The secret ingredient to amazing food photography

The secret ingredient to amazing food photography

Food Glorious Food. Commercial photographer, Cherry Beesley, explains the reason why mouth-watering food photography is crucial to tempting customers to visit your hospitality venue.

Tasting food is a full sensory experience – it’s not just taste, it’s the visuals and smells that add to the full experience. That’s why getting food photography ‘right’ is so important.

Science shows a strong connection between food and emotion. My job is to harness the power of photography in evoking emotion to create that desire to experience, taste, and ultimately buy.

Photographing the Turks Head

A couple of years ago I photographed The Turks Head in Hasketon, following its refurbishment. I was tasked with using photography to show the community, family and pet-friendly vibe, whilst showing that it happens to serve exceptional food as well.

We did this through a series of day time and night time shoots – which involved a continuous game of ‘cat & mouse’ with the English weather to get the perfect shot!

The resulting photos have been used extensively over the last couple of years to promote the business, and The Turks Head has subsequently won ‘Suffolk Pub of the Year’  two years running!

Sealing the deal with food photography

This time I was there to capture the food menu, photograph a cookery demonstration and take photos of their recently launched Brunch menu. In preparation for the shoot, I sat with Chef Mauli to discuss the list of dishes I was there to capture.

When it comes to food photography, like most things, timing is fundamental to success! It’s essential that the food is still hot when it is photographed. This is because oil has an amazing reflection on camera – when cold, food will look flat and unappetising. This meant that I had to be ready to go as soon as the food came out.

To help with this, a lot of thought was given firstly to aspects such as the table settings and cutlery, as well as the desired positioning of each dish and the variety of images needed for each one.

Setting the scene

My top five tips for designing the perfect food photo shoot include:

  • Keep it clean – mop up any spills and crumbs
  • Keep non-food elements simple – consider one or two extra elements such as a glass, fork or napkin
  • Choose complementary colours for table decorations – a simple flower in a vase or jar will usually suffice
  • Place bowls and plates on a serving dish – this helps to frame the plate of food
  • Consider the way food is set out on the plate itself – ensure food is ‘balanced’ in terms of colour, shapes, etc

Bringing food to life

Injecting ‘movement’ into still imagery is something that works very well in this context, as is enabling the viewer to imagine themselves in the scene. One shot that I have received numerous complements on is the mouth-watering ‘pancake syrup shot’ (pictured):

Can’t you just picture yourself pouring over this gorgeous maple syrup, salivating at the thought of experiencing every mouthful? This was such a simple yet effective shot – I simply asked the owner to pour and I shot the image.

Food photography – collaboration is key

As such a hands-on activity, photographing food is not something that can be done alone. As well as the aforementioned help with syrup-pouring, it was essential for the client to understand how all of the elements needed to come together in order to achieve the desired image.

I was able to suggest a variety of shots taken in different positions for each dish. This is not easy when working fast and alone, so having somebody else on hand to help reassemble and position plates for each shot is invaluable.

The staff worked quickly behind me, clearing one dish as I finished the various shots required. They brought me out the next dish and kept me abreast of timings from the kitchen. I have to say it really did work seamlessly.

Of course I haven’t mentioned the most rewarding part of this food photo shoot for me – I got to eat one of the dishes!

Could your food business benefit from a visual boost? Contact Cherry to arrange a no-obligation chat about her food photography services.

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