Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey for you and turkey for me...

This is my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year. We are going to my brother's house for Turkey day and last year I brought the bird, so this year I get the easy job, dinner rolls. Not to be out done, I made them by hand of course and chose to form them into rosettes, so they are as cute as they are tasty. Then, because I think it's important to shoot something every day, I got out my camera and made this little image.

Food photography can be a lot trickier then it looks though, since there are a few basic rules that must be followed.

  1. Make the food look appitizing. If you don't want to eat it when you see the photo, your image is no good. This means clean bright exposures (not over exposed, just light backgrounds) so nothing suggests uncleanliness. We all would prefer our food germ free and light colors (white most especially) is associated with good hygiene. 
  2. Show texture, and color accurately. Size matters too, make it look BIG.
  3. When possible create ambiance with the background. Use ingredients, more of the same dish, or anything else that logically makes sense with your food. (i.e. milk with cookies)
To accomplish these goals most images of food are shot with a wide open aperture, to highlight the texture of food, and blur everything else. This also helps the colors to come together in an inviting way. Additionally most food shots are shown from the perspective of the dish so as to give it prominence within the frame. Truth is that food photography is 90% psychological and 10% technical. More important then showing what the food looks like; a good photograph makes you think about how wonderful it will taste. Examine the first image for a moment, does it not look tempting? Melting butter, knife at the ready, and at least a dozen more where that came from... Admit it, your mouth is watering for the carbohydrated goodness that is the classic dinner roll.

Traditional foods in my opinion are best photographed in a setting that makes one reminisce or pulls on old fashion values.  Ethnic foods (for example Mexican) are best shot with a lot of color, so we think of a variety of flavors and spices. And some may argue (Anheuser-Busch) that alcohol is best photographed with half naked women. I say the jury is still out.

Here are a few things NOT to do:
  1. Show food with a bite taken out of it. No one wants to eat food some one else has already been eating.
  2. Include too much extra stuff. Keep it simple and focus in on the details.
  3. Leave crumbs on anything! Even if your food is naturally crumbly, get rid of them! Messy food is distracting.
  4. Photograph cold foods under hot lights. Talk about a quick way to end a shoot! If you have to shoot foods like ice cream use, a stand in. You can make your own fake ice cream at home, just don't eat it!
The best part of food photography is when you get to eat it afterwards. I have a dozen rolls and 3 dozen cookies in my kitchen because of this blog post. Life couldn't get any better.
In case you were wondering, here is my recipe for the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies shown above. They are the best cookies on earth. It's as if there was a very sugary three way in my cookie jar between an oatmeal, pumpkin, and chocolate chip cookie.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 4 cups unsifted all purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick or old fashion oats
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cup butter or margarine softened
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 can pumpkin (16 oz)
  • 1 package real milk chocolate chips


Preheat over to 350. Combine flour, oats, soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla until very fluffy and light yellow (5 minutes or more with electric mixer). Alternate adding small amounts of dry ingredients and pumpkin into sugar/butter mixture. Beat after each addition. Stir in chocolate. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minute or until cookies are firm and light brown. Cool on racks.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


  1. Ok so I tried a new recipe and I wanted to take a good picture to show Ian. Since I don't have a fancy camera or lighting availabilities I used photoshop to achieve the desired effects. I think it turned out ok. Thanks for doing this blog!!

  2. @ Cherisse
    I'd love to see your photo! Post it on facebook please and add a link here. If you get a nice clear day, light from a window can actually be some of the best light for food photography. My kitchen is a dark place, so I had to add flash for these shots but I'm planning on making some candy today and I'll try photographing it by the front windows to show you what I mean.
    Fingers crossed though, I have a history of bad candy making experiences...

  3. Here is the picture:

    Hope the link works

  4. @ Cherisse
    Nice! and your ice cream looks yummy too. If that doesn't make your husband hungry nothing will!