Professional chefs take great pride in the look, taste and aroma of their meals. They want people to use as many of their senses as possible to appreciate their creation. When those same meals are presented in photographs it is more difficult to express the impressiveness of the dish because the viewer can only appreciate its visual beauty. That is why still life photographers have to be extremely creative to capture what makes each plate perfect.
Controlling the Light
It is the light in most photos that create a lot of the magic. Professional quality food photography incorporates light in the same way as fashion, scenic or architectural photos. The photographer avoids bright lighting that will wash out colors and flatten textures. They use accent lights, backlights and natural light to highlight textures, enhance colors and makes food glisten.
Managing Delicate Food
Lights create heat that wilts or melts food. The steam from cooked food can cause crisp food to sag and soften. These actions will not result in an appealing picture. To combat this photos are often staged by using substitutions or adding accessories. Hidden sponges hold open bread to reveal the beautiful ingredients inside. Instant mashed potatoes masquerade as thick, creamy scoops of ice cream and prepared dishes are plated while still partially raw to ensure vegetables are firm and colorful.
Adding Some Flavor
Meat must be glistening and fruits and vegetables brilliantly colored to draw attention. Adding food coloring or touching up food with a little olive oil helps to make the food look as fresh and succulent as it would taste.
Including Artistic Touches
Food photographers are artists and the composition of the whole photo matters to them. They spend hours arranging the dish to give it the balanced look they desire. They also add props to enhance the feel of the photo. For example, a white dish on a black table is used to display trendy, modern fare or a juicy steak on a thick, scarred butcher block for a rustic farm-to-table meal.
Using tricks like paint to brighten vegetables or swapping delicate ingredient for something more durable is acceptable in stock photos and cover art. When the food is used to advertise a restaurant or a specific product these steps are not always allowed. It is then that everything must be ready to go and the entire shot already designed in the mind of the photographer.