Say Cheese! Food Photography Has a Moment
Here at MGH, our creative teams frequently hire freelance photographers to create imagery for anything from billboards to web banners. And on occasion these projects have required the shooting of food.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…at least you get to eat everything you photograph, right? Guilty. But, overall, shooting food is a long, tedious process that requires several people. Take for instance the classic “cheese pull.” You know the one. A slice of pizza being ripped away from its original resting place as twelve inches of piping hot mozzarella follow closely behind. It’s a photo you’ve probably seen a million times, but it’s amazing the time and effort that goes into those and other food shots.
It’s all made possible by a seasoned (pun intended) photographer, a food stylist, a prop stylist and all of their countless assistants. And let’s not forget yours truly, an art director. There are elaborate lighting setups. You’ve got the “stand-in” food and the “hero” food. And of course the many inside tricks that are used to exaggerate the attractiveness of the food. Even a perfectly ripe, round tomato needs primping every now and then.
Recently, as I paged through the latest issue of Bon Appetit, I discovered something both amazing and appalling. It seems that the higher ups at BA had challenged their staff of PROFESSIONAL food photographers to swap their gazillion megapixel DSLRs for…wait for it…an iPhone 6s! That’s right. A 43-page feature story, highlighted by beautiful, full-page food images, shot entirely with an iPhone.
Now it seems that today EVERYONE is a food photographer. Go to dinner, whip out your trusty smart phone and voila! A picture of your #coconutchickencurry from that new hot spot is sure to garner more likes than your cat who fell asleep sitting on the toilet.
Food photography is certainly having a moment: Instagram and Facebook are flooded with food pics; the fact that it’s called your “newsfeed” is no coincidence; and there’s even a new app called “Foodie,” designed to help users take better pictures of their food. Blasphemy!
What happened to those long hours in studio? What happened to food “stand-ins??” What happened to spraying your food with water and corn syrup to keep it looking fresh???
In all honesty I think what Bon Appetit did was pretty cool. But from what I understand, the results weren’t achieved by just slapping a butternut squash on a cutting board and firing off their phones straight from their back pocket. They still enlisted talented art directors, food and prop stylists, and of course professional food photographers who have been doing this a very long time. The lighting still had to be perfect and the iPhones were actually mounted on tripods to keep things in focus. If anything it was a tongue in (veal) cheek nod to food culture as it is today.