Home How to Take Better Food Porn Photos

How to Take Better Food Porn Photos

Admit it. You’re an amateur food porn photographer. But don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone.

Last week, my esteemed Internet ReadWriteWeb-y colleagues Jon Mitchell and Curt Hopkins cooked up this insanely hilarious story about the grossness of amateur food porn. Amazingly, every single photograph in his story was shot by an amateur. And every single time, the food looked totally disgusting. The amateur food photographer is not trying to make their food look gross. In fact, quite the opposite, this person is just trying to share the food that they think is delicious and beautiful. But no matter what, the food photos just don’t communicate that sentiment.

“You need a light source from the side,” says Stephen Hamilton, a Chicago-based professional food photographer. “You need to bring up the detail of the food, which you can’t do with a single light source.”

Amateur food photographs exist in part because of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. People sync up their Facebook and Twitter accounts to their smartphones, shoot a photo and feel compelled to share it with their friends. Crappy lighting usually accounts for the horrible photo.

“You’re in a dark restaurant, you have to use a single frontal flash, it looks like shit,” Hamilton says. “Not even a portrait looks good when you’re taking a photo of friends.”

To prove that it is possible to take better food photos from a smartphone, Hamilton goes out to restaurants every week and shoots food photos with his iPhone. Then goes back to his studio and touches them up. He documents the entire project on his blog, The Restaurant Project. Here’s a short video he produced with tips for taking better food photos. Some of the ideas: Avoid incandescent light. Blow out the background. Use simple light and propping.

“The majority of people who are posting photos to Facebook and Twitter are doing it for the pure pleasure of it. They’re not getting business out of it,” says Hamilton. “Whether it’s going to a restaurant like NEXT or going to McDonald’s, they’re still Facebook-ing about it.”

Instagram Filters Won’t Help You Make The Photo Less Food Porn-y

Jon and Curt decided to take this food porn idea too far, creating a horrible Tumblr blog full of all the bad photo photographs you’ve ever dreamed of. A photo I shot has been added to this Internet hall of shame. Here it is.

It’s gorgeous, right? That’s what I thought. So, I tweeted it to Jon and Curt, looking for some sort of approval. “I would argue that this is not food porn,” I said, proudly. I could single-handedly beat food porn.

Curt replied with a typical, quotable Curt line: “GOOD GOD!” “It is to food porn as amateur porn is to porn – even worse.”

Shocked, I tried a few other similarly desperate tweets. Then at last, I admitted defeat: “@curthopkins @jonmwords Nooooo! I’ve cornered myself into an art food porn-ified corner of hellish green triangles.”

Then Jon added my photo to the Tumblr food porn hall of shame.

Why did this photo become food porn? The rest of this conversation occurred on Facebook with ReadWriteWeb’s Editor-in-Chief, Richard MacManus after I commented on his horrific photo of bean slop.

I think we can all agree that those beans look disgusting. But Richard admitted to purposely making the food look more horrific, for Jon’s benefit.

After I asked him, he honestly explained to me why my green cake looked gross.

“It was very artistic, I’ll give it that 🙂 I think the green is what creates the opposite effect…” he FB commented to me. “Well, artistically the photo definitely works – the triangle shaped table, the brown / green colors, etc. In terms of whether the photo makes the cake look more edible, honestly the Instagram filter makes the green look a little sickly (color wise) and it also somehow heightens the sugariness of the cake. It’s shiny and kind of glistens,” he said.

I appreciated his honesty. Interestingly, in this case, it was my seemingly awesome use of an Instagram filter, which I thought might save this from amateur food pornification. Instead, it was the very thing that actually sent my photo straight to amateur food pornland.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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