How to Photograph Food

The Food

  1. Make food look shiny. Polish fruits and vegetables like apples, tomatoes, and peppers. Try coating them with a thin layer of Vaseline or spray with a mist of water. Using both techniques will cause the water to bead on the surface.
  2. Work with a food stylist or learn from their work. Study magazines and cookbooks to learn how to garnish and plate different types of food in the most appealing manner.
  3. Undercook food to preserve their color and texture in the photograph. Slow simmered stews may be more delicious, but they are generally not too photogenic. Barely cook the vegetables and just sear the meat.
  4. Mist the surface with hair spray to create the illusion of frost.
  5. Use a steamer or a microwaved sponge, tampon or cotton ball to create steam. The moisture from a steamer can be hard to control. With either method it will take practice to control the steam and time the shot for realistic results.
  6. Make it beautiful by employing non-edible arts and crafts techniques. Glue seeds and nuts onto the surface or paint in an attractive and realistic color. Note that in some types of product photography it is illegal to misrepresent the contents of the package with this type of trickery.

The Photography

  1. Use flash to augment available light. Bring light diffusers and reflectors to avoid hot spots on the subject.
  2. Mount the camera on a tripod and use a cable release or timed shot to minimize camera shake.
  3. Light hot food from the back or side and use a dark backdrop to make the steam show in the photograph.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings when working in busy kitchens. Stay out of the way as much as possible and always say “behind you” when passing behind a worker. Look for opportunities to capture some photojournalism shots of chefs in action.
About Valerie Whittier

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