A picture is worth a thousand bites
Food photography. It can be a love hate sort of deal. Why are people taking photos of their meal? is a common refrain.
As a chef, a photo of a meal can serve a multitude of purposes – as an example of how you’d like your meal plated so those replicating know exactly what goes where; it can be a testament or bragging rights to your skill i.e. look at what I made and how beautiful it is, or just a record of those moments throughout your culinary career and the plating trends of the moment.
As a diner, a photo of your meal is a moment in time. A first date, an anniversary or a birthday. Or just because. And the meal was really pretty.
As a blogger if can be a mixture of desires – please enjoy my food and join me in my memories, my daily life and my creativity.
Food is such a party of our day to day life. For some, a chore, others a delight, whereas for some it doesn’t matter either way. Long before cameras though, food was recorded as still lives in their own right or as props in paintings. They showed us how people of that time ate, what was popular and which people and their status and standing in society could afford to eat. The first social media share of your meal would’ve been an art display or gallery. Think about it 😉
When I read a recipe for inspiration I look not at the ingredients but to the photo’s. It’s like a fashion magazine – an outfit without much hanger appeal suddenly comes to life on a real person in an everyday or even exotic setting. Get the ingredients right and show them to the world and suddenly you’re intrigued. Excited even. Perhaps surreptitiously wiping the drool off the photo page.
Food photography is an invitation to an experience. Setting the scene, creating a moment invites you to create your own culinary moments. If you are going to make a cake, why not enjoy all aspects of your creation, from the visual splendor to the wonderful moment your mouth wraps around that spoon and the flavour floods your mouth.
Creating a blog about food and photographing my efforts has changed my experience of creating meals at home. My partner works nights so it is usually dinner for one in this house with his portion left on a plate for later. Not exactly incentive for experimenting and making it look good. But suddenly with an audience I put care in. Sure I could do it just for me but I’m not going to lie. At home I get a little lazy after a day at work. After at least eight hours of putting all my attention into making food look good it get’s a little sloppy when its dinner for one. But put a camera in my hand and suddenly the journey of the ingredients to the plate is something worth putting effort into. Weekly catch ups with family and friends where we swap who cooks dinner and dessert also provides a chance to expand my audience and have some fun.
My favourite photos to take and gaze over though are the ones that tell a story. From ingredient to finished product I love to see the method, the messy bowls, the spoon dug into the dish, the fork wrapped in spaghetti, where I can almost reach my hand into the page and take a bite.
I also love retro food photos that remind me how far food has come. So many chefs love to look back to the 80’s and the gelatinous, brown concoctions that graced the pages of home cookbooks. Sure there were the superstars of the professional kitchens that could elevate these lesser moments of food trends but for the day to day household cooking there were some doozies. But this is the fun of food photo’s. This is itself tells a story of what was happening at the time. What technology we had at hand, what type of utensil people used and the variety of foods available for us.
Without food photos we couldn’t share in the pure pleasure and delight that is eating something fantastic. Or laugh at the horrible fails. So next time you wonder why on earth someone is taking a photo of their meal just smile and wonder what we will think of these dishes in 10, 20, 5o years time. It may be a head shake like double denim or perhaps it will be remembered as the meal where romance was born or happiness abounded. Either way, I’d want to capture that.