After 12 years of teaching, I want to feature the work of my students
Food is a marvelous subject. Here are some favorites from a Project 52 legacy assignment.
(NOTE: For twelve years, I taught commercial photography online. The class was called Project 52 Pro. During that time, I have helped hundreds of photographers find their way through the challenges of starting in commercial photography. I decided this year was the last, so I am featuring some of the assignments from the last decade of wonderful student work.)
Food photography is an art form of the highest order, a playground for creativity, and a full-course meal for the eyes. It’s more than just snapping a picture of your avocado toast in the morning, or that ever-present breakfast taco. It’s storytelling, it’s passion, it’s your grandmother’s secret recipe for habanero ice cream captured in a single, luscious frame.
Imagine you’re at a restaurant, and a dish is placed in front of you. You don’t just dive in with your fork, you whip out your phone, and you aren’t calling anyone to describe the dish. You are going to make a photograph of it.
You align the dish, adjust the lighting using a napkin as a bounce fill, and your partner’s flashlight app for a bit of sparkle, and angle it just right. And voila! You’ve just captured the essence of a chef’s work. Forever. Well, until you accidentally drop it from your gloved hand while going 65 MPH on I70 west of Glenwood Springs. Just sayin’.
Some may scoff, “Why photograph food when you can eat it?”
I try to restrain myself from retorting back with the middle finger solute of ‘go away, moron’. But that is just me.
Look, when you photograph food, you’re not just preserving the image of a delectable dish. You’re capturing a moment, a feeling, a memory. That’s the real secret ingredient. Although that habanero sauce recipe you got from the little restaurant in New Mexico is still pretty secret.
The true joy of food photography is like waiting for the bread to rise in the oven. It’s an exercise in patience and deliberate, painstaking precision.
You’re a culinary Cartier-Bresson, waiting for that decisive moment when the light kisses the glaze of a doughnut just right. The moment when all of the elements present themselves and you click that shutter.
Food is color. It’s texture. It’s architecture.
The red of a ripe tomato, the glistening surface of a juicy steak, the tower of an artfully constructed burger dripping with cheese, and grandmas secret habanero sauce surrounded by all the fixin’s, as my mom would say.
Each element contributes to a visual feast. Photographing food is like painting with nature’s palette, one delightful dish at a time.
And here’s the kicker.
The real joy of food photography?
It’s a celebration of life.
It’s a moment of gratitude before the first bite.
An homage to the journey of a meal, from the farm to the table.
The next time you’re tempted to roll your eyes at your buddy so carefully photographing their café latte, handmade eclair, or Habanero-flavored frozen taco, remember this;
They’re not just taking a picture. They’re creating a story, a memory, a work of pure and tasty art.
In food photography, the possibilities are as endless as a well-designed charcuterie plate at Sunday brunch.
All you need is a window and a white piece of cardboard to fill the shadows.
See you next time.