What Makes Food Photography Different?
Food, who doesn’t need it and who doesn’t love it? There has been an explosion of the love of food over the past few years creating a new type of people called foodies. These foodies are loving food and photographing it. Images of food have been around as long as photography has, in fact even longer if you look at paintings of fruit and such. Food is quite often used as art. Renaissance paintings show people eating and still life paintings of food have been around forever.
Years ago pictures for cookbooks and magazines were done in the kitchen from overhead. Food photography has evolved and now close ups and exciting angles are the norm. The trend has shifted to food as art, or even food porn. There is even a term for this, Gastroporn.
Gastroporn n. It is the suggestive pictures and prose used to describe recipes in upscale cookbooks or menu items in fancy restaurants. Adjectives used include succulent, mouth-watering, tantalizing, tender, juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth. (From the Urban Dictionary)
So what exactly is food photography? Well it varies from the amateur taking pictures of what he’s eating to the expensive professional food photographer. Here we are addressing the amateur photographer, not the pro. Heck, the pro can write a better article than this but it might be intimidating and hard to understand.
Many photographers say that food photography is the hardest discipline. Then again, most of those who say that are food photographers and they want to keep the mystique of their art alive. What can make it difficult is that food has a very short time in which it looks good so you either have to know what you’re doing and do it fast, or you have to fake it. Many food photographers are purists, but there are many who take different approach. What they shoot is real, but you certainly wouldn’t want to eat what’s on the set.
Often the professional food photographer usually works with a food stylist, sort of a make-up artist for food and they use a variety of tricks. According to the Truth in Advertising Laws what you are trying to sell must be real. What is around it doesn’t have to be. So if you’re selling a burger it must be real, but the soft drink and the fries can be fake. Here are some of the bizarre things that can be used in a food photo shoot.
-Motor oil in place of syrups
-A blowtorch to touch up meat and make it look cooked
-Hairspray to make a cake look shiny
-Brown shoe polish on meat
-White glue in place of milk
-Mashed potatoes in place of ice cream
-Plastic ice cubes
-Cotton balls soaked in water, then heated in the microwave to make steam
Now the big companies do present an honest image of their food. The pictures you see on the menu and in their ads are made from food that is exactly what they serve. What they do is take about a dozen trays of rolls to find the perfect top and bottom, about a hundred patties, a few dozen tomatoes to find the perfect slice, and who knows how many heads of lettuce to make the perfect burger. Is it honest? Yes. Is it what you get when you order? No.
Food photography doesn’t have to be complicated and difficult, especially if you know how and why things happen as they do. What I want to show you is an honest approach to food photography, presenting food as the chef prepared it. Let’s look at how photography in general works, and then we can get specific to food photography.