Saturday, February 5, 2011

Food Photography: From Professional to Your Kitchen Counters

Why does the food in advertisements look so much better, so much more vibrant, so much more delicious than the food you see on amateur blogs (like mine!)? The food you are seeing in advertisements is not truly food, at least not in the sense that you would want it served like that to you from the sponsoring restaurant., a photography and videography website, where tips and tricks of the trade are shared amongst amateurs and professionals alike, published an article discussing all of the devious ways food stylists trick the eye of their advertisements’ audience.

In looking at this Carl’s Jr. advertisement (despite it’s ridiculously sexual innuendo) the hamburger looks just delectable…

And in fact, looks like something even I would want to eat, although I know that any hamburger coming from the drive through window would never actually look like that. What little tricks are used here?

1. The meat is completely raw on the inside. It is heated with a blow torch to the perfectly brown perfection and is then left to sit.
2. The cheese is, in fact cheese, that has been melted using a very finite tip on a steamer to ensure just the right amount of moisture and meltiness for the picture.
3. The tomatoes and lettuce have water droplets on them to insinuate freshness, but really, what burger would you eat with wet veggies on it….
4. Hair pins are used to hold the burger together in just the right composition and the sesame seeds glued into place by the photographer or food stylist.
But it gets worse. The Thanksgiving day turkey advertised by Hormel in this add is far from the bird you will sit with on your kitchen table.

The food tricks used to make this turkey look yummy are far from edible.

1. The turkey is injected with mashed potatoes to make all of its curves look just right.
2. Rather than cook the whole turkey and risk uneven coloration, the inside is left raw while the flesh is cooked with a blow torch. Should discoloration still occur, shoe polish will assist in offensive hues.
3. All of the veggies under and behind the turkey are actually not vegetables at all, but, instead, are imitation food that is considered acceptable because it is in the “background” of the advertisement.

One food stylist discussed the trends in food ads in his forum post about his career as “showing food melting, oozing, folding, dripping, pulling—all help to create images people want to eat”.

What is it about food photography that grips us so dearly? We are visual creatures wanting to like how our meal looks before we dig in. That said, I am going to share a couple of tricks to help the amateur food photographer that I have learned quickly over the last month looking at other food bloggers with amazing visual displays of their food.

1. Close-ups on the food work wonders, as long as you aren’t cutting out a whole bunch of the course.
No one wants to see the bottom side of you parmigiana and not the whole edge of the crisper at one time.

2. There is an awkward place between too close and too far.
Don’t stand in no man’s land. Or takes photos in it either!

3. Using a couple of the raw ingredients in your meal to provide a context of sorts for the finished dish makes it look like a (more) professional photo.
People like to think about what is being put in their food, whether it’s a cookie or a Thanksgiving turkey, so putting a few of the ingredients in the frame as supporting actors for the main dish leads to a stronger shot overall.

4. If you’re going to capture things in the background of the shot (which can look GREAT) be sure that it’s intentional, or at least a little bit regarded otherwise it looks sloppy.

5. Be creative and try lots of different things.
You never know what’s going to look good or not. Try lots of different things out with a course before you eat it. And take multiple shots at a time so you have a choice later rather than a single picture you snapped and hate.

Moral of a long story: No need for blow torches and shoe polish, just work with what you’ve made and it’ll come out nicely with a little thought and creativity!


Lindsay said... Best Blogger Tips

love this post! i can't believe they put mashed potatoes in the turkey!! i'm always looking to improve my photography skills.