Why Food Photography?
Food Photography for me, is about telling the story of the food and its’ providence. A story of the ingredients and where they came from. A story of the people whom produced them, and those whom carefully and creatively prepared them into a feast for all the senses. Food is about the aromas and flavours, colours and textures, the feel in your mouth, as much as it is the full satisfied feeling in your belly at the end of an excellent meal.
More and more the consuming public want to hear and see these stories. They care about where their food is coming from and how it is processed. This can be seen in the rising popularity of farmers’ markets and food education organisations, as well as the increasing trend of multinational companies such as McDonalds, Unilever, and Nestle keen to show the source and quality of their raw ingredients and food management practices.
A Little Bit of History
The first food photograph is considered to have been taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (pronounced ‘Neep-sea’) in 1832. He is also to have been considered to have taken the first photograph ever. The joint work of Niépce and Louis Daguerre, along with the simultaneous discoveries of Fox Henry Talbot are the foundations of the photographic technologies we have today.
For many years the photography and printing of food images for public consumption was minimal. There were limitations on the printing technology, and the costs were prohibitive. In the early 1950s black & white food images began to appear commonly in cookbooks. In the 1960s, once technology had improved, colour images began to take precedence. Since that time, the continuing development of the publishing, communications, and food industries has provided ample opportunities and need for the widespread use of food photography.
Seeing is Believing
So much of our food experience is visual, whether our first glimpse of a sumptuous dish prepared in a restaurant, the beautiful cookbook photographs of a new recipe we have been longing to try out, or simply the appetising packaging images on our favourite supermarket bought food (article reviewing effect of packaging here). This extends further when we begin to delve into the “food story”. Images provide a foundation for the narrative of the cooks and chefs, the farmers and producers, or the very landscape from which the food is generated.
The link between the visual appearance of food and food packaging, and how it affects the perceived flavour of that food has been studied (view articles here, here and here). To a certain extent you are literally “eating with your eyes”, and food which looks good will taste better. Additionally, a food image is often the first and only opportunity a person may have to make a decision on whether to purchase. The visual element of food is a vital part of the decision-making process.
Where does the Food Photographer come in?
Food photography in particular has really taken off in recent years; the popularity of Instagram, Pinterest, and social media; the ease of snapping your favourite restaurant meal on your smartphone; the fun of sharing what you cooked for dinner tonight. When it comes to the business of food however, you need your images to stand out from the crowd. For this to happen, a professional approach is best taken.
Professional food photography operates with a different and extended set of requirements. First and foremost the food photographer needs to understand the intended uses for the images in order to select an appropriate theme and style of lighting. Additionally, the intended medium for the photographs may determine further choices in the capture, post-production, and output of the images. For example, images for web use will have differing considerations to those used in a printed cookbook.
There needs to be consistency of style for the photography, especially if a strategic or storytelling approach is being considered, with a variety of subject matter being captured. If not already part of the process, a food stylist, marketing consultant, graphic designer, art director, or combination of the above is good to have on-board as well as the photographer, in order to help maintain this consistency across all intended publishing channels.
The story of food winds its way through all aspects of our lives. Food is, as the saying goes, a “universal experience”.