Food photography, whether it’s for a grilled chicken recipe, a ful medames recipe or a black bean enchilada dish, is a fascinating field for many photographers. The challenge of this kind of photography, of course, is to make food look appetizing with as little modification as possible. It should also be noted, that deep down, the human sense of taste is permanently linked to the human sense of sight. Thus, the appearance of food can and absolutely will improve the taste of food. By way of photography methods, this means that food presented in the proper can trigger the human sensation of taste, allowing viewers to imagine the taste of the food and thus imagine the taste, and, if the photographer is doing their job right, encourage them to eat what they see, whether it’s a grilled chicken recipe made at home to improve one’s blog or a mass market fast food item with a major print and television campaign to promote it.
The first thing, of course, is to provide the right lighting. Bright, soft white lights are ideal for enclosed spaces, but if at all possible, photograph your food in natural daylight. My Boogie Booth agrees that human beings have an instinctive response to natural daylight, and thus it is rare for photographers trying to make their food look good with anything but natural daylight. For those amateur photographers photographing their dinners for their edification, they may not have much choice in the lighting they use, particularly in eateries that create a sense of intimacy with dimmer lights than might be preferred. Still, nearly every restaurant in the industrialized world includes more than enough light to take an at least passable photo. If you’re photographing your food and want to make it look good, you’ll ideally do it in the daytime in a room with plenty of window space.
Additionally, the presentation of the food should be appealing as well. While cooking it properly goes a long way towards making it look good, it is also important that the food is presented in a neat, tidy manner rather than spilling all over. While “neat and tidy” are hard things to apply to something messy like food, some rules do apply. It helps to think of the food as a sculpture or painting that the photographer arranges in a visually pleasing pattern rather than simply photographing whatever comes their way. The rules of design tend to be very applicable here, and one should bone up on even the basics of design before photographing any food. For amateur chefs trying to make their food look better, some dishes are easier to handle than others, and learning to apply the rules of design to food to make them look appealing is a matter of learning how to do so on each separate recipe.
Knowing whether or not a grilled chicken recipe tastes good from a photograph then becomes a bit of a hard thing to determine. As countless mass marketed foods that looked better on TV than they tasted on a plate have shown, it can be hard to discern the good stuff from the mediocre or even unpleasant stuff. The best way to handle it is to look at amateur photographs of a chicken recipe and see how that makes you feel. An ordinary, untrained photographer taking a simple picture under less than ideal conditions and still managing to make it look appealing is usually a pretty good sign that you will appreciate the dish yourself. The more appealing something looks under less than perfect conditions, the more likely it is you will enjoy it.