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How the Pros Talk About Food Photography

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In Lisa Hanawalt's hilariously poignant new illustrated book, Hot Dog Taste Test, she establishes some terminology all food photographers should employ—they're below. We asked her to take her methodology to our photos; we should've known better.

Lisa's Take on Some Food52 Photos

Fruit Salad with Tahini-Coconut Dressing
Fruit Salad with Tahini-Coconut Dressing

Apologies to the photographer, but this seems like a missed opportunity for a fruit drop: This dish would be twice as appealing if the food were falling.

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Elbert Budin discovered this innovation decades ago when he accidentally dropped some fruit, and it’s still an essential technique for any fruit shoot today.

This photo has an interesting use of seeds resembling ants, which gives the viewer a sense of urgency and repulsion.

Chestnut Cream (Crème de Marrons)
Chestnut Cream (Crème de Marrons)

I detect some forced slathering here. This is known as a “mixed goops" shoot: layering one viscous food on top of another. It's technically challenging because the substances can congeal together very quickly.

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I like to spread a thin film of glue over goop #1 and create a bed for goop #2 to rest on top undisturbed, but this trick has technically been illegal since 1985.

The Food Lab's Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers
The Food Lab's Ultra-Smashed Cheeseburgers

This is a phenomenal example of burgview. At first glance it may seem like the burger isn’t filling enough of the frame (75% is suggested by traditional food photography guidelines), but in recent years a 25%-beverage-to-50%-burger ratio has become quite chic!

Roasted Strawberry Milkshake with Buttermilk and Mint
Roasted Strawberry Milkshake with Buttermilk and Mint

Pretty, but where's the STORY?

Here’s a great tip if your tabletop is looking too minimalist: Toss 3 cups of cornflakes on your set. Instant texture! Lots of DRAMA!

Beer Can Chicken
Beer Can Chicken

Here we have a “food intruder,” which is a non-edible object inserted into the food. It’s risky to show that.

This photo is a nice example of pooing it up, as the chicken has been torched to a brown crisp.

Irene's Middle Eastern Knafeh with Orange Blossom Syrup
Irene's Middle Eastern Knafeh with Orange Blossom Syrup

Ooh, a lovely wet take. One can clearly sense the amount of moisture in this food! Unfortunately I think we might need a re-cook on this; it looks like the photographer already ate a third of it.

For more of Lisa's musings, on food and otherwise, her book is Hot Dog Taste Test. Book spreads reprinted with permission.