How we photographed the Edamame Soybean Soup shot

by on January 24, 2010


We were hungry, really hungry and so were the dogs. So to fend off two hungry dogs and to appease our growling stomachs, we took this shot really quick because sometimes we have the patience to spend too much time on a photo.

Our approach to food photography at home is simple and we don’t like to spend too much time on set up because we don’t want  food blogging interfering with normal, daily life. To be able to blog consistently and still enjoy what we do is crucial. We leave all the more time consuming, detailed shots to work. At  home, we just want to be able to eat the food while it’s still warm!

When we’re hungry, we want to eat! Unless the  photography is work for a client (which takes much more attention to time and detail), our food shots at home are fast and not always perfect.

Basic setup in the natural light. We normally have a little fold-out table we use, but the legs broke. So we shot this on the floor.

We wanted a clean and crisp shot for our edamame soybean soup post. Lucky for an obsession for antique stores, we found a cool pair of old cabinet doors for only $15. Yes! $15!

Old cabinet doors with old texture were used and placed them next to our patio door, which had a thin drape to soften the incoming light. Two bowls, spoons and napkins underneath (for added texture) were placed on the set up.

The first few shots were rather bare, almost too minimalist. We wanted something simple and green to balance the delicate green color of the edamame soybean soup. The bamboo leaves from the garden provided the perfect background height and texture to the photo!

The natural light came in from the right and we used inexpensive foam core boards (about $3) to bounce more light on the left side. A simple placement of the white board distributed even light to the left side.

We also re-positioned the set-up so that the main light could enter the shot from different directions. A few shots were taken for fun and after about 10 minutes, we were finished! Now time to enjoy this delicious soup.

above: texture of wood and unifying colors of white and green balance the photograph.

above: sheer curtains or vellum paper softens the incoming light. Sierra peaking in on the set-up

below: They smell the edamame soybean soup. Stay back! It’s ours!

above- our green onion strips sank too quickly to the bottom, so we threw on some fresh sprigs of cilantro to garnish the dish. It works! Let’s eat.

The pictures pretty much illustrate how we achieved the photograph. If you have any questions, please ask it in the comments below! Or visit Matt Wright’s clear and thorough tutorial on shooting in natural light photography!

And by the way, the soup was fantastic! Here’s the Edamame Soybean soup recipe if you want to give it a try!

have  a great day! eat your beans!

diane and todd

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cooking with Michele January 24, 2010 at 4:26 pm

This was really helpful for me to see – with no professional photography training or food styling training, trying to create quality food photos on my post has been a huge learning curve for me. Your tutorials definitely help, so thanks!


2 White On Rice Couple January 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Michele – Most of us food bloggers didn’t start off as professional stylists or food photographers and all this is a learning curve for us all. Start simple, find your light source and photograph near it. Just focus on getting a good photograph first, without too much emphasis on styling. If the shot is good, the food will most likely look good. Start with one variable first.


3 Dana Zia January 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this! I am constantly struggling to get those perfect shots. When I do get them I think it is purely an accident! A happy accident, but none the less, an accident. What was you white balance set at and shutter speed? Sometimes when I use woo much white the picture blows out. Thanks for your hints!


4 White On Rice Couple January 24, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Dana Zia – It takes time, practice and patience. But don’t worry about trying to get a perfect shot. Try to achieve a shot that makes you happy, that’s what matters. Start from there and make small adjustments as time goes on.


5 Divina January 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm

That is awesome. Although I do have a space to put my set up on the floor, the light doesn’t really come in the kitchen. So, i have to move my stuff from the kitchen downstairs. It’s been taxing so I take pictures in my room by the window where there are bars that I could put some stuff. Not much space and hard to take a photo before there’s a built-in table. But I’ve got to use what I have. Thanks for showing us your set up. Really helpful.


6 White On Rice Couple January 26, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Divina – depending on what time of day we’re shooting our meal, we’ll find ourselves having to move the food to different parts of the house too! We just have to follow the natural light. But when it’s night time, we shoot with our speedlights.


7 Kathryn January 25, 2010 at 1:31 am

Thanks for the tips! I love the last shot with the two dogs at the door.


