My Shooting Setup

My Shooting Setup | gimmesomeoven.com

For years, readers and bloggers have asked me about my shooting setup.  And I always tell them that it’s nothing fancy.  (At least, nothing fancy like some of the professional studios I have worked in with food styling.)  However, I think that’s what I love about food blogging.  There are hundreds of food bloggers around the world who are taking amazing photos…with very minimal studios and equipment…which I think is awesome.

So for anyone who’s interested, here’s what my home shooting setup looks like.  I live in a loft in downtown Kansas City that I chose because it has big windows.  But don’t be fooled by that light — I bumped up the exposure on this pic (as I do on almost all of my pics).  With the exception of about 3 hours of the day, the lighting in my place is actually not ideal.  Often times, it is not that bright, based on various shadows that come in from trees and buildings.  And the curse of living in a place with all of my amazing brick walls is that when the light is shining in my loft, often times I’m seeing red.  Red. Red. Red.

So I shoot between about 2-5pm most days when the light is a little cooler in tone, and not crazy bright and casting red hues everywhere, and hopefully my food is cooked and timed right so that it’s ready to go.  A part of me definitely wishes I had more hours in the day for shooting.  (And yes, I have tried all kinds of artificial lighting and still can’t beat the sweet light that comes in that big window during that small window of time.)  But no complaints.  I love my loft and I love getting to shoot at home, so I’m sticking with it.

As for my setup, here are my basics:

Surface: I shoot on a $30 folding table I purchased at Target that has adjustable height, although I prefer it at window height for lighting.  Most of the time I shoot on a white piece of foam core (which I replace regularly due to spills and stains), but I also have a handful of other wooden and metal surfaces that I keep nearby.  Most of the time, I shoot my subject (i.e. food) a foot or two away from the window, depending on the time of day and how bright it is outside.  And most of the time, I shoot backlit.

Tripod: You can learn more about my specific tripod in my post about My Camera Accessories.  But the tripod most often goes in the place of the step stool when I’m not standing on it, when I’m shooting backlit.

Styling Cart: This cart was a recent purchase from IKEA which (finally!!!!) came to Kansas City this month.  I know that Pinterest says you can do a million things with this cart.  I use it as my portable styling cart with any ingredients or supplies I may need nearby.  I will be sharing about my specific food styling tools in an upcoming post.  (Stay tuned.)

Step Stool: Best $25 I have spent in the last year.  Oh man, I used a little kids’ bathroom stool for years, which increased my ability to shoot overhead a bit.  But I finally picked this step stool up at Home Depot a few months ago, and I now use it almost every single day.  It’s super sturdy, and I love it.  (Also good for reaching the top cabinets in my kitchen!)

Foam Core (Reflector): I own a handful of real reflectors, but use this recycled (a.k.a. food-stained) $5 piece of foam core board that I scored and folded down the middle as my main reflector for shooting.  It is essential for bouncing the light on the front of my subject when I’m shooting backlit.  And if it isn’t enough, often I’ll hold or setup a second reflector on the left/front side of the food as well to help light a certain part of the subject.  I have a handful of these folded foam core boards in different sizes too that are the cheapest, easiest reflectors I’ve found.

Natural Light: Finally, as I’ve said, my natural light source is this window.  I kept the cheap blinds on it because they actually do a fantastic job of shaping the light while I shoot (i.e. making things darker or lighter).  I also have some of those cheap sheer white sheer curtains that I sometimes put up on the window to diffuse the light.  But honestly, those little white blinds do wonders.

My Shooting Setup | gimmesomeoven.com

My Shooting Setup | gimmesomeoven.com

Oh, and I can’t forget to give a shout out to my trusty assistant who sits under the table during all shoots — my crumb-catching, sun-bathing, power-napping, tail-wagging pup, Henry.  He’s the best part about working from home.  :)

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55 comments on “My Shooting Setup”

  1. Brilliant! Thank you for sharing! The visual was really helpful. 

  2. Hi Ali!

    I’ve loved your blog for quite awhile.  Thank you for the appealing, healthy and not-too-hard-to-find-the-ingredients recipes.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that!    Eating healthy, delicious food feels so good and knowing it’s not difficult to do because of good recipes with accessible ingredients really is a form of motivation for me, thanks to you!

