Food photography is something that looks really easy – but if you were to try to do it yourself you would quickly realise that it’s harder than you think. There are a lot of little tricks and secrets to food photography that people overlook – and there are reasons why when you take a photo of one of your meals it doesn’t quite look as impressive as the photos in the recipe book. It’s not that you’re a bad cook, it’s that there’s more to those photos than just the food.
Those shimmering glasses, those glistening salads, and those overflowing fruit bowls are artificially staged. Sometimes, the food being photographed isn’t even edible any more because it’s had extra corn starch added to thicken the sauces, it’s been sprayed with oils or drenched in vinegar to bring the salad back to life, or they’ve added strategically placed cotton balls soaked in steaming hot water to the plate, to make the food look legitimately ‘steamy’.
When you’re taking photographs of food, it’s a good idea to look at the food from just above eye level, at an angle. In the vast majority of cases this will look a lot better than taking photographs from above – which is counter-intuitive, and a mistake that a lot of people make!
It’s not uncommon for food used in photography to be glazed, preserved, or treated with food coloring to make it look more appetizing than it really is. Some photographers use dry ice to produce a ‘steamy’ look, some mess with the exposure because frosting can sometimes be overly reflective and look over-exposed. Some will allow food that is usually served cold to ‘sweat’ and heat up to room temperature to make it look nicer – this food would be disgusting to eat, but it looks good, and that’s the trick!
Food photography is an art form in and of itself – it takes patience and it can be expensive because you may need more than one version of each dish to get the perfect shot. Practice with simple dishes, and you’ll soon learn that even something like a cocktail or a cup of coffee actually takes a lot of work to stage. Invest in good lighting, and make sure you have a few different lenses to choose from. You’ll quickly develop a new appreciation for the work that goes into advertising your food!