutorial to practice.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Glad to hear the tutorial was helpful! You can fix the night time shooting problem fairly easily with about $50 worth of light bulbs and lamps. Read some of my other responses on this post for the setup.

  • Kristyn Erickson

    As with so many others, my problem is lighting. Daylight only lasts so long, and lately that does not include post-dinner-prep time. I work around it the best I can, but if I don’t have good natural light, there is no chance of a great photo in my future — no matter how well I try to edit.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Believe it or not, the majority of photos on this site where taken at night with some inexpensive lightbulbs. See my response to some other comments on this post for the full setup.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Believe it or not, the majority of photos on this site where taken at night with some inexpensive lightbulbs. See my response to some other comments on this post for the full setup.

  • Jeanette Chen

    Similar to others here, taking photos now that it gets dark so early is such a challenge.

  • Kyo

    Lighting is definitely the hardest, but styling my food to look as delicious as yours is my biggest problem!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Honestly I don’t do a lot to “style” my shots. You may have noticed that I hardly use any props, and most of my shots are on white plates. That’s because I want the food to speak for itself. The most I’ll do to the food is maybe add a green garnish (such as parsley or scallions), but for the most part it’s just food on a plate. Nothing fancy about it.

  • Alek

    I have no good backgrounds and good lighting only during the day.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I’m not sure what you think of my photos, but I don’t use any backgrounds in my photos. It’s either the food on the table, or some windows/my sofa/the kitchen in the background. As for lighting you can take good photos at night. Many of the shots on this blog were taken at night. See my response to some other comments on this post for my setup.

  • Alek

    I tweeted it.

  • givemeasillyname

    i struggle with getting uniform lighting and no shadows

    • Marc Matsumoto

      You don’t want to completely eliminate shadows, because it’s the shadows that give your subject depth. That said, you also don’t want to have harsh shadows that are distracting. To fix this, just get a piece of white foam core board, and have someone hold it opposite for your light source and bounce some of the light back at the side of your subject that has shadows. This will soften the shadows without completely wiping them out.

  • Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell

    Lighting and composition are always a struggle.

  • Candace Reid

    My biggest challenge is props, because I am a natural fan and don’t like cluttered up props in my photos but I know I need to use them. Also need to work on using my light meter in camera instead of auto iso or anything like that.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Props are a matter of personal preference. I don’t use many props because I want the focus to be on the food. That’s why I shoot most of the food on plain white or black plates with nothing in the background.

  • PenelopeG

    Keeping the food fresh looking and “full” during the process, very challenging for me.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      The trick here is to have your shot all setup before your food is done. Choose your plate, clear out the background clutter, setup any props you’re going to use, then shoot a couple test shots to make sure you have the lighting right. When you’re food is done, just plate it, and put back in the same spot so you can fire off a few shots before your food gets cold.

  • PenelopeG

    (I don’t know if contact info is linked to my profile: penelopesoasis at yahoo dot com)

  • Oh My Veggies

    I struggle with styling and with lighting. A lot of times, my photos turn out kind of dull and aren’t as vibrant as the ones I see on other blogs. Very frustrating!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Have a look at might Lightroom tutorial. There’s a lot you an do with contrast, clarity and vibrance that will make your photos pop.

  • Dee B

    The right lighting! My house faces south and frequently has no good natural light source. It’s hard to find unique ways to showcase my food that don’t look like all my other photos!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      You can work wonders with an inexpensive setup of daylight balanced bulbs and white foam core board. See some of my responses to other comments for the setup. As for variety, I like going to kitchen shops and looking at their sale table. Since you don’t need full sets of plates for photography, they often have single plates for sale at a bargain and it’s a quick/cheap way to build up an impressive prop collection.

  • Julia (nugglemama)

    I have trouble getting exposure just right with food.

  • cezovski

    Lighting and what to use for a background is always a challenge for me

  • Velvetacide

    My challenge is getting the photos to look as close to how it looks in person as possible without fibbing it. Sometimes I make too many “tiny” adjustments and have to start all over again.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I often struggle with this too, but I figure anything that you do in software can’t be as bad as some of the things food stylists used to do (like painting motor oil on food, etc).

  • Ashley

    My biggest challenge is finding the right lighting. It’s normally dark when I leave for work in the morning and then dark when I get home, so I don’t have much light to work with.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      While daylight is best for photography, you can still take great photos using artificial light. Check out some of my other responses to comments for my lighting setup.

  • not_configured

    I have trouble with food looking too flat or 2-dimensional. I’m looking at your green beans and garlic and wonder if it is light and shadow, aperture, or choice of lens that makes it look 3-dimensional, or are the green beans just piled very, very high?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Usually when photos look flat it is because the lighting is too uniform (i.e. your light source is come from near the camera, or your lighting your subject from all sides). In the case of lighting from the front, all your shadows fall behind the food, so it makes it look flat. In the case of lighting from all sides, there are no shadows, which makes your food look flat. The best way to light is to either put the light source to the left, right, or behind the food, then use a fill light or a white foam core board to bounce light back at the subject to soften the shadows a bit. Using a large aperture can help with the perception of depth as well since it gives you a narrow depth of field (the part of the photo in focus is very shallow while everything in front of and behind it are blurry). Lastly you can do a lot with photo processing software like Lightroom to increase contrast, clarity and vibrance, which will all give your photos more “depth”.

  • zegator

    The hardest thing about my food photography is not sampling the goods when they are looking so perfect!

  • Kristen

    Really awful indoor lighting….my apartment gets absolutely no natural light which has made taking great photos challenging


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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