Cooking is an art and chefs are the artists, so food photography is an interpretation of another artist’s work. Jerry Riley is a Toronto native who’s been plying his craft in Kenya for eight years. An extremely sought after photographer in the hospitality industry, Riley is known for creating enticing shots, and his food photography is no exception. Here are his ‘essentials’ to getting a great shot.
Here are three goals to keep in mind as you take your photos:
1. Pick appropriate lighting and composition to best show your specific dish, giving the food a real presence in the image.
2. Be sure the food looks fresh, as if straight from the kitchen.
3. Create an image that makes the viewer WANT to try the dish, like you are just about to sit and enjoy it.
Although these goals sound simple enough, getting there takes some consideration and careful planning. You have to first decide on the dishes and place setting. Many food shots are specific to a style of dining, so you want to convey something about the experience as well as the food – a great burger and fries for lunch would be staged differently than a gourmet soup appetizer at a candlelit dinner. However, be careful to not distract from your food when capturing the ambience. Although candlelight can show the romance of the meal, you’d need additional lighting to make the dish the focus point of the photo.
I usually shoot straight from the kitchen, ensuring that the dish looks fresh. I keep garnishes, oil and water to the side to add splashes of highlights, and choose a camera angle that best shows the dish. There isn’t one formula that works every time though, so shoot in several different angles, which will let you capture subtle changes in lighting and achieve slightly different results. The changes may be small, but this method will inevitably help you find the best photo.
Post-production is a critical part of digital photography, allowing you to enhance the colour and vibrancy of food. However, remember that you want a realistic image of the dish as it would appear when served.
I was once asked if I shoot ‘real food’, i.e actual dishes that could be eaten. The answer is yes – my work has ended with many a fine meal!