Some times it can be difficult for me to get the right look of a dish in a photo. I have used extra butter for a more glossy look, swapped corn starch for flour in sauces for the same reason, even once went so far as to use a fine water mister/spray. It seems that by the time I get around to taking the photo the freshness of the dish does not translate to the camera (though the meal is still great to eat). Is there a method for this, whilst still being able to eat the food afterwards, and not change the basic ethos of the recipe. So, the question is: How do I make dishes more glossy without changing the recipe too much?

Found some great ideas here from the BBC, but still do not want to 'brush' oil over meat which I then intend upon eating.

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    I think the bit about keeping the food edible and relatively unchanged makes this a pretty good fit here, but there's also photo.stackexchange.com where people might have some pretty good advice.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 6, 2017 at 6:06
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    Food photograph uses a lot of mocked up foods. "Ice cream" made from mashed potatoes and such. In Japan restaurants have displays of dishes that are totally artificial so that the mocked up dish can be used for permanent display.
    – MaxW
    Feb 6, 2017 at 7:14
  • Mi MaxW. Yes, but to my mind that is cheating, it is not a true representation. Here the Japanese restaurants do the same, it puts me off eating there, and the artificial dishes always look a bit 'dodgy! Feb 6, 2017 at 7:29
  • If it is for cookbooks (or digital/social media equivalents) - please DO NOT FAKE around, especially not by adding or making anything inedible. Some of us cooks really like the visual cues (on consistency, cut sizes, ...) you can get from a faithful photo. When I see a plastic enhanced dish in a cookbook, I want to make the photographer eat it plastic and all. Feb 6, 2018 at 9:20

2 Answers 2


What camera and what lighting?

With plate only set up your shots so you are not messing around when the food is ready.

Light, camera, and backdrop make a world of difference. Outdoor light unless you have a professional studio is the best.

This is just a hack picture and I did not care about the backdrop but this is just a $100 camera and a free editor that only crops and auto contrast. There is natural light above the sink. Shoot the picture as fast as possible. Cut the most delicate stuff last. Have spare garnishes behind to dress up the plate. If it serves with gravy or dressing take some raw shots first.

Your knife skills are very important. Have a sharp knife and have a plan.

Have a nice cutting board to get some shots before plating. Plated is much harder. You cannot serve 8 and get a nice fresh photo plate. In the afternoon with natural light make a single serving.


Outside has more natural light. The fog is steam from the warm salad. You have to let food cool for good shots.



by the time I get around to taking the photo

This seems to be the key part. have everything you need to take your photo set up before you start cooking. Prepare table, set up lamps, take test shots etc. There should never be any "by the time" if you want great photo of perishable items, like food.

Second thing you might want is polarization filter on your lens. See What is causing this extreme glossy effect when using a polarizing filter? question on sister site. Absolutely no change in recipe, and you can adjust shine level to some, often quite large, degree.

but still do not want to 'brush' oil over meat which I then intend upon eating.

Actually, a bit of olive oil with water, from dual-chamber atomizer, did a nice job for me. And it doesn't require all that much of fat. I use something similar to this one - I have no association with this company, I linked it only because it looks and works the way my bottle looks and works.

  • Yup had a look at the atomizer, maybe use it for other things too - so that is a thought. Feb 6, 2017 at 12:10

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