A food photographer’s job sounds like a bona fide dream. You’re surrounded by food, all the time, and all you’ve got to do is take some photos? Sounds pretty easy, no?
Related Reading: 5 Pro Tips from a New York Times Food Photographer
Think again. Andrew Scrivani, a professional food photographer who regularly contributes to the New York Times food section, has written a book titled, “That Photo Makes Me Hungry.” His work can be found in a slew of cookbooks and magazines, and he maintains that it’s not as simple as it seems. This understanding can be said for both photography shot on a professional camera—as well as on an iPhone.
That Photo Makes Me Hungry: Photographing Food for Fun & Profit, $14.99 on Amazon
Andrew knows that a ton of food photographers are simply harnessing the power of social media to post #foodporn images—but he also is quite aware that amateurs tend to make some big mistakes. And his book designates a section just for all the mistakes people make when shooting food for social media. There are plenty of things that can go wrong: not enough natural light, ugly food, editing too much. But Andrew hopes to curb these mistakes with a few suggestions, which is excerpted below from his book. He also talks that and more in his episode of Table Talk, Chowhound’s new podcast.
Once you understand the mistakes you’re making with food photography, your photos are bound to get better. And once you understand that it’s more than just grabbing your phone and taking a quick photo, but actually noticing some key things (like the natural light around you), it will become obvious to your audience that you, too, know a thing or two about food photography.
Excerpted from That Photo Makes Me Hungry. Copyright 2019 by Andrew Scrivani. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.
Common Mistakes Food Photographers Should Avoid on Social Media
The dos and don’ts of shooting food have been a staple on the Internet since the very beginning, but a few of these bear repeating. Never flash your food, try to shoot food in daylight whenever possible, and don’t overprocess your food until it does not look like food anymore. I think these were written on the back of the Ten Commandments.
There are a few more things I should bring up. First, in my opinion, it’s important to maintain consistency. I think that because people feel the need to post often, they end up posting subpar images to keep up with what they perceive as a very fast pace. This is a mistake on two fronts. One, you should be super selective about the quality of your posts . . . pay attention to quality, not quantity. And, if you overpost, particularly with less-than-consistent images, people will stop looking at your posts.
The other mistake that I see people making is thinking that they cannot make quality images with whatever camera they have. With the high-resolution cameras in all of our phones, this is not true. The camera in your pocket is as good as any other if the light is good and, most importantly, your subject looks great. This leads me to one more thing that is an error in judgment when posting online: featuring ugly food that you think tastes great. You all know what I’m saying. Just because it’s decadent and delicious does not mean I want to see it if it looks like a crime scene on a plate. Please don’t do that. This has been a public service announcement…
There are some little tricks you should know when shooting food, particularly in restaurants, during the day. You should try to get the seats outside or near a window if you want to shoot your food. Plan ahead. Bring a few white and black bounce cards; they don’t take up a lot of space in your bag and can really make a difference. Invest in equipment that does well in low light conditions. Certain phones, DSLR, and mirrorless systems advertise that their products handle low light better than others. Look into these items.
One of the other common mistakes is miscalculating the framing on social media, which leads to badly cropped photos when posting across platforms. Instagram’s default is the square, but you can post with original aspect ratios if you take the time to originate the post on Instagram. If you post on Facebook and it jumps to Instagram, though, the image may auto-format for Instagram, and you could end up with a bad crop. Take the time to crop, format, and post your images on each platform you are posting to, so that you get the most out of each post.
Header image by Andrew Scrivani.