As the saying goes “you eat with your eyes”, so it stands to reason that the relatively new art of food styling, is becoming such a popular way to promote and sell food, kitchenware and cookbooks.
This trend is backed up by many a scientific study. “People’s perception (of food) is typically dominated by what their eyes see”, writes Charles Spence, Oxford professor of experimental psychology.
“Colour, texture and lighting can all attribute to this,” agrees Brianna O’Neil, Melbourne food styling expert and self confessed foodie, “so sometimes you just need to know a few tricks for your food to look it’s most enticing, which is the primary goal for chefs and restaurateurs.”
“Statistically it’s hard to predict a financial return on the art of food styling, whether it be to sell cookbooks or restaurants,” she adds, ” but studies have shown that the appearance of food and people’s enjoyment of it are so intrinsically linked that it would be foolish to deny the power of presentation.”
“Just don’t necessarily hope to eat it at the end of the process,” adds Ms O’Neil. “Hot lighting, time outside refrigeration and methods of making the food look right in the camera may result in a less that desirable dish, ready for the bin.”
Five tips to start your food photography journey.
1. Great Gear – As much as we love our smart phones, there is no better way to take great shots than with a DSLR camera and tripod. However you would be wasting your money if you don’t take the time to learn exactly what a professional camera can do. With a manual camera you can control light, depth of field and white balance that you usually cannot achieve using a point and shoot. (See also: Five Top Tips for Great Phoneography!)
2. Scratch the surface – The secret to a lot of great food styling is in the surface. Wooden, concrete, stone and fabric surfaces can change the mood of your shot immediately. Props are crucial to add interest and help tell a story.
3. Smoke and mirrors – Vaseline and hairspray can be used to shine up fruit, and toothpicks and cardboard to prop up a burger. Mashed potato and store bought frosting can be shaped into ice cream which doesn’t melt on set.
4. Buy or Bake? Is it worth slaving for hours to make that perfect lemon meringue tart when the patisserie down the road has one ready to shoot? Sometimes rubbery store bought waffles and pancakes will have a more perfect shape than you are likely to achieve in the kitchen.
5. Light it up – Lighting plays an integral role in great food photography. From light and airy to dark and moody, the variety that can be achieved in your shots by changing the light is amazing. Try back lighting, diffusers and daylight verses artificial light.