Food for thought
I see a lot of food pictures every day and, happily, the majority are of a very high standard. Perhaps that’s because my search parameters tends to look for good images but I think also that the whole business of food photography, and photography in general, is improving in quality. Both professional and amateur.
When I make photographs of food I use either one of my top end pro cameras or my iPhone. One is more formal and controlled while the other is more spontaneous and lively. I use the cameras in-studio and occasionally in restaurants (for my own account). When in-studio the cameras are connected to my computer so I can easily make subtle adjustmentsbefore engaging the shutter release.
The iPhone is great in restaurants since it is not obtrusive. If I am invited by a restaurant to capture images then its likely that an area is cordoned off from customers or its outside normal serving hours so I can set up a camera and tripod and have a stylist work the scene. Speed is of the essence in such circumstances so good planning is paramount.
A good stylist helps enormously. Good ones are not cheap, it's a complex and artistic process that requires experience and knowledge of what works. Accessories also help and stylists have, or have access to, whatever will make a better composition. The stylist, the photographer and the client need to spend time in ensuring the objectives are clearly understood and prepared for.
I have seen images that have been nicely decorated but viewers of the image may feel, yet not necessarily know, that there is something not right. Petals neatly and symmetrically arranged around a plate, for example, tend to irritate me. While they may add colour and interest, they can also create distraction unless there is a clear link to the subject matter. Well-placed, seemingly randomly distributed, petals that reflect light or create subtle shadows are difficult to incorporate but when done well looks totally natural and the viewer can appreciate the subject.
iPhones have access to a broad range of apps that support photography. This is great since one can create moods and atmospherein addition to a well composed image. Good for spontaneous shots since there is little time to improve a scene that was laid out for consumer convenience rather than artistic merit without disturbing other diners.
The type of food being photographed should determine the style of the image. Salads should be fresh and sunny, hot soups for cold days should have a wintery feel with the steam clearly visible. Hence the need to discuss the shoot with the customer in advance. Simple on-the-fly travel images taken in restaurants work better with spontaneity but should to a great degree reflect the environment and be true to the image of the restaurant and its food. Bread needs to show its texture and wholesomeness.
Food for thought!