Food photography is a specialized field of commercial photography. The main objective of a food photographer is to make food look as appealing as possible. The images need to relay the taste, texture and even aroma of the food portrayed. As marketing photos, the photos are used in promotional materials like menus, advertisements, cookbooks, websites and on social media.
Roles of Food Photographer and Food Stylist
Photography, in general, requires technique and masterful skill to create appealing images. Food photography presents a greater challenge. Lighting and styling need to coordinate in order to create attractive and compelling images. Food stylists are trained to present food in an appetizing and realistic manner. A food photographer utilizes lighting and composition while also leveraging the latest trends to create enticing and engaging images.
The way food photographers compose shots has changed over time, due largely to an increased demand for visual imagery. Early on, food was shot from the point of view of the person sitting down to eat. Food was plated and on a dining table, much as it would be laid out for a meal. More dramatic lighting and different angles coupled with props have given way to more recent food photography trends. Selective focus, as well as extreme close-ups are used to draw attention to specific areas. Food may also be arranged in a manner different from how it would be served.
The Value of Food Stylists
Food stylists arrange the food and props in such a way to make the image as appealing as possible. The challenge of creating effective photos of food is to convey the texture and colors. Food, in general, can be delicate, and when exposed to bright lights for an extended period of time, certain types of food may melt, or vibrant colors may fade. Food stylists typically have a culinary background that enables them to understand their subject and determine how to best represent the food.
Understanding the Process
Setup can be a time-consuming process when styling a shoot. Often, a stylist will lay out the scene and determine the placement of props and the food. The lighting is adjusted to achieve the desired look. During the setup process, stand-ins are typically used for the food to avoid damaging the subject. The final step is to select the specific food items that will be used, as only the most visually appealing materials will be photographed.
Tricks of the Trade
In order to make different foods appear as enticing as possible, a variety of techniques are used. From misting corn syrup on glasses containing cold beverages to mimic the look of condensation to spraying salad greens with water to maintain the look of crispness, food often needs to be manipulated in ways to give the sense of freshness. Both food stylists and food photographers have developed the specialized skills necessary to create appetizing, realistic and stunning images.