Holiday Food Images and Thoughts to go With 'em

Holiday Food Images and Thoughts to go With ’em


If you are one to photograph absolutely every single solitary moment of your life, you’ve probably attempted the holiday meal. In honour of Thanksgiving and upcoming Christmas, here are a few holiday food images which sparked my creativity and my personal thoughts towards them.

This beautiful shot of cranberries is by Cosil. I adore the composition and the white/red contrast.


Kimi C. makes a new batch of these turkey cookies every Thanksgiving and takes a photo (Kimi, the photos get better every year by the way!) This made me think of the following tip: photograph your holiday food projects. The kids’ gingerbread men will only last forever if you shellack them for the tree or photograph them 🙂


Why am I torturing myself with photos of Mom’s Thanksgiving meal last year? I love taking a photo of my yearly holiday plate before I dig in. Flash makes food look disgusting – try to get a shot without the flash to catch the ambiance and lighting. I’d recommend a high enough aperture to keep everything sharp and a slow shutter speed to take in the light (which will likely not be natural sunlight around dinner time). Test different white balance settings as well. I loved a warm ‘shade’ setting for this image.


Short of photos of people shovelling it in, it can be hard to photograph food with people involved. I like this one from R. Lily because it involved people without taking focus off the edible (or in this case, drinkable) elements. It’s still at ‘food level’ but you get the feeling that people are having a good time.

Thanksgiving 025r

I think the composition of this holiday table from Postscript Love is beautiful. Beautifully flowing image of the event before it gets disturbed.


KISS = Keep it Simple, Silly! Love LOVE this bowl of soup. Simple, imaginative framing, point of view, colours. Makes an ordinary (non-holiday) food look extraordinary and the warm colours makes it holiday in an instant. (image by Cosil)

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I actually smelled peanut butter as soon as I saw this photo. If you’re a portrait-lover, think of your food as any other human subject and set it up like a beautiful portrait for beautiful results like this. (image by Cosil)

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Got any of your own holiday food shots to share? We’d love to see them in comments below!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • Taddei April 8, 2013 12:00 pm

    I am really glad I have found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossips and web and this is really irritating.

  • Tiina December 19, 2011 08:50 pm

    I love the Thanksgiving meal plate - it looks delicious and healthy with those beautiful colours.

  • Kenny Haner March 28, 2011 11:55 am

    I'm enjoying every one of your tips and those turkey cookies are adorable. You mentioned lighting your food as a portrait, but if your guests or host has dressed up, why not make it a portrait? You have the added benefit of the set being dressed for you as most people decorate for the holidays. Thanks for sharing all this info and keep up the great work!
    [eimg url='' title='crystal.jpg']

  • gwen2010 August 3, 2010 12:07 am

  • Jose December 6, 2009 06:16 am

    Turkey my cousin made for Thanksgiving. Yummy!

    [url=][eimg url='' title='725434742_DPqpJ-M.jpg'][/url]

  • Amanda December 6, 2009 12:08 am

    These petit fours are as good to eat as to look at!

    Oh! And here is some gravy that will tastes better then any gravy you have ever tasted. (Last picture)

  • Clayton December 5, 2009 06:52 am

    Not only is there cookies made,but also cakes. Just ate a Peanut Butter cake a lady friend of ours made,and the next time I see her I'm going to compliment her. The best I ever had.

  • Lewis December 5, 2009 06:18 am

    I didn't really like any of the plated food shots. They didn't seem like bad photos, they just seemed messy with all the food flowing onto each other. I really like the cookie shot though. The hard directional light really shows off the texture. Follow this link to see some cool wine shots my fionce took at one of our engagement sessions:

  • jojit December 4, 2009 02:56 pm

    KISS = Keep it Simple, Silly! This is a great tip.
    What is the correct white balance setting to create the warm colors?

  • MellieMel December 4, 2009 11:50 am

    Made these molasses cookies a while back. They're perfect holiday cookies.

    [eimg link='' title='Molasses Cookies' url='']

  • Peter Camyre December 4, 2009 09:35 am[/img]

  • Peter Camyre December 4, 2009 09:33 am

    [eimg link='' title='Peanut Blossom Cookies' url='']
    Peanut Blossom Cookies

  • Danielle Philippi December 4, 2009 06:55 am

    Wow. You were so right about the peanut butter cookies. I could almost taste them as soon as I looked at the photo, but I didn't even realize it until I read your description!

    Beautiful pictures. It's amazing how food makes us feel this way.

  • Mexico Cooks! December 4, 2009 05:19 am

    [eimg link='' title='Pátzcuaro Nieve de Pasta' url='']
    Nieve de pasta (ice cream made of finely ground almonds, honey, cream, and cinnamon) in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, México.

  • Robert Bennett December 4, 2009 05:00 am

    My neighbor's homemade cranberry compote...

  • Lindsay December 4, 2009 04:42 am

    These are delicious pictures!

  • faith December 3, 2009 05:20 am

    I love food, cooking and food photography. :) But I don't have holiday food photos yet, though. Looking forward to cooking for Christmas and New Year and taking photos.

    [eimg link='' title='My first mac-and-cheese' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='Lamb shank' url='']

    [eimg link='' title='20/365' url='']

  • Kevin December 3, 2009 04:26 am

    KISS = keep it simple, stupid. not silly. is this a rated G site, for f's sake?

