Kate’s Food Photography Guide

It’s the new big thing, in case you haven’t heard. You get an app on your phone, and then you take pictures of your food, and then do some post production trickery, and then upload it, and then all your friends say ‘nom’. Given that I take photos of everything before it goes in my mouth (that’s what she said) I feel like I should probably jump on board this new craze. I don’t want this to be another YouTube debacle, where I hear about it from my Nana who heard about it on talkback radio and I have to pretend I understand what she’s talking about. So here we go. Before yet another bandwagon leaves without me: Kate’s Food Photography Guide.

I would like my steak medium rare, with some edam and some tomato sauce, if you got it.

I would like my steak medium rare, with some edam and some tomato sauce, if you got it.

Adjust Settings
There are hundreds of iPhone apps with photographic-faffery-features – add borders, adjust contrast, change light levels… all it takes is a few swipes of the finger. Before you post any pictures, you should always adjust settings to improve your image. However, you shouldn’t go overboard. Just make slight adjustments to make the colours pop and the cheese look even cheesier. After all, you want it to still look like food.

Scrambled eggs on toast.

Scrambled eggs on toast.

Include Captions
People don’t want to have to guess what kind of dressing is on your salad. They want you to tell them. Now, some people will tell you that food language is special. They will claim you’re not allowed to say “I chucked some ranch on it from a bottle I found in the fridge”, that instead you have to use words like “drizzled” and “infused”, and say things are “on beds of” other things, and just randomly translate things into French or Spanish for an exotic twist. I personally disagree, and think that people are most impressed if you keep it simple with clear captions. Go for “rump steak and some mashed potato”, instead of “amigos, view my pan-seared beef upon a bed of pomme de terre”.

Pureed apricots of the meadow served alongside une bouteille d'eau.

Pureed apricots of the meadow served alongside une bouteille d’eau.

Go Out
Go places. Wear dresses. Take friends. Tell stories. Laugh heartily. Take pictures of it all. The tablecloths. Silverware. Carefully manicured nails. Wine glasses. Definitely don’t put yourself on a restrictive budget. If you make something that smells like a foot and looks like something you’d scrape off your shoe, throw it out. Don’t just add liberal amounts of salt and more garam masala in an attempt to make it edible and suffer through it for six more meals of leftovers, the mess getting progressively drier, until you are pretty sure you’ve just reinvented the coaster.

Slowcooked dehydrated lentil dhal with superfluous spice levels.

Slowcooked dehydrated lentil dhal with superfluous spice levels.

Consider Presentation
People are visual creatures, and will appreciate the effort you go to when plating your food. You want a balance of colours. Add a side salad for a burst of green, or some ripe tomatoes for a splash of red. Arrange the items in a clever shape. Use the third dimension to your advantage, and make some of it vertical. Serve the food on your best Italian crockery. Use a clean tablecloth and polished silverware. In the world of food photography, presentation is paramount.

Vintage bread slices with olive-infused spread a la mesa, served on matured pizza box.

Vintage bread slices with olive-infused spread a la mesa, served on matured pizza box.

Make It Elaborate
Always make sure your meals are a complex mosaic of convolution. Before you go to make a recipe, check the number of ingredients and steps involved. Both should be sitting comfortably in the double digits. Feel free to borrow this rhyme to remember: “nine or less? what a mess.” Marinades, seasonings, side sauces: every part of the meal should have its own flavour profile. Turn up your nose at bottled sauces. Enjoy the tactile sensations of slicing locally-purchased vegetables into non-uniform lengths. Never just ‘boil’ anything. Never, ever, boil frozen vegetables. Never, ever, ever boil frozen vegetables then reheat them for lunch the next day. Never, ever, ever, ever do this three times a week because you can’t be bothered going to the supermarket.

Winter vegetable and brussel sprouts a la McCain: snap frozen, then snap boiled, then slow refrigerated, then snap microwaved.

Winter vegetable and brussel sprouts a la McCain: snap frozen, then snap boiled, then slow refrigerated, then snap microwaved.

Buy Exotic
Let me be the one to say what we all already know: your friends are going to judge you on these pictures. If you post a picture of your lasagne, it better be constructed from handmade pasta that you bought from an artisan shop for some exorbitant amount of money. Real food photographers wouldn’t be seen dead at a supermarket. No, no, you should be spending time at the local butcher’s getting halal chicken, at the farmer’s market haggling over eggplant, at the bakery inhaling the aroma of the laugenbrezeln. Fill your pantry with fresh ingredients that have a story and history attached. Never ever buy anything in a can.

Sundried tomato chicken from aluminium receptacle, served upon a bed of baked grains.

Sundried tomato chicken from aluminium receptacle, served upon a bed of baked grains.

There you have it. With these tips you’ll be wowing your friends in no time. With any luck you’ll even make them do that ‘oooh’ face with their eyebrows up. That one’s a sign you really know what you’re doing.

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6 responses

    • Do they remove their normal pants first? Or put the judgy pants on over the top of their existing trousers? I think either way you have a good case for judging them right back 😛

    • I used to work in the school library during lunchtimes. Never got paid and forgot to put it on my CV, so it was essentially a giant waste of time. I consider my blog my revenge against libraries everywhere 😀

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