Food photography has become increasingly popular, both for businesses and for individuals on social media, and when done right can make meals look utterly mouthwatering.
A lot of work, props and photo backdrop boards go into even the simplest-seeming shot, however, and some of the tricks used by skilled photographers are a mix of clever use of lighting, focal length and rather unexpected props.
Photography is an expressive art, and there are many conventions that are used as shorthand to convey certain ideas about a particular subject that audiences have come to expect.
Here are some of the most unique tricks food photographers use to get that one perfect shot.
Pasta dishes, salads and soups are often difficult to get a beautiful image of because most of the defining ingredients can get lost at the bottom. To stop this there are two main solutions.
The first is to take a tiny ramekin or round bowl, place it on the plate and then cover it with your dish. It props up a dish and makes it look more substantial, as well as highlighting the key ingredients in a meal.
The alternative is to create false dish bottom using a thick dough that you pour the soup over, helping the ingredients rest neatly in shot.
Steam is a vital shorthand for hot, appetising food that wafts delightful smells into your general direction. However, cooking steam is not actually that consistent, and adding smoke in post-production using a program like Photoshop is less than ideal.
Instead, photographers have two options. One is to use a handheld steam cleaner. Wave it over the food a few times and it will produce enough of a smoky effect.
The more infamous and far more effective solution is to take wet cotton balls and heat them up in a microwave. This produces a lot of delightfully thick steam that you either stuff in the food or behind it to create a billowing cloud of appetising steam.
A similar drink you see with hot bubbling drinks is to make bubbles with washing up liquid and lay them on top.
Raw On The Inside…
One of the most baffling aspects of food photography is that cooked food should not in fact be cooked through, as this can cause it to shrink, creating textures that are visible in high resolution that you may not want.
Instead, use a blowtorch to crisp up the outside and use eyeliner to create grill lines for steaks.
Try not to do this with hot dogs, however, as they have a bad habit of exploding when they face a blowtorch and have not been simmered first.
Ice Is Less Nice
Ice is an absolute pain to photograph because it quickly melts under the intense studio lighting you need for a perfect shot. So how come you see ice cream scoops and cubes of ice in soft drink adverts?
In the latter case, plastic artificial cubes are used, but in the case of the former, the best option is, in fact, mashed potatoes.
A trick also used with cakes, mashed potatoes can be made with a similar-looking consistency but fare far better.
When you want to add stability, structure and thickness to cakes and burgers, the secret is pins and cardboard, which can keep those incredible looking burgers looking flawless and overstuffed.