I was given the opportunity by a client of mine to work with a photographer who specialize in photography food. Initially I thought the couple of days we had planned together would suffer for excitement. I was wrong when I found myself fascinated by how hard it is to make food look good enough to want a consumer to purchase it and how much difference a quality photograph can name in providing mouth watering spectacle.
My visit was to Cooke Studio, managed by commercial photographer Colin Cooke, who specializes in food photography. Interested parties can find a series of commercial, editorial, and still life publications on the website for a general sample of the studio's work. It certainly takes talent to be a commercial photographer, but even more to make food photography look so good. Cooke Studio has had such a high profile clients like Häagen-Daas, Dove, Healthy Choice, Ecco Domani, Dannon, and Renaissance.
As a commercial photographer, Colin Cooke has had to use the typical tools of the trade – lighting, angles, real and digital enhancements that every commercial photographer needs to know. Food photography is much like shooting a still life, except a commercial photographer has two goals: the first is to make each final product a work of art. The second is to sell the item. For food photography, this means that a commercial photographer must make the food look asible and mouth-watering as possible. Of course, in this instance, food photography is different from most other kinds of commercial photography because its subjects tend to go bad. As a result, a commercial food photographer has to either take a great picture quickly or have many of the commercial items on hand. Or a professional food photographer can delve into his bag of tricks.
One of the tricks within food photography, as well as the usual photography tools, includes using a brush to spread vegetable oil or glycerin on the commercial item to create shine. Some commercial photographers in the food photography industry make steam come off meals that are provided to be hot – one of the methods is to warm wet cotton balls in the microwave and put the steaming cotton balls behind the bowl or plate. Sometimes photographed ice cream is not ice cream at all, but colored mashed potatoes to give it that just-scooped look that will not melt. In place of whipped cream, shaving cream is used. For any sort of liquid shot, like pouring liquid into ripples, some commercial photographers will use a thicker substance that pours more slowly so that it can be photographed more easily. Meat in food photos are usually partially cooked in order to prevent them from drying out and shrinking – instead, they stay plump. PVA often replaces milk in a shot of cereal because soggy cereal does not look appetizing. The ice cubes you see in food advertising are usually plastic with a little bit of water sprayed on for that sheen. Even fruit gets the star treatment – some food photographers enhance a strawberry's color with lipstick.
All very interesting ways to avoid the pitfalls of food photography or to enhance the photography experience. In the end, the subterfuge yields tragic results.
Colin Cooke at Cooke Studio is prepared for any food photography challenge, whether it's M & Ms or shrimp or forks rolled in a ball, chocolate literally dripping from a chocolate bar, glistening fruits and vegetables, a glass of wine or two, or freshly scooped ice cream .