8 Phoo-D January 25, 2010 at 7:12 am

Thank you for detailing the setup! Those doors are quite a find and I love the color from the bamboo leaves. Adding bacon to the soup is a great idea!


9 sarah January 25, 2010 at 7:39 am

Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge!


10 frances January 25, 2010 at 8:38 am

Thanks for sharing the setup and the recipe!


11 clairetweet January 25, 2010 at 9:19 am

Thank you so much for sharing this information. I always love your shots and it’s good to know that someone else has the dogs sniffing around trying to nick the props! I have just started reading Matt’s pages of techniques too and it’s all great stuff. I just wish we had a little more light spilling in through our doors and windows in Derbyshire (UK) in the winter.


12 Cookin' Canuck January 25, 2010 at 10:52 am

Excellent tips! I recently started using foam core board and now wonder how I ever took photos without them. I love the pop of green from the bamboo and holding the dogs back from eating the soup is a far too familiar scene.


13 Dandy January 25, 2010 at 11:33 am

This was the most useful info I’ve gotten in a long while! I am 100% sure I will use all your tips, thanks so much!


14 Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro January 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Two questions: 1) What direction does your slider face, and 2) What time of day is “optimal” based on that direction?

We’re tucked into the “shady side” of a hill, so we only get direct / real sunlight in the morning. From about 11 AM on… it’s all shade and indirect light. :-( With a “fancy camera” can one adjust shutter speed to get in more light?

We’re doing what we can with what we have: working with a point n’ shoot (held together by duct tape because it once fell off the top of a moving car) that doesn’t have too many options. We’re also on a tight budget at the moment, so in the future hope to upgrade to a “real camera.” In the meantime, thanks for the great tips / tutorial! We’re following along and taking notes for future reference. [K]


15 White On Rice Couple January 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

That side of the house is NE facing. It always shoots best in the morning where the light isn’t directly coming in, yet still fairly strong. As the day passes and the sun moves to the other side of the house, the incoming light from that side is usually too dim to shoot without a tripod. Every house and area have different lighting availability so where ever we shoot, the first thing we are scoping out is how the light is coming in. Some situations can be challenging. We are still working on a post to help the point & shooters. Stay tuned…


16 matt January 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Right now I would LOVE the natural light you guys have in winter! Fabulous shot guys, I adore seeing how you work, and love the antique doors you are using here – what a great idea. Now.. I am off to find some bamboo!


17 Jen Yu January 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Awww, the puppies just wanna help :) You guys have a beautiful set up. Makes me feel like a total lazy bum! Makes me so happy whenever I see your house. I can imagine the two of you bustling about in that lovely home and garden(s) with Dante sniffing crotches and Sierra being goofy. *sigh* Miss you guys heaps.


18 kristina January 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I thought I was the only one who had to shoot on the floor!! I have a balcony over my ‘studio’ which blocks light from about 3 feet above the ground to the ceiling -when the sun is at its best-. It’s horrible for sciatica pain and back pain when there’s a lot of tinkering with the setting. Also shooting on the ground I have HUGE dog hair and dust problems blowing onto the shooting surface. Needless to say, the dog peeking in was my favorite part of this.

thanks for sharing your set up.


19 White On Rice Couple January 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Kristina – join the floor club! Sometimes when the natural light is low or scarce, shooting on the floor allows more light to fall on the food. We’ve been known to do crazy things to get the shot!


20 Cheryl January 25, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Really eye-opening post. I shoot in my garage, which is pretty filthy, but it’s where the light is best. Question, though, were you lying flat on the floor to get those shots? Whenever I do that, I end up with some really funky (re: bad) angle issues because I can never get the shot straight-on. Advice?


21 White On Rice Couple January 25, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Cheryl- Yes, sometimes we’re on the floor, really low to get the shot. Our shots do come out crooked, but we just make the adjustment/alignment fixes in Aperture. We edit on Mac Aperture.


