Yummo! Shooting Food
Many times a business deal has been concluded over a pricey meal or in a coffee shop. Hundreds, if not thousands of cookbooks, are published every year. Entire magazines and web sites are devoted to recipes and cooking tips. Many charities and non-profit organizations self-publish cookbooks as fundraisers. There are so many different kinds of food preparation and cooking gadgets that entire mail order and retail stores are exclusively devoted to gadgets for the gourmet.
With the exception of that rare and courageous breed of photojournalists that cover war and other disastrous events, I have more respect for photographers that can make food look appetizing than almost any other genres of shooter. It seems easy. After all a plate of food doesn't usually move about. The photographer can control the light. No need for model releases in a food still life.
So what is it that makes capturing food images so difficult and the results so often disastrous? First the photographer has to remember that what looks good to eat, often comes out looking very unappetizing in an image. A buttery sauce can just look greasy if the light is too reflective on the sauce. Hot and steaming soups can look cold and abandoned without some actual visual steam. Meat is especially difficult; if not photographed with care, it can resemble nothing more than a slab of charred flesh.
The Ulterior Epicure quoted in Pop Photo (link below) reminds, "Keep in mind how your dish is being prepared. 'I'll order salad with dressing on the side, because when it's tossed, it looks gross and soggy'." But the best shots for maximum downloads will be set-ups where you can control more than you can in a restaurant. To fully understand how the quality of food photography can affect the restaurant business, order a burger at one of the chains. Compare what sits in front of you to the photo of the "same" burger on the menu. (See last URL in TIPS below).
Your goal is to make food look good enough to eat. First ensure that the food is presented in an attractive manner. Clean up any splashes on the edges of the serving platters or plates. Arrange the food in an artistic manner. (Food stylists are very skilled professionals at this art and have many tricks up their sleeves to make food look good). The worst sin is shiny food. Pick up a magazine devoted to recipes and you'll see only a very few of the images show dishes reflecting any light at all. For some reason those tiny specks of light reflected from the moisture in the food turns a yummo dish into a disaster.
Put people in the shot in the background or show a hand serving. You want to concentrate on the serving or table setting. Busy backgrounds will introduce unnecessary clutter in the picture. The most popular images are of common dishes, holiday food and traditional ethnic dishes.
•When you travel, take pictures of regional food.
•More tips on food photography are here: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001451.html http://www.popphoto.com/popularphotographyfeatures/3510/my-project-edible-complex.html
•A fine art photographer famous for his 1970's book Suburbia has lately turned to photographing food. He manages to turn the yucky into art. I recently visited a show of his recent work with him and, indeed, these images printed at larger than 16 x 20 are a great commentary on our culture of food and the photographer's sense of humor. www.billowens.com. You can read more about Bill here http://www.kqed.org/arts/people/spark/profile.jsp?id=925
•Here's an interesting link to illustrate just how important it is to make a burger beautiful: http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/big-mclies-lying-fast-food-photography