  • Michael Thompson, Jr. December 2, 2009 11:53 pm

    Thanksgiving has been a wonderful family tradition for us and brings together about 60 people each year. We have several cooks in the family - you get the idea when you see these are just our desserts!

    [url=][eimg url='' title='725542700_Gbrrb-620x620.jpg'][/url]

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    [url=][eimg url='' title='725536057_K67XE-M-1.jpg'][/url]

  • Dev December 2, 2009 10:38 pm

    One last attempt!

    [eimg url='' title='3794495281']

  • noregt December 2, 2009 08:32 pm

    Hello everyone. This is one of the images I made for a cooking book called "cooking without cash". The picture was made in a community center. Used two strobes, aimed at the ceiling to get a decent soft light. They just had white tables, so I also took some stuff with me to dress it up a bit. I could have gone a lot further with the lightning, but since it was a low budget project I decided to do it all quick and efficient.

  • Jeffrey December 2, 2009 05:56 pm

    You smelled peanut butter as soon as you saw the cookies? There are cookies made out of peanut butter? :o I've never ate nor seen them. Not really on-topic but it sorta amazed me there are actually cookies made out of peanut butter :)

  • Jessica S. December 2, 2009 04:41 pm

    A photo of some bruschetta we made for thanksgiving, turned out pretty well. (And they were delicious!)

  • johnp December 2, 2009 04:29 pm

    Thanks for the advice. They must be good photos - I'm drooling - Gotta go and get something to eat!

  • Mei Teng December 2, 2009 02:02 pm

    I love photographing food and I try to snap every now and then and not just for the holiday season. A great reminder since Christmas is just around the corner.

  • --Deb December 2, 2009 12:51 pm

    Some baking shots:

    It's fun taking pictures of food!

  • Dev December 2, 2009 08:59 am

    [eimg link='' title='Cherries?' url='']

  • Tom December 2, 2009 08:58 am

    For great examples of food photography, I can recommend Elise Bauer's wonderful Simply Recipes blog.

    I'm no great shakes as a photographer, and far worse as a cook, but her photos always inspire me to both cook and photograph the results...

  • Dev December 2, 2009 08:56 am

    The image isn;t coming through, here's the URL

  • Dev December 2, 2009 08:51 am

    This one's not from thanksgiving but i thought I'd share it anyway.

  • Caroline December 2, 2009 08:12 am

    With food photography I think it's especially important that you take a long, hard look at your pictures and ask yourself if you've photographed the food in an appealing way-- take a tour of some food blogs and you'll see many examples of well-intended food photography that went terribly wrong. Regardless of how many hours you've spent lovingly preparing a dish, it will look disgusting if you don't take care to photograph it properly. Some foods-- namely brown shapeless dishes like a casserole or crisp-- are really difficult to photograph in an appetizing way. If I want to document something like that, I'll often take prep shots (say, of apples being peeled) to make into a montage along with a picture of the finished dish.

  • Ian Vanore December 2, 2009 07:21 am

    yummy tall crust apple pie

  • Kelly December 2, 2009 07:12 am

    Photographing food is about all I do anymore it seems. I love it! I like to get people's hands in shots of food prep. Hands are so expressive and they add a warmth to the image, like this one of my mom's hands, making Christmas cookies with my niece:
    [eimg link='' title='nanas-hands' url='']

    I'm part of a group baking every bread in the Bread Baker's Apprentice book, so if you want a bread picture fix, here you go! 23 breads and counting...

    More food!

  • Geneil December 2, 2009 07:10 am

    Here's a new recipe I made this year--Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

    [eimg link='' title='Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes' url='']

  • Ste_95 December 2, 2009 06:26 am

    Here is a shot of mine:

  • Dembo December 2, 2009 04:54 am

    My attempt at Cranberries:

    and a shot of the Chorizo stuffing:

    I used what little time was left during the preparations to play around with and off-camera speedlight. Fun!

  • Angela Mills December 2, 2009 03:12 am

    I am not a photographer, but I read this blog with hopes that I will one day be able to learn. I am making a photobook cookbook for my mom this year, so I took some pictures of the dishes at Thanksgiving...I wish I had read this first!

  • James H. December 2, 2009 02:24 am

    My wife made the best chocolate chip, peanutbutter and coconut cookie ever a few years ago. Wasn't sure at first, but one bite and I was hooked!

  • James H. December 2, 2009 02:17 am

    My wife made this chocolate chip, peanutbutter and coconut cookie a few years ago and it was just amazing!
    [eimg link='' title='Holiday Cookies' url='']

  • Lori aka A Cowboy's Wife December 2, 2009 01:35 am

    I LOVE bread...Looks delish Benjamin!

  • Lori aka A Cowboy's Wife December 2, 2009 01:26 am

    I make this Lemon Bread every year to give away to friends.

  • Benjamin D. Bloom December 2, 2009 01:21 am

    I took a stab at photographing bread that I baked for our Franksgiving dinner (Friends Thanksgiving.)

  • Ilan (@ilanbr) December 2, 2009 12:22 am

    No matter how much I try, I never succeed in making a 'food photo' to look appetizing! (well.. I agree it's not a TRUE food photo, but food is involved ;)

    Great example here, sure made me want to grab something to chew :)