Joshua Manocherian: How Photographers Make Food Look Good in Pictures
Hi, Joshua Manocherian here. I was a professional photographer in a past life, and even if I’ve exchanged my DSLR camera for a chef’s toque, I still appreciate the value of a good picture. When it comes to the food industry, appearances can make or break a restaurant. It is a well-known fact that the proper presentation of food can affect how the diner tastes it. A well-taken photo of a platter of bread, for instance, can make someone want to visit the bakery, while a not-so-appetizing picture of the fanciest fare won’t be enough to make someone have a taste.
If you use Instagram, you might notice that a large proportion of the posts you see are pictures of food. Social media makes it easy for people to document their food adventures; and to be honest, a lot of the food photos I see do not do justice to the dishes and those who prepare them. A second-rate camera phone, for example, can reduce a fiery red bell pepper into a paler shade that is closer to pink, while a bowl of purple yam preserve can look drab and gray when taken by an inexperienced photographer. As a restaurateur, one has to make sure that his/her food looks good all the time, even in pictures.
Here are some food photography tips that I’ve picked up during my time as a professional shutterbug:
1. Use natural light. Too much light, such as that coming from a flash, can "drown" all the vibrant colors of food, while too little light will result in something barely visible. Whenever I eat during my travels, I always asked for a table near the window to let me use natural light while taking photos of my food. Natural light has a way of bringing out food's natural colors, unlike artificial light that is too harsh too often.
2. Composition matters. Like every other form of photography, food photography relies heavily on proper composition to come up with a beautiful shot. Your food photo is well-composed if you can tell right away what the subject is. Are you shooting the cake, the wine, or the plate? Most photographers use the rule of thirds to compose their shots. Think of a picture as a canvas intersected by three horizontal and three vertical lines. Your food should appear where the invisible lines meet to draw your eyes to it.
3. Style your food. Food looks a lot better when they’re styled very well. Just like clothes, the size, color, and shape of the crockery they’re served in will affect the way they look in pictures. If the dish is a bit plain-looking, consider serving it in a colorful container or surround it with color-coordinated accessories such as napkins. On the other hand, colorful dishes should be served on plain white plates. Whatever you do, do not show used or dirty spoons, forks, or knives!
I will next discuss the importance of presentation in a restaurant environment. This is Joshua Manocherian and I hope you keep reading my blog!