An inside look at digital food photograhy.

I know food photography is not everyone’s passion. I had no idea it would be one of mine and I love it! Things don’t ever seem to look quite as good in photographs as they do in real life, unless real care is taken to preserve the shot. Take your time, take a lot of pictures, walk around and capture your subject from all different angles and vantage points and do not, I repeat, do not use your flash… especially with food. According to Wikipedia food photography is defined as a still life specialization of commercial photography, aimed at producing attractive photographs of food for use in advertisements, packaging, menus and/or cookbooks. Or in layman terms: ‘Food Porn’ resulting in a food boner!

Food is sexy and it can seduce you!

Speaking of which, one of my favorite food experiences and pictures was this cupcake. When I look at it, I taste the sweet fluffy frosting the dense sweet moist cake of cotton candy!  Oh yes, it tasted as good as it looks and as good as sounds, my friends!

I just wanted to share what I have learned through my ongoing experiences and give you an insight to food photography.  I could show you a slew of bad pictures I’ve taken, but I digress! Experimenting today was fun! Put some music on and got right to work! I wonder what the cashier was thinking about me when she was bagging my: instant mashed potatoes, Elmer’s and crazy glue, frosted flakes, cake frosting, confectioners sugar and Crisco!

Being the sole art director unifies the vision.  In particular the art director is in charge of the visual appearance and how it communicates and stimulates moods appealing to a target audience.

Photographer, from the Greek words: photos, meaning ‘light’ and graphos, meaning ‘I write’, is the person who makes photographs. Professional’s uses photography to earn money whilst amateur photographers such as myself, take photos for pleasure and what a pleasure it is!  There are many elements a photographer must take into consideration from composition, exposure, lines, shapes, color, depth of field and rules of thirds but that’s where having software to edit helps! What you are ultimately trying to achieve is an image or images that commands the attention and communicates some feeling or emotion to your audience. And even then, these rules don’t guarantee success or how an audience responds. If I didn’t really like eating cereal it wouldn’t appeal to me, so how someone literally ingests it is based on his or her own food experiences.  Let’s take a durian fruit for example, the colors and textures of both the outside and the inside remind me of the way a jack fruit looks and tastes and I love jack fruit!  I hear durian is an acquired taste, however, I once accidentally ordered durian cheesecake not knowing what it was and I can tell you that I didn’t hate it!

The roll of a food stylist is to make the food look attractive in the finished photo. Also requires the visual ‘know how’ to translate the perception of taste, aroma and appeal that one gets from an actual dish.   For example, styling a bowl of cereal. I enjoy working with more spontaneous foods but I also didn’t want to waste my milk! To achieve that perfect looking bowl of cereal a food stylist will go through box after, even an entire case of corn flakes with a pair of tweezers to get about 50-60 perfect flakes! For the sake of time, I only went through half a box! The trick to getting the bowl to look like a mound of flakes is by filling the bowl 2/3 with Crisco creating a dome at the top and sometimes using tweezers to embed the flakes to create a pleasing arrangement and realistic volume of cereal. I just poured hoping for the best flakes! I wanted to first show you the finished product then show you a few photos I took to achieve the final picture.  A close up of to show you the layering or building of the cereal, the Crisco looks like milk!  I also played with Elmer’s glue to get that perfect effect of the milk dripping…. what do you think?  Some things to ponder the next time you stroll down the cereal aisle!

Ice cream is notably one of the most challenging foods to work with. Depending on the climate conditions you are working with would determine if you should use the real deal or something that is less likely to give way to the elements. I’d like to say that no ice cream was harmed in the making of this photo!  I tried mashed potatoes but it just didn’t look realistic and you can’t really change the color very easily.  I experimented and found a recipe calling for cake frosting and confectioner’s sugar which gave a more desired outcome with the texture and color.

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while and finally bought it. Sort of the bible for food styling chalked full of information, tips, tricks, advice, troubleshooting information and more!

Here are some interesting snapshots from the book.

The tools a professional food styles keeps in their toolbox.

Working with difficult foods and how to make them look good on camera.

For a long time, food photos tended to be shot and composed the way people were used to seeing their food laid out on a plate, from an over- head perspective or from the point of view of the eater. Later, lighting which in my opinion can mean the difference between success and failure, shallow angles and props and the prevailing trend in Western commercial food photography is to present the food as simple, clean and natural as possible often using effects such as selective focus and extreme close ups which are two of my personal favorites and the tilted plate.

And here is the woman, Delores Custer, behind this amazing book.

In food photography texture is your friend, your desire and ambition.