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Food Pictures: The History of an Evolving Artistic Practice

By Jon, published on 21/02/2018 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Photography > Food Photography: From Still Life to Instagram

Does the sight of photographs of avocado toast and Danish pastries make your stomach rumble?

If so, it’s because they’re supposed to.

Behind these photographs are teams of talented professional photographers who know how to use their skill and various digital photography techniques to capture mouth-watering photographs.

So, if you’re interested in making a career out of food photography, or you’d just like to make your mark on the Instagram food scene by taking your skills to the next level, signing up to a photography course will help you master the fundamentals of photography and go on to perfect your own photographic style.

During photography classes, your instructor will show you how to carefully choose your equipment and use your digital camera to produce high-quality photos as you learn how to use adobe photoshop lightroom for editing images as well as giving yourslef the best chance of success with effective studio lighting and camera modes.

If you sign up for a beginner photography course or photography workshops, you’ll start with the basics of photography. This means learning about the fundamental technical skills which will significantly improve your photo quality.

Advanced photography lessons will focus more on the fine details such as exposure, white balance, lighting techniques, digital imaging, and shooting in various conditions. You’ll also learn to use a photography studio to shoot and work on retouching your work.

Of course, learning how to take professional-quality photographs takes time, but with a bit of patience and plenty of motivation, you too can start to rake in the Instagram likes or build your portfolio.

What is Food Photography?

Among all of the genres which make up the art of photography, food photography is certainly one of the most popular alongside travel photography and landscape photography.

Food is an important part of our daily lives, so it’s only natural to take an interest in it.

Food photography is a type of professional photography which focuses on creating attractive images of food to be used in advertising, on packaging and in recipe books.

Food photography is used in a wide variety of areas and for many different purposes, but it is first and foremost a form of still life photography.

Still life is a visual representation of an inanimate object. In terms of photography, still life involves using the background, studio lighting and editing to enhance the main object.

Food photography is, therefore, a type of still life as the photographer is tasked with making the object (the food) appealing to those looking at the photograph.

Photographers must consider several things when photographing food. For instance, the composition of a piece is of utmost importance. Just as you may arrange flowers to produce a good bouquet, photographers must arrange plates in a way that makes them look as attractive as possible.

Aside from the composition, capturing a good photograph of food involves thinking about lighting, depth of field, framing, exposure and lens aperture. The amount of detailed consideration that goes into producing such photographs is what makes food photography an art.

The History of Food Photography

Food photography is fundamentally still life photography where the object is food.

However, still life existed well before the invention of the camera.

Still life is a type of painting that has been recognised as a genre since the late 17th century.

Over the centuries, the idea of what makes a still life piece has evolved in a number of ways.

Still life painting was an early version of food photography Food photography could be thought of as an evolution of still life painting ¦ source: Pixabay – jill111

In its early stages, it was called cose naturali (natural things) by Vasari, then stilleven in Flanders (meaning pieces of fruit, flowers and fish) and stilleben by the Germans.

Many painters caught onto this style and used it as an exercise to practice their perspective painting as well as working with light and shade.

In photography, just like the painters before them, still life photographers (and food photographers in particular) are working with composition and studio lighting to produce the best result.

Photographers generally photographed food using a low-angle shot. This is where the camera is placed lower than the food and ensures that the image shows the food in its complete form.

Of course, this evolved even further in the coming decades.

Food photography became all about amplifying the appealing aspects of the food. Aspects changed, and the fashion became to photograph food as if it was in front of you.

It was due to this movement that close-up shots became more common.

And it didn’t stop there.

As food photography grew to share many characteristics with commercial photography, it became common practice to apply special paint and other substances to food in order to make it more appealing.

Nowadays, food photography takes many forms and photographers use many styles and angles depending on the purpose of the photograph.

Ever wondered about photos that changed to world?

Making Use of Food Photography

Still life originally served a purpose as a way for painters to practice their technique as well as to produce art.

