Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Take A Bite

Adding food photography to your repertoire can boost your marketability. Lou Manna literally wrote the book on how to do it.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

The art of food photography requires skill in several disciplines, not least of which is diplomacy in dealing with the client. Above: A rich chocolate dessert lit to eliminate any distractions.

Lou Manna’s book Digital Food Photography is a comprehensive guide to the fine points of professional food photography. In this excerpt from the book, you can get helpful tips on some of the most important aspects of this specialized class of image-making. In a challenging business climate, being a good food photographer is a chance for a pro to be able to pick up some extra work and add to the studio’s bottom line.

An advertisement featuring Stön Vodka.
Who’s Digesting It: Advertising, Packaging, Public Relations And The Media
Image is everything in food photography. We’re a generation of visual people, and we’re naturally stimulated by what we see. Beautiful food images conjure up all the human senses. We can be comforted by nostalgic images that recall our past and can be stimulated by pictures that present food in exciting, new and colorful ways. In other words, we respond to images that have appetite appeal and look fresh. Enthusiasm, fun and spontaneity are contagious, and I try to convey all of this in my photographs.

Throwing certain objects out of focus, tilting the frame, soft lighting and tight close-ups are some of the techniques I use to get the viewer’s attention and achieve desired effects. Most of the time, simplicity rules; less is more when it comes to food photography.

Because food is perceived differently among diverse audiences, photographers need to vary their approaches and styles depending on how their pictures will be used and who will be looking at them. Advertising images are designed to communicate feelings and messages that are different from those in news stories and magazine articles. For example, a photograph that was taken for use on a billboard won’t necessarily be appropriate for a newspaper recipe section, a fitness magazine or an industry trade publication. In addition to factors such as composition and prop styling, there are technical aspects, such as lighting, contrast range and file size, that need to be considered for different types of usage.

A simple, graphic composite image.
This might mean producing several variations of a picture, for example, a “beauty shot” for glossy ads, a version showing explicit brand identification that can be used in trade publications and product catalogs, and another version in which the brand name or label is only partially visible that can be distributed to newspapers and consumer magazines.

Because short deadlines and quick turnarounds are common for food photographers, speed and accuracy in a shoot significantly affect the client’s profit margins. That’s why you need to go into each shoot with a firm sense of who will be “digesting” your pictures. You need to know before you begin what your pictures are going to be used for—advertising, the media, public relations or packaging—to most effectively plan and execute the shoot.

Fortunately, digital photography simplifies the creative process without compromising quality, and it increases your ability to more quickly produce a better picture that’s ready to be used commercially.


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