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Food photography – Part 1

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Food photography – Part 1

Food has always occupied and will continue to occupy an immense part of human culture. This is a universal language which will always gather people regardless of the religious, political and cultural differences among them. Food is created to be shared. And it is definitely a reason for communication. The development of the culture of food is a process that will never end, and it is precisely there that its magic lies. To try new ingredients, tastes and fragrances, to taste different spices, combinations and recipes – this is one of life’s greatest pleasures.


Photographing food is not similar to photographing anything else. Every genre of photography has its specifics and challenges. In order to shoot dishes, it is not a bad idea to have at least fundamental knowledge in the field of colour harmony, composition, a sense of time periods, styles, what pairs well with what and what does not combine well. Also, a sense of detail, balance, aesthetics and, it goes without saying, photographic skills. A different approach is needed to each photograph. Each recipe or ingredient will require its individual solution and it is not possible to stick to the same treatment and always end up with a masterpiece. Each food has its own challenges. Yes, some subjects are easier to photograph, and some are not. Some foods are beautiful in and of themselves – with lots of colour and rich in texture (for example, desserts, shrimp, salads). Others, let’s say it, are not as attractive or beautiful on pictures (for instance, fried fish, polenta, soups, sandwiches). The challenge is exactly here – to exhibit boring food in such a manner as to make it appealing, and make people fancy eating it.


If you own an eatery and you are about to carry out a culinary photo shoot for menu items, then this article will certainly be beneficial for you. You should know that culinary photography is a rare emotion, yet it is also a tremendous challenge. Not only for the photographic team but also for the kitchen staff as well as for the employees who have to supply the needed ingredients and props for the photo shoot itself.


Once the chef has specified the final recipes and it has been decided which of the dishes will be captured, it is key to consider the very concept of the culinary photo shoot. Besides the vision of the establishment’s owner regarding how the menu should look like, it is also important to take into account the opinion of the graphic designer who will work on developing the design as well as that of the photo team. You can shoot the dishes both against a white or a black background, as well as against the interior décor. If you prefer to set your photos against the interior décor – you should acquire the needed props in advance. Here we have in mind for instance: tablecloths, tea towels, cutting boards, slabs, countertops, crockery, serving dishes, glasses, pitchers, bottles, napkins, textile, accessories, gravy jugs, salt and pepper mills, oil and vinegar cruets, etc. Regardless of your preferences for rustic, modern, vintage or another style, it is important to match it to the status of your establishment, ambient interior and atmosphere. And yet, the main objective is to make it look delectable, which is critical when it comes to food.


The next step is buying the right ingredients which will be used to cook the dishes. Set aside the required time and attention when searching for the freshest and highest quality produce and ingredients – fresh meat, crispy lettuce, properly ripe vegetables and fruits. Do not underestimate the importance of the decoration accents. That is, if you have intended to decorate with twigs of mint, rosemary, basil etc, make sure they are fresh without dried or wilted sections on the leaves.


The truly good food photograph should evoke emotions, it should transport you on a journey to far-away lands, fill your nose with fragrances and make you feel hungry, even if you have just finished a meal. That is why arranging the composition is one of the pivotal moments of the photo shoot. Unfortunately, in Bulgaria, the food stylist profession is still not very popular. Abroad, in contrast, food styling for photo and video shoots is held in high esteem. In Bulgaria, there is nearly always the question of “May we avoid this, may we skip the stylist?” in an attempt to limit the expenses related to the culinary photo shoot. The photo teams are well aware of this fact and often resign themselves to the situation, putting themselves into the place of the owners of the eateries. As a result, most the photographers also have to assume the roles of both interior designers and stylists. They go on-site and talk to the chef because for the photographers, it matters how the food will look. Consequently, they embark on a long and arduous rummaging throughout the eatery in the quest for some fitting accessories for the decoration.