Nozlee Samadzadeh talks to “a panel of experts about food styling photography and the art of arranging spaghetti strands.”
Deb K.: To be honest, most shoots that I work on (especially for cookbooks and magazines) are very organic: We make the food, we shoot it, and then we usually dive in and eat it! There is not much mucking around with retouching before or after, aside from a spray of water or a dab of olive oil. Fresh, quality produce just can’t be faked and always involves a trip to the market the morning of a shoot. Also, the food really does have to be cooked properly. An overcooked and dry piece of meat is always going to look dry, and if it’s undercooked and too rare, the texture will give it away.
Jennifer: We don’t do much fancy foodwork, if anything at all. All the food we shoot is real and able to be eaten afterwards. We really strive to make our food look exactly how it would when you cook it at home. We’ve learned to know how food will look through the camera and thus style our food accordingly. Even if we know that something may be touched up in Photoshop, we still strive to make it as perfect as possible before hand and not rely on the retouching. I would say we still do things the old-fashioned way here.
Carl: I try to do as much as I can in-camera, as I believe that the real thing is always better than something fake. I also think it is too easy these days for photographers to just expect retouching to make up for a lack of effort and perseverance; it makes for a lazy way of working and places too much reliance on the retoucher to create the magic for you. This in turn devalues the craft of the photographer and leads people to think that you don’t necessarily need a talent to be able to create amazing work.
Michael: Besides playing with some HDR photography, none of my work is retouched.
Deb P.: I’m not big on retouching images, in part because I’m completely Photoshop-incompetent and also because I really want to show the food the way it is so that when you make it, it looks the same. It means I’ve got little expertise on what you can and cannot pull off in Photoshop.
But, with a keen eye and if you cook a lot, you can see where you’re being, you know, bullshitted. You know that spaghetti doesn’t land like that on a plate and would have to have been arranged strand by strand, or where the pan size isn’t what they suggest in the recipe but something that makes the end result look better. But I think any food you have a desire to eat has an angle it can be shot from that will remind you of this. The trick is finding it.
[Chili Crab. Photograph by Sharyn Cairns, styling by Deb Kaloper]