I believe, no matter how good your kit or how ideal the location and surroundings, the thing that makes that perfect food photograph – where the food sings to you – is an understanding of and respect for the food.
If you respect the food and its production, no matter who your audience is, they will (hopefully) appreciate the fact of making something look the best, and most appetising, it can. You’ll never capture a whole audience; vegans don’t want to look at a picture of a steak no matter how pink and juicy. But you can make most people appreciate a photo, and the work that has gone in to creating that food and that image. For me, my background of working as a chef in a busy kitchen, along with nine years of photography experience, has helped me realise how true that is.
Being in a team can really help you bring the best of what you want to create; having a food stylist with great flair and interest in all kinds of food, a client who truly loves and believes in their product and – of course – the photographer who will hopefully bring those feelings to life.
Other very important elements for making great pictures is know what you want to show and highlight with in the image. For example, you should be trying to capture the depth of colour on an eggs yolk… Or capturing the light bouncing of fresh delicious fruit and giving it that extra sparkle. It’s all about understanding how that food looks best and using photographic technique to create a feeling within the viewer; the desire to indulge, the need for comfort or the want to nourish.
The composition of a photograph is an obvious, yet invaluable thing to do when trying to produce the perfect food picture. We all know from going to good restaurants that the design of the plate has been thought through to make it look the best it can; the same theory applies for food photography. Food shots from above highlight shapes and lines that would otherwise be missed; it creates a modern feel and adds artistry. This is the technique I used when photographing dishes for The Chiltern Firehouse. Nuno Mendes’ food is precise and clean and photographing it from above created a real ‘pop’ and dynamism. Where highlighting depth, like the filling of a sandwich, you need an angle which exhibits this at its best, giving it height, and to use contrast to create this depth.
So there are many technical elements need to make great work; lighting, depth of field, the right type of kit and the best team around you. But for me it is the little extra understandings and knowledge that one can bring to the table that makes the difference between a good photograph and the perfectly appetising picture that makes you want to go out of your way to buy or create the food product, and to realise that desire to eat something perfectly delicious.
Jamie Orlando Smith
See below a selection of Jamie’s work, to view more please click here