Styling Food

At the end of August when Food Marathon and I hosted our Kosher Marathon Crawl along Pico, we remarked to each other how some businesses seemed stuck in time. The food could only be as good as the quality of ingredients. Using Vlasic pickles didn’t seem kosher (used in the non-secular way) to us. Our favorite find of the crawl were the genuine warmth and good food found at Got Kosher? Our stop after that was Jeff’s Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory. It was a busy time of day and teenagers took up most of the tables. Outside, I photographed my food and thought it was good…for the area. I could not conceive of myself returning knowing I had closer sausage places nearer to me.

Then Jeff’s Gourmet contacted me. They liked my pictures and wondered if I would like to come in to photograph their specials. These pictures would be used on their Facebook fan page. I was quite flattered as no one has ever asked me to do that before. I went in one Tuesday morning, before the lunch rush and started snapping. Jeff’s Gourmet had also invited a semi-professional photographer who brought a SLR camera along. I still use a little point and shoot. It was interesting to me later to compare my photos to hers.

Mainly, I work with what I have. I may edit my photos at the end but rarely do I “style” the food. I watched this photographer move food this way and that, prop up a bun, artfully arrange and then she did something I really never think about anymore- the big picture.

I love looking at close ups of the food. She was thinking about how a restaurant sells an item. The sandwich might come with a side and drink. She incorporated those elements into her photos.

As an artist, I naturally am inclined towards balance, color, composition. I may take a photograph from every angle and yet actually trying to make something look better for the camera seemed a bit weird to me. And don’t even talk to me about food stylists of old who would basically make the food inedible after hitting it with glue, oil or whatever to make it look glossy. As I said, I might edit and pump up the color saturation and increase the sharpness (tips I garnered from Matt Armendariz) but I still want to eat my food!

I also study others’ photographs. Tastespotting is a great source. How do they photograph food? Are they doing something I could do but haven’t thought about?

After a while though, I might get bored of all my food photography. I like movement in my photos. I want to know if the food is good. I try to capture more than just what is in front of me.

The restaurant was getting busier and busier. A woman on the street walking by walked back over to take a picture on her cell phone of two girls photographing food. I could see others inside the dining room watching as well. We were that day’s entertainment.

I took a few more pictures, packed up a couple of plates and headed out. Eventually, it’ll take me a week or so to go through all the photos and pick out my favorites. Jeff’s Gourmet picked anywhere from 2 to 4 pictures of each of the items. It was quite a bit of work but worth it for the experience.

And I also discovered their merguez sausage was quite wonderful and they serve more than just sausage. The rocket burger and the wrap with the works could rival a certain Pasadena hot dog and sausage joint.