candids by Jo » a lifestyle blog that centers on food, travel and leading a creative life.

Ellen Silverman’s tips on food photography

I eagerly traded 40+ hours of volunteer work for the chance to attend Ellen Silverman’s food photography & styling workshop during last weekend’s Food Blogger Connect conference in London. Ellen Silverman is the NYC-based photographer who has shot over 25 cookbooks including Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter. Yesterday she spent 4 hours with twenty of us to impart her wisdom on food photography. As I am a firm believer that sharing is caring… here is a quick and dirty summary of what I found helpful:


ISO 200 | f4.0 | 1/30 sec | 50mm

Don’t look for perfection. Knock and shift food/props around for a more relaxed look and communicate accessibility. Don’t be afraid to break open the subject or leave a little trail of crumbs. Do use your judgement as to whether you’ve gone overboard with the mess.


ISO 125 | f4.5 | 1/30 sec | 50mm

Beware of holes & dark spots in salads, it draws attention away from the subject. Use a reflector or white board to bounce light back into those areas to bring back detail. Plating the salad on a shallow plate will also help minimize gaping dark spots.


ISO 125 | f4.0 | 1/25 sec | 50mm

Utensils can be distracting. Apparently, many of us at the conference (including myself) were utensil happy. Silverman suggested that we take a few shots with utensils, just to get it out of our system, and then try without it. Also, make sure the utensil is proportionate to the plate or bowl of food or else it will dominate the scene. It is usually a good idea to look for smaller-sized spoons and forks for photoshoots so that it doesn’t overwhelm the shot.


ISO 125 | f4.0 | 1/100 sec | 60mm

Blur it out. If you MUST include utensils in the shot use a shallower depth of field as a technique to draw attention to the food and away from the props.

Lessons learned from Silverman doesn’t stop here but this post has to end sometime! I’ll be looking to apply her tips to my photos in the coming weeks so check back for some more useful tips on lighting, process and plating. Hope you found this post helpful!

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  • Thank you for sharing! 😀ReplyCancel

  • Thanks Jo for recording some fabulous tips from your workshop with Ellen.
    It was great to meet you – you are such a lovely and genuine person 🙂
    Hopefully see you again xReplyCancel

    • That is the highest compliment anyone can pay me Jacqueline! I so enjoyed meeting you and have no doubt we’ll meet again, hope it’s sooner rather than later 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Thos are great tips! I guess I’m utensil happy too, and I find often I can see reflections of myself taking the shot in a spoon or the blade of a knife. I’ll have to try without, or blur them out as much as I can. It was really nice meeting you this weekend, thanks for all of your hard work as a volunteer!ReplyCancel

  • Jo, these photos are gorgeous! Thank you for sharing Ellen’s tips. And well done on your volunteer work at the event. Hope our paths will cross again soon!ReplyCancel

  • Thanks for the summing up – and your photos look fabulous. Really nice to meet you at this brilliant session.ReplyCancel

  • abillows

    Thanks for being so helpful and generous to me during the session, I finally worked out how to use my camera thanks to you and also hope I finally got to grips with the ISO, aperture, shutter speed trinity! It was a great session and thanks for re-capping it here for us to go over again.ReplyCancel

    • Glad I could help Angela! Look forward to seeing your new and improved pics on your site 🙂ReplyCancel

  • incredible, i wish i had also signed up for it but couldnt really do both, diane jacobs and this, oh well i shall learn from ur fab post! really excellent pics girl! what lens did u use?ReplyCancel

    • I would have loved to attend Diane Jacob’s, perhaps next year! I was using my nifty 50 most of the time. Jasmine was kind enough to let me play with her 24-105mm which is what I used for the last shot.ReplyCancel

      • yes i pretty much use my 50mm too – but need to work on understanding my camera more 🙁

  • This is such a great recap of what we learned. Your pictures are a pleasure to look at. We should really create a pinterest board and let everyone share their photography workshop shots.ReplyCancel

    • Thanks Antonia! I think someone was going to spearhead a pinterest board for us … if not I’ll do it 🙂ReplyCancel

  • I wish I attended that workshop too. Next time.ReplyCancel

  • […] have.  Frustrated with not seeing any improvement in my foodie photos I sought for help in books, workshops and beautifully captured images by others dedicated to the subject matter.  (Yes, geek alert, I […]ReplyCancel

  • […] What’s the first thing you see when you look at your photograph? Is it forks, knives, big shadows? What do you want to see? Seeing a shot through the eyes of top food photographer Ellen Silverman put a few more pieces of the ‘light and food photography’ jigsaw pieces in place. Ellen was petite, elegant, stylish and utterly ruthless…not with us the workshop attendees…but her approach to making the shot absolutely perfect. Find some of the key takeaways from this session on Candids by Jo. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] For those interested in a related post, here is what I learned from Ellen Silverman’s workshop at the Food Blogger Connect conference in 2012: tips on food photography. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Candis By Jo – Photography tips by Ellen Silverman […]ReplyCancel

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