Foodie Underground: 10 Ways to Improve Your Food Porn Skills

Column10 ways to make sure your food porn skills are up to par.

“Ooh, take one of this!” exclaims my mother while rearranging the various plates on the table. Luckily for me, she has yet to get annoyed with my slightly crazy obsession with taking food photos. In fact, if anything, she’s worse than I am about making sure we document everything, she’s just not the one taking the food photos. But you can’t get a colorful dish past her without being reminded that you should snap a shot.

“Have you taken photos of anything besides food this summer?” a friend recently asked. I raised my eyebrows in a “what do you think?” kind of way. We both knew the answer.

Food porn: with digital SLRs available to practically everyone, a multitude of food apps, and a newfound love for DIY cuisine, documenting food is all the rage. But it’s not just about taking out your camera and shooting, good food porn takes some time and thought, as well as patience from your friends (skip to #10 to see what I am talking about).

This is not a guide on how to better your photo skills – you might want more professional help if that’s what you’re looking for. But just looking to get your food porn skills going? Perfect, this guide is for you.

Carry a journal

Your first step in creating good food porn actually has nothing to do with a camera. Food photography is so big these days, sometimes the best way to capture the essence of what you’re eating comes from simply putting pen to paper. Carry a journal and make it your food journal. Sketch a few meals, write down some recipes and pretty soon you’ll have a collection of art that’s equally as functional as it is inspiring.

Get an app

If you love food, you should be embracing technology. From photo to food apps, there are plenty of them out there, all to make what you’re eating looking even better than it really is and then share it with the world.

Fake it

Very few things are serendipitous these days, particularly food settings. Would that fork look better placed in the salad or next to the plate? Should the glass of wine be empty or slightly filled? Maybe someone’s hand reaching for the bread basket would give the photo more life? You don’t need to create a completely inorganic setting, but thinking about what will go well together will serve your end product well.

Photograph the entire process

Part of the fun of food porn is seeing a dish from start to finish. Sure, it’s impressive to see a good picture of fish tacos, but it’s even better to get a series that includes chopping up the cabbage, breading the fish and a bowl full of limes.

Take more than just the food

It’s easy to get so focused on the food itself that you forget about documenting what’s going on around it, and as well all know, ambiance is just as important to a good meal as the food itself.

Think about what will actually look good on camera

Yeah, that homemade dish of lentils tastes good, but on camera it looks like a dark grey blob, not really the stuff killer food blogs are made of. You might need motor oil to make sure that stuff looks good. Keep in mind that just because it’s delicious, doesn’t mean it’s going to look appetizing.

Go to a farmers market

This is where the hot food porn action is. Fresh ingredients, plenty of people and probably a few food carts make for the ultimate combination. Just make sure you’re not trying to shop at the same time that you’re taking photos – balancing your camera with basket overflowing with kale just gets awkward.

Lighting

Dark restaurant with low-lit candlelight? Maybe not the best spot for the amateur photographer. But that’s ok. Not every moment in your culinary adventures needs to be documented. Better to have a handful of great shots than hundreds of mediocre ones. And if you really need to get a shot in that dark restaurant, surround your plate with all the candles on the table, get yourself to a large aperture and shoot away.

Get inspired

Keep an ongoing list of food blogs and food photography sites that you want to emulate with your own food photos. Some good places to start include Tastespotting, Tasteologie, and Delicious Days, or one of the many food related groups on Flickr.

DON’T be obnoxious

“Really Anna, you need to take another picture?”

“Yeah, hold on, we can eat soon I promise!”

Just because you love taking good food photos doesn’t mean everyone else does. Learn your friend’s limits and respect them. You don’t want them to stop inviting you out to eat just because they’re sick of your camera. Or just make new friends. The food porn obsessed kind.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

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