Try this exercise: close your eyes and imagine something really really delicious, something that makes you crave. Write down the specific attributes of that mental image. Then cross out everything on your list that relies on senses other than sight. Whatever you finally come up with, those are the things a food photographer has to work with in making an effective image.
What’s on your list? I came up with color, texture, glisten, moisture, and so on. Those are the obvious ones, but there are others. Point of view (where is your eye?), scale (how close are you?), composition (does your eye know where to look?). What about implied motion – like a drop about to fall, or anything just on the verge of happening. Light itself can sometimes imply motion. Let’s go on … what else is on the list? Mood, which is a broad term, can definitely affect whether something is mouth-watering. Mood comes from a combination of lighting, camera point of view, color, and surroundings, surfaces, and props. And of course, there is styling. The presentation of the food, often done by a food stylist, is a huge factor in appetite appeal. Think of a muffin whole, compared to a muffin broken open with butter melting and some crumbs on the plate. This line of thought leads to lots of new things for our list … seeing inside something, seeing the bits and ingredients, and presenting a plate with the invitation to dig in.
Here’s yet another aspect of getting appetite appeal — authenticity. Does what you’re looking at look fake? Does it look too perfect? Is it a Disney world simulation of some “ideal”? These are all unappetizing. Looking real means seeing the imperfections, the personality, and celebrating the fact that a dish looks different every time it comes out of the oven.
No picture this time. More coming!