    It wasn’t until a visit to your website today though that I picked up on there being a “Henry” in your life.  I don’t know how I missed it, but as soon as I read about him I searched for a post that had a picture if him….what a handsome guy!!!   Thank you so much for sharing his picture.  I love dogs and say “I’m between dogs” right now as I can’t imagine never having one again in my life.   Right now I work outside of the home and am a single mom and feel guilty about bringing a dog into our lives because of how much we are gone from the home; so when other people share their canine loves in some way, I truly appreciate it!

    Keep doing what you love, and be well, and thank you!

    My best-

    Kate 

  3. Hi there! I really enjoy your tips. I am wondering the size of your folding table if you don’t mind sharing? I looked at Target and Walmart and they seem to be double that price. I’m thinking maybe yours is smaller than I thought. Thanks so much!

    • Oh man, I bought it a few years ago, I’m pretty sure at Walmart so I’m not sure. Mine is about 2×4 ft. :)

  4. I’m so happy I popped over here & started exploring around. I needed a visual os someone’s set up do bad. I moved to a new house a year ago and it feels very dark to me. My photos are definitely dark because of it. It’s driving me bananas. I think I found the right window, now I need to get a set up in place. And I need a tripod (hello!). And foam core. Sheesh!! I knew all these things but I swear, it was a VISUAL that I needed most.
    Thanks girl! xo

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! I sure love your photography and it’s awesome to see how you do it. Pinning this to my food photog board :-)

  6. Great post! I love your photography style so it was fun seeing behind the scenes shots. You made me start using foam boards as reflectors!

  7. Great photos in this post– It took me a while to figure out how to get my station set up. I wish I had read something like this a year ago! Totally jealous of your light! 

  8. I have been wondering about your photo setup for LITERALLY FOREVER! And I have to replace my white board ALL the time because some people in my house don’t understand what “don’t bump the table” means. Thanks so much for sharing this Ali! :) You’re such an inspiration.

  9. I’m really trying to work on my food photography, and this is so helpful! I will definitely be trying these tips.

  10. Great lesson

  11. This is such a great tutorial. We have been following your blog for a while now, and you inspired us to start our own. You have such great recipe ideas and tutorials that have helped us greatly! Keep us the good work!

  12. Great tips. Which direction is your window facing?

  13. I loved reading this post! So much information I’m looking forward to reading your other posts about blogging soon!!

  14. Great tips! I’m on a tight budget right now but looking for ideas to improve my food photography. My dog loves to taste test but doesn’t like to pose. I’ll be back to see what’s new.

  15. Hi Ali, thank for sharing this, really inspiring. I have a question, for foam core / reflector, do that necessary? Is there any big different with and without?

    • Oooh yes, I’m a big fan of the reflector. It’s the main control you have over shaping the light. If you don’t have foam core, a simple piece of white paper will also go a long way. :)

  16. Thanks so much for the info and showing your photo station. I’m looking to build one and this really helps.
    Cheers! 

  17. That is so cool, I am taking classes at the local college and love to take pictures of food and products. I love all the little ideas that you gave.. 

    thank you

  18. Thank you for sharing! I loved all your tips and steps! You make it seem effortless and I appreciate you sharing it all~

    I am in the mist of creating my own little corner of our house into my photo studio (ha ha ) the inside of an armoire that I have finally painted out all white – it actually has the best light (it’s in our family room which is all windows) and the rest of the cabinets I am using for storage of propping etc. My brilliant idea – at least I think so…LOL if I do say so myself came to me while I was trying to sleep one night but was instead thinking of ways to make it less of a project all the time to take these photos. I plan on doing mock ups for my website, slider and shop but if I may, – I have a quick question if you don’t mind? When you mentioned the cheap shades, do you have them down where you are shooting the shot and what do you concerted the best light of day – I know you said 2-5 for your area but why then? Thanks again…it was a great tutorial!

