A Non-Food Photo Post That’s Still About Food Photos

Okay, well, here’s a gripe:

A lot of Food Porn…How should I say this?

Um…

Uh…

Sucks.

A quick definition of Food Porn as defined by Wikipedia:

Food Porn is a glamorized spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements, infomercials, cooking shows or other visual media, foods boasting high fat or calorie content, exotic dishes that arouse a desire to eat or the glorification of food as a substitute for sex. Food porn often takes the form of food photography and styling that presents food provocatively, in a similar way to glamour photography or pornographic photography.

I’ll reiterate: a glamorized spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating

What this says to me is that just any ol’ food photo doesn’t cut it. And not only must the food you’re about to get down on be sexy, but you have to look at it with an artist’s eye. Heck, often the subject matter can be lackluster and still be gorgeous if the right photo is taken.

Here are four sore spots that have really cramped my style as of late:

Presentation: Any chef (or expo) will tell you, presentation is key – people eat with their eyes long before they taste with their tongues. Maybe you didn’t follow the recipe exactly (I recommend doing this often), or maybe you ran out of that “garnish” spice to set the dish off – doesn’t matter. Use your imagination – arrange your food in a way that’s provocative if not downright sinful. Be full-blown gratuitous and let’s see those ingredients. If you didn’t put any conscious effort into the presentation of your dish, you should probably stop using the #foodPorn tag.

Lighting: I’m not a professional photographer – I don’t pretend to be, and I don’t want to be. I do know a thing or two about photography, though, and the professionals I know and have worked with will be the first ones to tell you that lighting can make or break a shot. Bad lighting can make Meg Ryan ugly – good lighting can make Nicole Kidman hot: both impossible feats made possible by lighting. This goes for food photos, too. You don’t see Burger King’s menu items lit by someone’s dim, soft, overhead dining room chandelier. The food wouldn’t be enticing anymore because you couldn’t see it properly – the right portions of it wouldn’t be accentuated. If you’ve put no thought into the lighting of your subject, you should probably stop using the #foodPorn tag.

Flash: I can’t believe I even have to address this. Do you have dim lighting? Is your DSLR stuck on auto? Are you impressed with your iPhone’s flash feature? Tough. Don’t use a flash – ever. Unless you work for Entertainment Tonight and you’re waiting on Celebrity Bee-Bop to come out of the pretentious New York restaurant where you’ve been waiting in the cold for four hours to ask if they’ve been sleeping with Nicole Kidman in the proper lighting, don’t use a flash. No amount of Photoshop can appropriately save a forlorn food photo from the unintentional glare of a flash that was a bad decision in the first place. The mysteriously sexy shadows of your food are gone, the enticing curves of her exterior are lost and ultimately, you have a bad photo. If your flash is turned on, you should probably stop using the #foodPorn tag.

Camera Shot: The entire point of Food Porn is to get intiment (and get others intiment) with the food you’re eating. It is generally rather close-up, allowing the user to smell the sweat, see the stress, taste the effort that went into this food that looks and tastes so good it should be considered taboo. But this is not always necessary; One could easily make food look its best with a nice crop – a fun and unusual angle or even an interesting juxtaposition. Is your photo a first-person glance at what you see when you look straight down? Chances are, you should probably stop using the #foodPorn tag.

Will my rant prevent folks from posting bad food photos? No, and I don’t expect it to. Just know that putting thought into your food photos can make the difference in high-quality, award winning (or at least gift card winning) Food Porn and video you shot with one angle on a tripod in the furthest corner of the room and have hidden the tape in your sock drawer Food Porn.

So what’s for lunch today?

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