Interested in food photography? There’s an old adage which says that in order to successfully photograph food you must first identify the star on the plate. We don’t agree. In order to photograph food you must first identify the ingredient which is going to ruin your image. And then throw it away. In order to photograph food you must then identify the people nearby who are going to get in your way. And then remove them to a safe distance. Preferably without force.
Never assume that everything and everyone is there to make your job any easier. A simple bunch of herbs, for example, can pretty soon become a destructive force of nature if badly arranged. Similarly, the humble lemon can easily transform itself into an ugly mountain of distraction if left to its own devices. The average commercial kitchen, on the other hand, is a hotbed of ego, stress and panic. Chefs have knives and fire. You don’t need a translator to explain that you are probably not welcome with your camera at the height of service. The majority of our work – with the exception of prawn choirs and space crabs – is photographed on location in natural light. We also have the luxury of artificial studio lighting which is always useful if it happens to be raining outside. Or if you’re trying to train a prawn to play a harp.
Over the years we have encountered practically every pitfall known to mankind. But never fear. Gallery Food Photography has compiled a list of our top 10 survival tips and tricks to help keep you sane. In no particular order they are:
1: Never argue with a chef. The best are psychotic and the worst are just plain rude.
2: Beware the cook who thinks he’s a chef, the waiter who thinks he’s a cook and the floor manager who thinks he’s Donald Trump. These people are more than capable of completely ruining your day.
3: Buy fresh. Cook fresh. Photograph fresh. Don’t leave stuff wilting on a plate whilst you pop out for a pint or something.
4: Never ever, ever use the camera’s auto flash. It makes everything and everyone look rubbish. In fact disable the stupid thing right now with a big hammer.
5: Either use remote flash units to light the food or find yourself a big window.
6: Never shoot in direct sunlight. The shadows are too harsh and the food will look flat.
7: Keep the background clear. Over-propping distracts from the food and creates clutter. Unless you want to photograph a crab on Mars or something. In which case – go for it!
8: Eat everything you photograph. You don’t know where the next meal is coming from.
9: Fill the frame, darlings, and don’t be shy. Get as close as your lens will allow.
10: How many food stylists does it take to change a lightbulb? One. AND DON’T MOVE THE BLOODY LIGHTBULB