  19. whos got two thumbs up and wants that styling cart now… 

    Biggest question… who took this photo? :D Thanks for the tips! 

  20. I really really want to try to work on recipes, and this is very helpful! I will definitely try these tips.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been researching and preparing to start my own food blog in the future, and this post is very informative. It really got my mind churning for creating my own setup, and I love that you point out inexpensive items that are very accessible. Thanks again!

  22. Nice!! Thank you for sharing! It was really helpful. 

  23. Nice share and nice info, I want do it For take a pictures for my website

  24. Hi Ali, thank for sharing this, really inspiring.

    I have a question, for foam core / reflector, do that necessary? Is there any big different with and without?

    • Hey Masakan! Oooh yes, I’m a big believer in having the reflector. It makes a huge difference in being able to bounce and control the light on your subject, especially if you’re shooting backlit. If I didn’t use the reflector, the front of the food would be super dark and shadowy. So even if you just use a white sheet of typing paper, it really can make a big difference!

  25. I am taking classes at the local college and love to take pictures of food and products. I love all the little ideas that you gave

  26. I’m so happy I popped over here & started exploring around. I needed a visual os someone’s set up do bad. I moved to a new house a year ago and it feels very dark to me. My photos are definitely dark because of it. It’s driving me bananas. I think I found the right window, now I need to get a set up in place. Download Video Bokep And I need a tripod (hello!). And foam core. Sheesh!! I knew all these things but I swear, it was a VISUAL that I needed most.
    Thanks girl! xo

  27. Super helpful, thanks for the tips. Need me one of those stepstools :)

  28. Nice tips Ali.
    I like your technique in taking pictures of food.
    I will learn it because I also have a food blog.

  29. I like cooking, but I will learn your technique.

  30. Thank you very much for sharing your setup. I have a question, does your window face north as many food photographers seem to recommend? Do you think it makes a difference?

    • Unfortunately, mine faces south, which I’m not crazy about. I do think it makes a difference, and would LOVE a north-facing window. But I’ve made all directions of windows work in different places I’ve lived, so it’s possible! :)

  31. I love your clean and stunning photos. Thank you for this tip. Question- what is your camera setting to get those sharp photos with so much aperture? Thank you,

  32. Hi Ali,
    Just to write and say that I think your recipe videos are brilliant.

    Regards,
    B.

  33. Great post! I love your photography style so it was fun seeing behind the scenes shots. You made me start using foam boards as reflectors!

  34. I’ve loved your blog for quite awhile. Thank you for the appealing, healthy and not-too-hard-to-find-the-ingredients recipes. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that! Eating healthy, delicious food feels so good and knowing it’s not difficult to do because of good recipes with accessible ingredients really is a form of motivation for me, thanks to you!

  35. Hi Ali – I know you are in Kansas and I am in Sydney – but I would be surprised if you can’t hear me hitting my head against the wall in exasperation from there!

    It’s not too big a statement to say that this picture will transform my life – and possibly save me a trip to the hospital with a broken limb!  I can’t believe it, but I have been clamboring up onto my desk to stand on it in order to take overhead photos. I didn’t think of something as simple as a step ladder – yet I own one that is almost identical to yours – is easily accessible and stored about 1 metre from where I take photos!!!  It really is the little tips that help ‘beginner / would be’ food bloggers / photographers such as myself and I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this photo is. Thanks so much for sharing, Kelly

  36. Hi from France !
    I love henry !! and your website…

  37. I’m so happy I popped over here & started exploring around. I needed a visual os someone’s set up do bad. I moved to a new house a year ago and it feels very dark to me. My photos are definitely dark because of it. It’s driving me bananas. I think I found the right window, now I need to get a set up in place. And I need a tripod (hello!). And foam core. Sheesh!! I knew all these things but I swear, it was a VISUAL that I needed most.

  38. Hello
    Thank you for a little photo lesson
    But… perhaps your secret is in the assistant? ;D
    Good work

  39. Thank you so much for sharing! I sure love your photography and it’s awesome to see how you do it. Pinning this to my food photog board :-)