A few months back I posted about a food photography proposal I received from a Food App. The proposal, it seems was designed by a Management Graduate ( no offence to MBAs, there are exceptions, some are really creative), the whole photography model was volume based , on the quantity of restaurants a photographer can cover in a day. The assignment which was described to me was to visit around 200 restaurants in around 2 months and take photographs of 10 dishes in each restaurant. The assignment charges per restaurant were too low to be even discussed but when it comes to volume of business and generation of revenue, it seemed like a decent amount for a photographer. I didn’t think in terms of volume of business, number of restaurants to be covered because as per my experience in food photography ( almost 18 years now) , it takes almost a day to click 10 dishes where each food item is nicely stylised and every detail is taken care of. Visiting three restaurants in a day where travel time also needs to be considered, means spending around an hour maximum per restaurant to take photographs of 10 dishes.
In such a scenario, quality of photographs can be an issue. Food photography is not about the taste, it is all about the looks. Most of the Chefs have taste in mind, presentation of food may not be suitable for the photograph. A food stylist plays an important role here who ensures that food looks fresh, appetising and inviting in the visual.
I posted about the offer from Food App on the wall of my Facebook, majority of photographers questioned the offer and agreed that food photography is different from photography for e-commerce but one photographer took offence and justified the business model which is purely volume based and evaded answers on the quality of photographs. He even accused me of misleading young photographers who are getting an opportunity to make some decent earnings.
The discussion was inconclusive but a food photograph which I came across today brought back the memories of the offer & not-so-healthy exchange of words.
Food photography is all about detailing in presentation besides the other technical aspects of photography and lighting. To me and majority of other photographers, it is the quality which matters, not the quantity. The famous quote by Ansel Adams sums up the importance of quality in photography :
“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”
In the photograph above, as far as my interpretation goes, the oil leaking from the dispenser is an omission, an oversight, a hurriedly taken photograph where the photographer has not spent time on observing the elements in the frame. Simple mistakes can ruin a photograph, here not only the photographer but the designer ( Art Director ) of pamphlet where this image is used is equally responsible. This is not the only food photograph where the quality is questionable, there are so many such other images where restaurants have spent huge money on setting up the place and advertising/PR but have not spent enough to hire an experienced photographer and/or a food stylist.
PS: Anyone who feel that oil spill is intentional and is a part of composition is requested to ignore this post.
Oil spills are not only bad for environment but also for food photography 😊.
Disclaimer: The photograph used in this post is only for the purpose of reference. Copyright of the image is owned by the respective brand.