22 Maria January 25, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Great post/tips. My favorite part was the dogs though:) Too cute. They know good food:)


23 Lyrical Lemongrass January 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm

If I shot on the floor, I’d be stuck in that position until someone pulled me up. :-P


24 White On Rice Couple January 26, 2010 at 7:19 am

LL- haha! We’re used to it, but there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to do it ten years from now. Like we said, we usually use a fold out table. That height helps.


25 j.Renee January 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Thank you so much! I’m just starting my food blog and I can’t get any of my pictures to come out truly good. This makes my day.


26 Trissa January 26, 2010 at 3:30 am

Thanks for the tips! I’ve bookmarked your site as well for future reference. I noticed that everyone shoots in natural light – I would love to as well but I have work that ends really late. I got a set of lowel lights – do you have tips for using artificial light? PS – your dogs are so cute. I have got two labs as well. They always drool when they watch me take food pics. :)


27 White On Rice Couple January 26, 2010 at 7:18 am

Trissa – Jaden from has a great tutorial on photographing with lowel lights.


28 Nicole Spasiano January 26, 2010 at 9:24 am

This is so cool. I know you guys spend so much time taking drool worthy photographs but getting to see the process and read about you thought process for the cabinet boards and creating the right style is so cool. Thanks so much


29 White On Rice Couple January 26, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Nicole- We’re really efficient in the kitchen and always have a quick, easy set up. But we’ve been doing this for a while, so it’s easier. Once you find your rhythm and system in photographing your food, it’s be fast!


30 Jennifer January 26, 2010 at 10:44 am

Those cabinet doors are just lovely. What a great find! I always enjoying reading & learning from your photography tips. Your work is an inspiration. Right now, as winter is in full swing in New England, I struggle with the availability of natural daylight. Also, our condo is below ground level, so the light is further limited. I’m making due, but also would appreciate any suggestions you may have. :)


31 Hélène January 28, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I’ve been following your blog for some time now and always love that your approach is still simple for home food photography.

I love how you did your setup. Now I want those doors :)

The questions I have are:

1- Do you always shoot with a tripod? Sometimes I’m lazy and don’t use it.
2- My daylight right now is so bad. Lot’s of grey and rainy days on the Island. What do you recommend I do to improve my pics using natural light and not a flash?
3- For Blog Food Photography do you recommend a ISO of 100 or 400?
3- I know that you have a busy life but I would like to see those pics of ‘before’ pictures that you took for this shot. That would show us a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture. (I’m taking about your ‘bare’ shots)
4- Again we always want to know: what software are you using to edit your pictures?

Since following your blog I gained confidence in food photography. I consider myself an amateur and I am not quite where I want to be.

Do you suggest taking classes? If so, what should I look for? (Beside moving next to you :))

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us.




32 January 29, 2010 at 11:18 am

Great tutorial!
It’s amazing how easy and fun is to use daylight for great looking photos!
I realy enjoyed this one!


33 Karen February 1, 2010 at 8:13 am

Would you give me an idea of the camera settings you used? ISO, SS, F-Stop MM etc. Id like to practice this. I know all cameras are different but I’m just learning and would like a starting point.
Great shot! Oh, and I love soybeans, I replace most bean recipes with them they are higher in protein and don’t cause the smae digestive upset :) Can hardly wait to try this !


34 Katie February 9, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I am so happy to see the doors! I’ve always thought all these beautiful pictures were taken in this ethereal home with all perfectly bright (clean) cottage like furniture. I just realized that I too can place doors on the floor in front of some great light at my house and make my pictures look better! Thank you for letting us know in the real world, that we can take magical pictures as well with a few props!


35 Tanya February 14, 2010 at 6:24 am

This is a GREAT post. Thanks so much for sharing!


36 Angela@spinachtiger February 18, 2010 at 5:39 am

I’m so glad things don’t always go so perfectly for you. Oh I didnt’ mean it that way. I mean I have issues sometimes like sinking herbs and I think I’m the only one. :) I have a lot of light in my kitchen and I’m struggling always with my set up. I did hang velum at the window, but I have so many challenges in the winter with out lack of sun. I eat up your photo tips, and I’m going to start hitting the thrift stores again for props.


