Food Photography: White Balance

|||Food Photography: White Balance

Food Photography: White Balance

By |2019-01-12T16:29:03+00:00January 19th, 2010|Categories: Tips & Tricks|Tags: , |12 Comments

One of the most common challenges I have seen many new food photographers struggle with is getting proper white balance (colors) and also exposure (tones/brightness/contrast) in their food images. When we photograph people we usually have a skin tone to gauge what our white balance is, and since our minds naturally know what looks “right” it’s not too difficult to find the right balance. With food it’s different since the colors and tones can be whatever we make them to be, and sometimes it’s hard to get the image back to those bright, vivid colors we remembered photographing.

The image above is the photo straight out-of-the-camera (left) and edited version (right). It was photographed with window-light on the right and a large silver reflector on the left to fill in shadows. My editing on this was very simple: I corrected the white-balance in Adobe Lightroom (from the RAW file), then used a levels adjustment layer for the tones, a separate levels layer for color, and added a reduced-opacity B&W overlay layer to add some contrast (you can learn how to do that last step here).

So, how can you improve the white-balance in your images? Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Photograph in daylight-balanced light. Using the light in the kitchen, which is usually going to be tungsten or flourescent, is not your ideal light for food photography (or photography in general). Use window light or speedlights/strobes to get the correct color-temperature light and you will immediately see results.
  2. Make sure your computer monitor is calibrated. There are a lot of relatively inexpensive calibration tools out there. I use a very simple “Spyder Express” – the newest one on the market (the Spyder Express 3) costs around $75. This is ideal if the majority of your work is displayed online or in a computer format.
  3. Pre-set the white-balance in your camera. This can be done with a fancy tool like the Expodisc ($100) or with an inexpensive $5-10 gray card (you can also find them at your local camera store).
  4. Shoot in RAW format. This will ensure that you can change your white balance in your editing software if you didn’t get it perfect out-of-camera (and 99% of the time you probably won’t).
  5. Compare your before/after image. By comparing your original image to the edited version you will have a better idea of what edits are working and what still needs to be done. You can do this pretty easily by toggling your layer visibility in Photoshop … I have a short two-minute video on this topic on my blog here.

About the Author:

Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer and published author whose love of photography and teaching has grown into an online business where she creates training materials and resources for other photographers. Nicole is best known for her books on food photography, but is widely versed in a variety of photographic genres, including landscape, travel, lifestyle, and even underwater photography. You can learn more about Nicole's work on her website,


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicole Young, Photography Tips. Photography Tips said: RT New post at – Food Photography: White Balance #food #photography #tips […]

  2. Beth January 19, 2010 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Thanks for these great tips! I’m just getting into food photography and I’m realizing how much I have to learn still! Thanks!

  3. Hogan January 19, 2010 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Beautiful! Could you go into more detail about the seperate levels layers for tone & color?. Many thanks.

  4. Nicole January 19, 2010 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Yes, I sure can! Check back tomorrow and I’ll post more info on the Photoshop editing.

  5. Sarka January 19, 2010 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    I’ve just found your wonderful blog full of very interesting info. Thank you for sharing all those bits and pieces. I’ve fell in love with food photography recently so I appreciate any new tips.

  6. Kevin Pepin January 19, 2010 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    As always, great tips. Thanks!

  7. Diane January 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the tips Nicole. I’m looking forward to more on the levels layers as well :)

  8. uberVU - social comments January 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by nicolesy: New post at – “Food Photography: White Balance” #food #photography #tips…

  9. […] I posted some white-balance tips for shooting food photography. In this post I’m going to go through the steps I took to edit […]

  10. Todd January 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Great post – I’m no major foodie or anything, but I’ve even spotted images like the one on the left approved on some microstock sites (isn’t that a pity) great tips here for those looking to get serious into food.

    How are you liking your 7D? I’m sort of stuck on the 5d2 for my next upgrade, but was just curious to hear your take on it, using it for stock. How is the image quality at 100% at 18mp? Do you find yourself having to downsize much at all to increase the sharpness and/or reduce noise in defocused areas? (even at ISO 100) I have a blog post I started here, let me know what you think.

  11. Joanna September 18, 2011 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Thank you for all your tutorials, thanks to them I keep on improving my photos. I love your blog:)

  12. […] – Fantastic White Balance Tutorial from Spicie Foodie – Tips for DSLR shooters and White Balance by Nicolesy. […]

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