Food photography is all about titillating a basic human desire — the desire for food,” says photographer Pradeep Dasgupta, aptly summing up the essence of food photography.
But this technique of making food look good using various elements like fresh food, texture, lighting, placement, colours, props and the final composition is no easy job, say professionals, adding that each photograph is a “creation” where “food should always be the hero”.
“Food photography is not just a good food shot. While food photography is required for various purposes depending upon the client, the main focus is always to make the food look good. If your mouth doesn’t water as you lay your eyes on the image, it’s useless. The feeling ‘Oh my gosh! I have to have this dish now’ has to be there,” food photographer and stylist Niharika Shukla tells Metrolife.
The profession which majorly caters to the hotel and restaurant industry, food companies and also editorial and packaging purposes, is generally in collaboration with a food stylist, with whose help a food photographer brings together the art director and brand’s vision to create a delicious food photograph.
“Photo session starts from meeting with clients, brief from agency and then a separate meeting with the food stylist, after which we select props according to the food. There is no location in food photography, you need a 4/4 table, great selection of props and some creative mind. Food stylist is the most important person in food shoots,” explains photographer Atul Pratap Chauhan.
Adding that love for food comes handy, he adds that placement of the food in the frame and perfect lights for the shot are equally essential.
Concurs Rekha Kakkar, a commercial food, products and interior photographer, and says that while many elements are needed, “most important is the freshness of food which is sometimes very challenging – keeping cold food cold or hot food hot, so that there are no oil scums which makes it unappetising”.
However, Shukla points out that food photography also involves a lot of detailing. “There is a limited time frame before the dish begins to get spoiled, make sure to get that perfect shot within that time frame. You should have a clear idea as to what you want out of this image, how you want the food to look, what will be your angles and what exactly do you want your viewer to make out of this image. A well planned shoot will enable you to get the image as you desire. But of course you have to remember that the food has to be the hero,” she says.
So with so much intricacy involved which food items are most difficult, or easy, to shoot? “Every food item comes with its own set of difficulties. However, I find pizzas and ice creams to be the most difficult. The easiest is perhaps Japanese food. It is already so beautifully arranged and set, that it requires minimal effort to get it right,” says Dasgupta. But for Kakkar and Chauhan, Indian food is the most difficult to work with because of the “gravies”.
Commenting on the growing trend of food photography, Kakkar tells Metrolife that the food scene in India was never this exciting. “Earlier any photographer would click food photos and the job was done. But now, with brands waking up to need of detailing and specific requirements, food photography has emerged as a very lucrative career option,” she says.
Agrees Shukla, but adds that this growth is limited to only a few cities like Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore. She says that while every other city has a good market, people do not focus on the image quality. “Their goal is limited to a good food shot and not a brilliant food shot, which is appalling,” she says.
“...What people in this industry and otherwise fail to understand is that the art is priceless. It is first the image of the food product which will appeal to the customer. The food industry in India is growing at a rapid rate which increases the importance of food photography but few people understand its significance,” she says.