Break into food photography: how to go pro

Food photographer and Canon Ambassador Yasmin AlBatoul explains how she developed her career and offers tips for aspiring photographers.
Tea splashing up into the air from a tall patterned mug on a saucer.

Food photography remains as popular as ever, filling millions of Instagram feeds everyday. But with so much content available, it's becoming harder for budding food photographers to stand out from the crowd. Discover how you can make even the simplest of dishes created at home look worthy of a Michelin star.

One photographer who successfully went from amateur to pro is Canon Ambassador Yasmin AlBatoul. Self-taught and based in Batna, Algeria, Yasmin has an instantly recognisable style, utilising movement and energy to set her shots apart. "What I find most interesting is the challenge of turning something normal, something we see everyday such as food, into something beautiful and artistic," she says.

Yasmin took up photography in her early teens, inspired by her grandfather's French interior design catalogues. "Some had more than 4000 pages, and I'd spend so much time going through them, wishing I could take those kinds of photos."

A few years later, Yasmin took to social media, using YouTube tutorials to get to grips with the manual controls of her Canon EOS 600D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D). As her experience grew, so did her following, and before long she was a fully-fledged professional food photographer. Today she has a follower count on Instagram approaching 50,000 and plenty of professional commissions under her belt.

Yasmin is in a great position to reflect on her achievements and here she reveals the main lessons she has learnt on the road to success.

1. Experiment with different techniques

Two glasses of bright pink liquid with floating petals in them. The liquid is poured from a height, causing a splash in one glass.

Yasmin says the key to her online success was finding a unique and striking style – this helped her stand out from the crowd. Taken on a Canon EOS R with an RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 85mm, 1/200 sec, f/4 and ISO100. © Yasmin AlBatoul

A plate of churros on a table, one dipped in a bowl of chocolate sauce, and one floating above the bowl.

Focusing on one specific area or subject within food photography allows for more creativity. Taken on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/6.3 and ISO250. © Yasmin AlBatoul

To create your own style, Yasmin encourages experimentation.

"I always find it intriguing when professional photographers use non-conventional techniques," she explains. "Personally, I like to use fast shutter speeds to photograph flying objects or drops of water, creating interesting effects in the background. This was one of the first techniques I learnt when I started with the Manual mode." Light painting is another trick Yasmin has used ever since she was an amateur. When done with control, she says, this can add a beautiful, artistic touch to an image.

For photographers looking to capture motion as Yasmin does, the Canon EOS M50 is capable of shooing at 10fps in burst mode to ensure nothing is missed.

2. Develop your artistic side

An assortment of fruits arranged as if in mid-air, skewered onto a fork, with a bright blue background.

Developing an online community is a great way to see what is already out there and can help you connect with followers and grow your brand. Taken on a Canon EOS R with an RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 105mm, 1/100 sec, f/7.1 and ISO100. © Yasmin AlBatoul

Three fried eggs, appearing to float in a line on a yellow background.

Yasmin still uses the camera she started with to shoot professional images, proving you can get high quality photographs without breaking the bank. Taken on a Canon EOS R with an RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/125 sec, f/4.5 and ISO100. © Yasmin AlBatoul

"The main thing I've learned is to attract interest by creating something different," Yasmin says. "There's a rising interest in food photography and content on every platform, so anyone who's interested in being a food influencer should keep the artistic side of their work in mind.

"Think about aesthetics," she says. "Food pictures tend to look alike, so create your own style. Strong food influencers have a signature look, and by developing your artistic side, you'll be able to achieve a unique result."

3. Building your community

A yellow soup being poured into a bowl, splashing the liquid up into the air.

Yasmin's chosen technique adds movement and fun to her images, setting them apart from still life shots. Taken on a Canon EOS R with an RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 105mm, 1/160 sec, f/6.3 and ISO200. © Yasmin AlBatoul

In a sea of like-minded photographers, Yasmin knew the only way to stand out was to bring something new to the table. "I realised there were a lot of food testers and travel foodies on platforms like Instagram, but very few of them were actual food photographers. That was my breakthrough moment. I thought, 'why not share content from a food photographer's point of view?'

"When I began, there were not a lot of food photographers in Algeria, so I thought it could be interesting to explore that avenue. Cooking is an important part of our culture here in Algeria, we attach a great importance to food, so the subject matter felt natural for me."

Social media has taught Yasmin the value of connecting with people. Focusing on developing a network has helped her to grow, both as a photographer and influencer.

"When I started posting my pictures, the feedback gave me confidence to carry on with what I was doing," she says. "Becoming an influencer taught me that people are interested in what I do: they want to know more. And when my online 'family' grows it generates interest towards my content."

4. Lenses open the door to creativity

A close-up shot of some roasted chestnuts, with one bursting out of its shell.

You can explore the different textures and patterns of food by using a macro lens. Taken on a Canon EOS R with an RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 105mm, 1/200 sec, f/8 and ISO100. © Yasmin AlBatoul

Pro photos don't need a pro budget. "I started out with the Canon EOS 600D because it's an ideal camera for beginners: affordable and good quality. In my opinion, it's one of the most reliable on the market," Yasmin says. But it wasn't long after Yasmin started shooting that she found herself looking to progress beyond her kit lens. "The results were good, but I wanted more, so I chose the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM," she says.

Yasmin found that a new lens brought new creative opportunities. "The aperture meant it was possible to achieve blurred backgrounds, which brings charm and strength to a photo. I could instantly see the improvement, especially in the details, colours and overall quality."

Yasmin also uses the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro USM lens, which she pairs most frequently with her Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. "It's my favourite lens. Macro takes my food photography to another level, it gives it a more intense and brighter look, steeped in texture and detail."

Other lenses to consider include the EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM lens with the EOS M50 or you could use the EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM paired with a DSLR.

5. Keep learning new skills

A pink teapot pouring tea into a cup floating in the air above a saucer.

Experimenting with lenses, such as macro, can make all the difference to your final images, Yasmin's favourite lens is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro USM. © Yasmin AlBatoul

A stack of bowls being filled with rice, being poured from a wooden spoon floating above them.

Having the drive to constantly improve is key for anyone who wants to follow in Yasmin's footsteps. Taken on Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens at 1/160 sec, f/9 and ISO100. © Yasmin AlBatoul

A crucial aspect of Yasmin's long-term success has been her ability and willingness to learn new things, even as an established pro.

"When I see photos that I took two or three years ago, I'm really satisfied with the result, but also happy that I've kept improving because I know I can do much better now," she says. "The secret to that is simple – just keep learning. That's why I'm more than happy to share my advice with anyone looking to improve."

You can follow Yasmin's food journey on her Instagram @yasmin_albatoul

Written by Natalie Denton

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