Today, the purpose of pictures of food has changed significantly. The arrival of advertising has completely changed the main use of culinary photography.

So, where does the work of food photographers end up?

·        Advertisements

Food photography began to change with the emergence of advertising in the 1930’s.

As buying power grew, people started to shop more and they had far more choice in doing so than before. This era was the dawn of enticing people to buy products by presenting them with an appealing picture.

Large posters became commonplace and advertisements began to appear in the press as food retailers saw the benefits of attracting hungry customers from a distance.

·        Recipe Books

Food photography is a branch of contemporary photography and a major feature of most cookery books. The aim of these photographs is to give readers an idea of the final result of a recipe and convince them to make it.

If you decide to become a professional food photographer, you could end up anywhere! The demand for food photographers comes from a variety of sectors ¦ source: Pixabay – RitaE

The examples of the recipes shown in recipe books can also suggest particular decorations or accompaniments to enhance dishes.

·        Food blogs

More and more amateur photographers and cooks are bringing their two passions together by sharing their food creations with those on social media.

The popularity of food blogs has grown considerably in the past few years as it is becoming easier than ever before to write and share articles with the foodie community around the world.

This is why so many people who cook and bake in their spare time, as well as those who prepare food for a living have taken to documenting their creations by taking pictures of them.

·        Social Media

As an intrinsic part of blog culture, social networks are a favourite among amateur food photographers.

Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, every outlet has its own advantages for those who want to publish photographs of their recipes.

Food Photography as a Career

Food photography requires a variety of skills which are rarely found in one person.

Producing photographs of sufficient quality to be used by advertisers and publishing houses involves a team of professionals.

Not only does there need to be a professional photographer, but also an artistic director, a food stylist and a props department.

So, becoming a food photographer is definitely a viable career!

Whether you freelance or work for a business or photography agency, it will be your responsibility to take the best possible photographs of the food you’re working with.

Food photographers can also work independently as professional food bloggers who earn a living by being contacted by businesses who wish to be featured on a particular blog or account.

There is also the option of improving your food photography skills, even if you’re not aiming for a career in photography.

Signing up for photography courses led by a professional instructor can help you learn some helpful photography tips and tricks that will give you the skills to produce high-quality photographs of your food.

Instagram: The New Hotspot for Food Photography

Often referred to as ‘food porn’, the sharing of images of food on social media is more noticeable on Instagram than any other social network.

There are thousands of accounts which are exclusively dedicated to food photography as they make a new post of their scrumptious grub each day.

Some accounts and choose to stick with a specific genre of food, such as vegan dishes, while others focus on types of food like avocado or burgers.

If you love food, you'lll surely have posted some of your creations on social media Instagram is a hotspot for foodies everywhere ¦ source: Pixabay – Digitalpfade

The beauty of Instagram is that its content is rarely produced by high-spec digital cameras, as people opt for their smartphone cameras instead.

This removes the need for high-definition photos as the skill is in the presentation, so food photography is accessible to all!

The Must-Follow Food Accounts of Instagram

Instagram’s large number of food accounts are a fantastic source of inspiration when it comes to finding recipes and discovering new food trends.

Here is a selection of some of the most popular pages.

·        @BuzzfeedFood

Buzzfeed’s food account features video content submitted by its foodie followers.

From mesmerising decoration techniques to step-by-step video tutorials, Buzzfeed Food has plenty of inspiration for food lovers as well as those looking for cooking inspiration.

·        @GirlEatWorld

If you love food and travel photography, this account is for you!

Girl Eat World is all about exploring the world through food, featuring photographs of the culinary specialities of a variety of countries.

·        @FoodDeco

Food Deco is a must-see food account.

If you’ve run out of ideas when it comes to serving avocado, this Instagram account will be your saviour – all of its content is based on recipes using avocado!

This glimpse into the online world of culinary photography can help any amateur photographer progress in their skills.

Click here to read about photojournalism and documentary photography.

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