Since April, freelance photographer Andrew Scrivani has been sharing his food photography tips in The New York Times’ Diner’s Journal blog. This excellent series got me thinking about this blog and my varied attempts at capturing just the right picture of each meal.
I don’t have any illusions about my photos. If I’m lucky, the combination of good lighting, beautifully prepared food and the all important white dishware on a white or weathered wood table conspire to overcome my otherwise middling photography skills. While I like to think that I’m getting better, little by little, I am humbled when I look at Andrew Scrivani’s work or the beautiful and ethereal photos on La Tartine Gourmande.
While I’d love to back up Lindsey’s writing with top-notch shots, it’s clear that there’s a lot more going into top notch food shots than merely hovering over the plate and snapping away. For instance, in this blog entry about planning a food photo shoot, Scrivani mentions that after checking the weather, “I draw storyboards that include the shape and size of the props I envision when I read the recipe, and how I would like to orient the image — horizontal or vertical.” Storyboards? I would be done eating before I even found a pencil.
Shooting in restaurants isn’t particularly convenient either. I often groan when Lindsey reminds me to bring the camera out to dinner with us. I often feel like a tourist (or just a plain old d-bag) sitting at the table and snapping away while my food gets cold. Though I try to minimize the disruption by not using the flash whenever possible, I occasionally catch perplexed or disapproving looks from nearby diners.
Despite the inconvenience, I recognize that photos are the difference between a blog and reading the white pages. The well-worn phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words” is an understatement. There is often is no substitute for a photograph when it comes to accurately describing something, whether it be a meal or an event. Thus, while I may never have the skill or the patience to be the Ansel Adams of food photography, I’ll keep toting the camera to dinner with hopes that the photos will bring you a little closer to the food you’re reading about.