We’ve all seen the classic “what I’m having for dinner” post on social media – usually a poor visual representation of a tasty or healthy meal a friend is rather pleased with themselves for making. People love to post and view images of food. Type in “#food” on Instagram and you get almost 200,000,000 results – yes, two hundred million. Search for “food” on Pinterest and it serves up a veritable smörgåsbord of images!
But it’s amongst groups like The Art of Food Photography on Flickr and under the hashtag #foodphotography on Instagram, where you begin to see some of the more appealing and well-executed photographs. The very best, of course, are kept within the realms of dedicated websites. So what is it that these people are doing differently? And can anyone capable of operating a camera master the art of food photography?
The eye behind the camera
Former finalist in last year’s Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year contest, Karen Turner, became a professional photographer in 2002. Her food images – of everything from individual food items and ingredients, to artfully presented dishes and desserts – adhere to a number of self-imposed “rules,” summed up in the sentence she uses on her Instagram profile, “real food photography using natural light and a documentary approach.”
“For me,” she explains, “over-styling takes attention away from incredible food. It says ‘look at how creative I am,’ not ‘look at how creative this chef and his food are.’ So I prefer a very natural approach with my food photography.”
For anyone interested in pursuing a career in food photography, Karen suggests applying a couple of other fundamental principles, too:
So how do you know if you’re producing images that are worthy of the title “food photography,” or which are worth using to promote your raw produce or restaurant meals? For Karen, the proof is in the pudding:
“There is a fashion with using the word ‘pic’ at the moment. If you look at the photograph of your food which you have just taken and think ‘this looks like a pic,’ I wouldn’t post it. Social media is a powerful tool for promoting great food, but only if you post content which people want to see and will react to.”
But if you can get it right, the rewards are plenty…
“I often get to taste the amazing food I capture, as chefs love me to be able to describe their creations on social media and my blog. Another perk of my job is working with such creative people; chefs are so artistic with their use of flavours, ingredients, techniques, and plating.”
Take one keen cook, add a camera, and allow to develop
One person who’s been trying her hand at food photography, alongside a full-time career, is self-proclaimed “London food blogger,” Jo Holland. Having been a keen cook for many years, as well as a prolific amateur photographer (her Instagram account is packed with food pics!), a food blog was almost inevitable. And it brought with it the opportunity for Jo to share not just her knowledge of cooking, but her growing proficiency as a food photographer.
But for Jo, maintaining her blog (cannily named Notes on the Menu) isn’t about finding a way to turn her food and photography hobbies into a source of income (“although that would be wonderful,” she admits). “The aim of the blog,” she explains, “is to use my love of food to try to raise awareness and hopefully money for the charities I’m sponsoring with it.” – both of which, have links to food and nutrition.
She also does it simply for the love of it. And that’s possibly the most important ingredient she has in her arsenal. Rather like food, which always tastes best when it’s “made with love,” successful food photography requires passion – something Karen Turner was reminded of during her food photography commission for one of the country’s best cookery schools:
“Rick Stein’s Head Chef Lecturer, Mark Puckey, said to me, ‘You have to feel really passionate about what you do,’ as I apologised for cooing and ahhing at every dish he put in front of me to capture. If you aren’t passionate about the subject you are photographing it really shows.”
Are you a food photographer? Share your industry tips with Dr. Foodle here!