Food Photography: Story and Style

When it’s done right food photography can be real eye candy

When Edley’s BBQ came to us with the request for photoshoot for a print ad I was immediately excited. I think when it’s done right, food photography can be real eye candy. The ad will be included in the Tennessee-based bridal magazine The Pink Bride and will promote Edley’s catering service through which they offer more gourmet food options than their traditional restaurant menu. Given the context, we knew we wanted to create a slightly more upscale feel to the ad while still maintaining Edley’s classic and laid-back Southern character.

Storytelling

Photography is often used to tell stories. Food photography is no different. The composition of the shots, along with the background, props, and textures we include help us communicate who the ad is geared towards, who made the food, and what the occasion is. When you eat at an Edley’s restaurant there’s definitely a vibe that has been created. With lots of window light, dark hardwoods for table tops, and soul and blues music playing, there’s a classic rustic-modern vibe present in the space.

To maintain this feeling in our shoot we shot all of the food items on top of a dark hardwood table and then added props to tell the story of the occasion. We set up the shoot in a space with a lot of natural light, which I find to be most favorable for creating an appealing, natural look. We also had a continuous light source available to help minimize harsh shadows, as well as subtly highlight focal points.

Edley's Caprese Salad Skewers

Photographic Style

For this shoot we utilized two stylistic trends that work really well with food photography. The first is the overhead shot, where the camera is positioned directly above the food. This angle works especially well with foods like salads, pizzas, and charcuterie because they are relatively flat. This angle also allows for the addition of table settings and props, which can help create a sense of context and narrative.

Edley's Catering Pork Belly Skewers

The second winning style is shooting food at an angle at which it would most likely be seen from a table. This shot works best with a lens that can produce a nice shallow depth of field to get a blurred background and a tight focus on the chosen food item. This is a tried and true photographic style that is pleasing to the eye and makes your focal point really pop off the page.

Edley's Chocolate Bacon Appetizer

Editing

When editing photos from a food shoot I try to take a pretty minimal approach – especially when it’s for a local company like Edley’s. When going to a local BBQ joint one of the expectations is authenticity. For that reason, I don’t want the photos to appear unrealistic, like many large chain restaurants choose to.

If the image is composed nicely, and good lighting is applied, the post production work is a cake walk. In this case, I wanted to make the food look mouthwateringly delicious while still looking like something you could expect to see come out of the kitchen at a local restaurant.

To accomplish this I usually play around with the levels and curves in Lightroom and then use Photoshop to touch up any stray bits of food or sauce on the plates that may distract from the focal point. Below, you can see the finished product with the photos as they were included in the ad.

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