Photographing Food: Part 2 of 3

Super Photo Magic School

Did you practice some of the food photography tips from last week? There is so much beautiful natural sunlight available to us in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year, I hope the shutterbugs are having lots of outdoor meals and documenting them obsessively. Read on for some more tips on working with my favorite subject: food!

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1) Add a human being to the scene. Photographing food is about the food, yes, but sometimes you can create a stronger story and mood by adding a person. Having a person interact with the food brings the food dish to life, literally. We observe the action of eating and the process and as viewers, we want to dive into the meal more fully. This isn't always the case, but whenever I'm at a standstill with a shoot, just a pop of hands or the presence of a human, can add that missing dimension to the food. People, culture, food — it all goes together. Instead of fussing so much with a stack of cookies, try grabbing a friend to bite into the cookie and photograph her smile with chocolate on her cheek and the cookie in her hand . . . get the idea?

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2) Acknowledge that food is just color and shape. If you can think about food as a compositional element, rather than just the food itself, your pictures get stronger, more dynamic. When you view edibles based on their size and their relationship to each other, thinking more like a painter than an eater, fascinating photos can emerge. Play with your food. Rearrange. Rearrange again. Edit, remove, add plates, take away pans, play, play play until something unexpected and striking happens.

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3) Step back from the meal and turn around. I'm constantly reminding myself of this axiom. When I'm photographing a plate of gorgeous food and I'm shooting it inside, outside, from every single angle I can think of, it's hard not to get bogged down by the tunnel vision/focus of what's right in front of you. At this point, take a breath and note the surroundings. The better photograph might be the messy kitchen, the scene in the dining room or just a lovely side table with a glass of prosecco and a few cherries. For me, the above photo is much more compelling then my intended close up of a beautiful pile of pasta. Here we have a mood and a scene that can enhance the pasta photo or outshine it all together. So turn around! Don't get stuck.

Hope these tips help! Is there anything you're dying to know about photographing food? I can field questions in the last installment next week.

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)

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