The art of food photography

By Ellen Bedrosian

Photographs of food are everywhere. From Instagram lunches to Facebook feasts, social media has made sharing photos of Thanksgiving dinner at granny’s or an elegant appetizer at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare ubiquitous. When I was in Thailand, one breakfast featured the exotic dragon fruit. I was so taken by its beauty, that I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of it with my point & shoot before digging in. After many attempts with different exposures and angles, I managed to capture one half-way decent shot before totally alienating my dining companions.

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Dragon fruit and a sweet bun for breakfast

Without control of lighting, getting a professional looking shot is almost impossible, which is why the mouthwatering dishes you see in ads for restaurants are most likely shot in a studio, not on the restaurant premises.

With Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching, now is the time to hone your food photography skills if you want to capture the spirit and merriment of the feasts. Not surprisingly, many of the tips offered by the pros are the same as when shooting any subject: get low, look for the best light, make sure that the background is clean and free of distracting elements.

When I was staying at Wakatobi Dive Resort in Indonesia, a miraculous scene awaited us when we went to the dining room one evening: dozens and dozens of sculptures created out of bread. There were lizards, whales, sea turtles, snails, and a whimsical diorama of frogs sitting under a mushroom playing musical instruments.

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If I had known beforehand that the edible artwork was going to be on display, I might have been able to make arrangements to shoot them before the rush of guests, who were either attempting to eat or take photos of the bread-art themselves, made for crowded conditions. It was difficult to isolate elements, control exposure in the dining room lighting, and remove any distractions. But since I took the photos just for fun and for memories, at least I have a record of the hard work and imagination of the pastry chefs. By the way, all of the bread sculptures were edible, and I’m sure some guests did consume them, but I thought they were too pretty to eat.

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If you’d like to try your hand at food photography this holiday season, here are a few blog posts by experts on the subject to get you started:

How to Photography Your Christmas Dinner for Great Results

Food Photography – An Introduction

Food Photography: 5 Simple Ways to Get a Stronger Shot

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