Food Friday : Photographing Food

Long before I ever had a camera of my own, or permission to use my dad’s, I remember checking a book out of the library that was odd for a kid. It was all about the art of photographing food, and I poured over those pictures and read it cover to cover. This was before blogging existed and was geared towards people who wanted to be professionals, photographing images for cookbooks and advertizing, and dealt with studio lighting situations.

One specific thing I recall reading is that food stylists would use scoops of lard instead of ice-cream in dessert shots, because ice-cream would melt in no time flat under the hot lamps. I also remember a tip about reflected light and how too much gloss could come out looking greasy.

Anyway, fast forward to a time when I actually have a reason to be taking pictures of food. Over the past year I have been publishing a food related post here every week so have photographed a lot of food, and will admit that in that category there have been far more out-takes than in any other photographic situation. Because simply put, the food must look appetizing in order to be effective in a food post. And that is not always easy to achieve.

I have learned that when photographing food for recipes, an artistic approach is not always the best because people want to see how you made the recipe and what the food will look like on their dining tables, and not in some funky creative lighting situation! I have also learned that with food, micro close-up photography is not the best approach. Some foods just don’t look very good really close-up.

We don’t eat much meat, but did have a bbq last summer with meat-eaters as guests, and I recall that I couldn’t use any of the pictures of the meal because cooked steak, especially medium rare, has no business being photographed and posted on a blog! Sure we’ve all seen some delicious looking pictures of cooked steak, but I dare say that they were probably taken by pros.

Oh yeah, I just remembered another point from that book … professional shots of meat often involved making grill marks with burnt wooden skewers and a quick zap with a welding torch!

Another thing about photographing food for a blog entry is that the food is prepared to actually be eaten. Usually the pictures have to be taken very quickly so the meal can hit the table while it’s still hot. And by the time you review the images after you’re finished eating, there is no chance to re-shoot as the subject is all gone! I admit to going back and revising some older posts with better pictures taken at another time, when we made the same dish again. I also have a list in my mind of posts I want to rephotograph but haven’t gotten around to yet. (ummm, delicious banana bread that looks like it was shot in a 1970s tavern might be on that list!)

By posting these pictures along with this particular discussion, I am in no way implying that they are perfect examples of food photography. Rather, these photos are a collection of food related images that I have taken over the summer, that may not have been appropriate to illustrate a recipe, but that I liked. In them the food is more of a prop, used to try to make a pretty picture.

(1) The cutest lemon bag ever? / (2) I was surprised to find these lemon wedges tucked inside the Melmac sugar bowl when Nick was serving some lunch outdoors. I so enjoy seeing how he uses the vintage kitchen pieces I collect! / (3 & 4) Tiny key limes compared to a regular lime. / (5 & 6) The first fresh corn of the summer. The season is much too short. / (7) One of my very favourite sandwiches! My sister was given some garden tomatoes from her neighbour, a few of which she kindly shared with us. / (8) Parmesan cheese rind. Yes, good cheese is an expensive luxury but it can add so much flavour to inexpensive ingredients, such as the ‘food love of my life’, pasta!! / (9) Nick might make the best home fries ever, the method of which he has never shared with me! (10) Nachos with guacamole, hot from the oven. / (11 & 12) Apple pie made with apples imported from our friends to the south, as Ontario’s apples did not grow this year due to a late frost in the spring that killed all the buds. We are missing them, that’s for sure. / (13) Soup with a smile. Some leek and potato served this way after a tiny disagreement. Yes, it certainly helped the situation.

Thank you for taking a look. Happy Friday :)