Challenges in Culinary Photography


What challenges must one consider before approaching culinary photography? Is it different from product photography?

Answer by: Dinesh Khanna Photographer and Educator

Food, normally, is relished by taste and aroma, and we humans are wired to like or dislike it, based on these two senses. However, these senses, unfortunately, can’t come into play with photographs. The first thing a culinary photographer has to understand is that the only ‘sense’ he/she has at their command to convey the appetite appeal of the food being photographed, is vision. It’s the visual appeal that has to convey the taste, flavour, and deliciousness, and it’s a photographic challenge that has to be mastered.

The thing that makes exceptional culinary photography different from ordinary product photography is the need to communicate the pleasure of the food, which is actually experienced by senses rather than the visual.

So, the food photographer has to be sensitive to, and very aware of the texture, colour, and form of the food. One has to use the tactile-ness to conjure up aroma and flavour through the visual experience. The truly enriching food photographs are ones that are made by creative photographers, chefs, and stylists, who instinctively respond to the physicality of different kinds of food items. They also have honed their talent to bring together a myriad of shapes, forms, colours, tones, and densities, to conjure up appetite appeal for the eyes, in order to trigger a reflexive sense of the tastes and aroma associated with that dish.

Of course, the entire experience is further elevated by the right use of props, ambience, composition and, most importantly, lighting.

Photograph/Dinesh Khanna