Top 5 Food Photography Myths
As a Dallas food photographer, I am always studying food. It has not gone unnoticed by family and friends that I am always studying the menu at restaurants, or looking at how a restaurant plated my dish. Shoot, I obsess over how my stuff is plated coming off the grill! While there are many restaurants that get it right in how they photograph their food, i.e. it looks good enough to eat, there are many more that photograph their food in a way that makes it unappetizing. As in most things, there are certainly some common myths and misconceptions about Dallas food photography, so let's take a look at some of them:
1. “Go grab the motor oil to pour on the pancakes!”
There is no motor oil or shoe polish here! Though stories abound of the various types of non-food items used to make food look good, that isn’t always the case. As time goes on, a lot of images now are being shot in a more natural format, and as a Dallas food photographer I personally believe that you should be able to eat what you shoot. Now I do shoot some proteins, especially steaks, raw with a nice sear on the outside, but nothing is injected or sprayed on beyond certain cooking oils or pan juices. It just feels odd to me using anything other than the food, plus it makes things unrealistic.
2. “Hey, Billy’s got a camera, get him to take some pics of the food!”
I see this all the time at restaurants, where someone stood over the plate with a point and shoot and documented the food they make for their website or menu. It’s crazy how a person that is not a Dallas food photographer can take something that is very appetizing in person, and if they don’t know what they are doing, turn it into something I would never want to eat.
3. “We don’t need a stylist, my food is good as is.”
Ask someone who has worked with food, and they will go on and on about the importance of having a stylist. Food has to be shot in a very particular manner to look delicious, and no one understands this better than a food stylist. They can figure out the proper backgrounds, plates, plating of the dish, etc. that take a dish to the next level. Plus, they know all the little details to really make it sing. If you really can’t afford a stylist, then at the very least find a Dallas food photographer who is comfortable with food styling.
4. “Hey put the food near this window, then blast it with direct flash!”
As with all photography, the light affects everything in your shot. Depending on what type of light you use, and how you use it can take the direction of your food in a million different directions. For instance, check out old cookbooks. The scenes are really dark, and the food has dramatic and often very harsh light put on it. I personally think of old school wood paneling ever time I see this. You can see the trend now is to make food look a lot fresher, and while shooting as a Dallas food photographer I usually try to make dishes look like they are sitting on your windowsill, ready to be gobbled up by the neighborhood kids.
5. “Hmm, I’m standing over the plate, so that should work for the photo.”
You can’t just shoot a plate from anywhere and make it look delectable. Food, just like people, looks better from different angles. The trick is finding out how each individual dish looks best. The next time you get your meal at a nice restaurant, notice how it was presented to you, because that often will be its best angle. You can even rotate it around to compare the different views, and see why it was displayed the way it was. When working with chefs, I always talk to them to get their opinion on the best angle for their dish, as they are experts at plating.
Hopefully this resolved a few of the myths when it comes to shooting food, and best of luck to you in documenting tasty treats!