37 Karoline February 18, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I am dying to get my hands on a set of doors like that! The photo is stunning! We shoot in front of our sliding glass door in the morning light on white boards etc, but I would like to incorporate some new textures into my work. Your tutorials are so helpful, and your work is truly an inspiration. Thanks for all that you do!


38 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) February 21, 2010 at 6:23 pm

While there’s commonality among all natural light shooting, I think there’s a huge difference between living in California or Florida, and living in a part of the country where it’s dark in the winter, sometimes even during the day, and the day is short. I find myself using lights much more than I’d like to. The alternative is cooking everything in the morning — not practical or compatible with work!


39 Brooke @ Food Woolf March 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

Don’t know how I missed this one. I’m so glad you posted the picture of how you achieved the shot. For non-pros like me, it’s so eye opening to see “behind the curtain” and get to understand how easy it is to achieve great things with a few key tools.

I forsee antique dealers all across our land getting inundated with requests for doors now. I’ll be first in line. :)


40 Susan Prior March 1, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Thanks for tweetin me.
I work as a professional chef, and usually have little time to take pictures, so when I do it is usually only when the light comes through my kitchen. I am also guilty of owning a pretty cheap water resistant camera.
Great food photo tips!

Susan Prior


41 Priscilla - She's Cookin' March 12, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Thanks for sharing your knowledge of photography and your delicious recipes. I’m definitely going to try the endamame soup. It’s refreshing to hear your down-to-earth philosophy on blogging and to see that it’s really true. I live in Huntington Beach – hopefully, our paths will cross one day.


42 Craig April 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Very informative! Next stop, B&H.


43 Jessica April 9, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Your pictures are gorgeous!!! How do you focus on the forground and fuzz out the background? It’s amazing.


44 White On Rice Couple April 10, 2010 at 9:00 am

Thank you! We created the shallow depth of field by opening up the aperture. Here’s our tutorial on how aperture affects images.


45 Kulsum at JourneyKitchen December 5, 2010 at 1:46 am

Guys this is so helpful. Not only because you shared your set up which is quiet basic but also because its such a relief to know you get hungry and dont aways look for a perfect shot! I can’t really eat food cold (as many ofcourse) and after a few shots I really cant take it any more. I’m slowly learning to follow simple set up and a trusted one, tht works most time, instead of trying to be a food stylist which i certainly am not!


46 Yuliya Christensen June 11, 2011 at 7:22 am

Hi, i simply in love with your food pictures!! Guys , you are so cool!! Thank you so much for such a helpful tips on foodphotography!!!


47 Dawn Romine February 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm

That could have been my boxer peaking in the deck window. Love it. I should set up a simple white box reflector for my food shots, but my family goes a little nuts when I take pictures of food anyways.


48 Min December 31, 2012 at 10:29 am

Thank you so much for sharing this! I purchased my first DSLR several months ago, and I did not realize that I would fall in love so quickly with food photography. There’s so much to learn, to read..must practice, practice, practice ;). It was so wonderful to see the set-up. I was wondering what other people’s “Studio” looked like!


49 dee brun March 11, 2013 at 5:23 am

Great post…Luv your tips. The idea of the cabnet doors was great…and soo trying the soup recipe..Looks FABOOSH…Cheers


50 Zoe March 20, 2014 at 3:51 am

Lovely and comical breakdown, I really love this idea of taking a step back to show the process because so much of the magic is there too! Thank you for this post.

Zoe |


51 j clay pottery March 30, 2014 at 8:34 am

thanks so much for the detailed info on this blog.
i am starting to venture out of my norm in photography my pottery and incorporating food and this will help!


52 Sally August 1, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Thanks T&D. Now that I have my own”big girl” camera (Canon 6D, gift from Kent!), I have a lot to learn. Just learning about the camera, first, but want to get going pretty quickly. I am sure the lens fight will ensue. He is leaving for a week to shoot landscape in Glacier and he wants to take the 100mm lens…ah no, you will leave that at home for me please. Anyway, I need its more of your tutorial, and to go through all of my workshop notes. I realize I know a lot, in my head, from classes with you, Matt, working with Kent, but when it’s in your hands? It’s a little different!


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