I recently came across this article posted on Facebook which is a photographer’s side by side comparisons of fast food advertisements and the same food ordered from a real fast food restaurant. It’s a very cool comparison (and one that makes fast food restaurants look even less appealing to me). He is mostly doing the project to show the difference between what you see and what you get, but it also is a conversation starter about the nature of food photography – the craftsmanship of it – and whether you can ever trust that a professionally made food photograph really represents the food.
As you know, I do a lot of food and restaurant photography in Boston and when people hear this, they often ask if I use vegetable shortening in place of ice cream, or if I put hairspray on the food to make it shiny, or if I use any other tricks to make the food “look good.” The answer is always no. Certainly, lots of photographers and food stylists employ these strategies to make food look fresh and real, especially those working in big studios with hot lights and a dozen people on set. I have the luxury of working with chefs, on location at real restaurants, watching the food get cooked and prepared and shooting it quickly, within the window of time before it begins to melt, wilt, or soften.
My food photography is natural-looking with no tricks, very little retouching and, when possible, natural lighting. My clients cook and plate the food the way that it is normally prepared, so that what you see on their website is almost always what you get when sitting in their dining room. Photographers always use angles, light, and composition to enhance the best parts of a product and downplay the least attractive parts. That is nothing new. But I am proud to say that I have never photographed anything on a plate that wasn’t edible!
There is always more than one way to get a great photo, and food photography is no different. I like my way – I think it produces excellent results – and I plan to continue shooting real food that looks real (and tastes delicious.) Lucky for me, my style of food photography doesn’t appeal to the ginormous fast food conglomerates out there who don’t use fresh ingredients and whose quality doesn’t live up to the promise of their advertising. Fine with me! This week, I have photo shoots scheduled at four Boston-area restaurants where I’ll work with the chef and the kitchen staff to make beautiful food photos. And I might even get to take some leftovers home 🙂