Food Photographer’s Style


Food Photographer’s Style

If you examine food photography as closely as I tend to, you immediately become aware that different photographers had distinct styles of shooting food.  I’ve often wondered just how styles become apparent in those food photos.  What is it specifically that make a photographer’s images look similar to constitute a “style”.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Equipment – If the only lens you have is a 100 mm macro, then all you shots will look like they’re shot with a 100 mm macro.  And to some extent, the same thing goes with lighting.  I have a “favorite” light I like to use, and the look is quite distinctive.  If I didn’t have that light, my “look” or my “style” would be totally different.

Habit – Commercial food photography is basically about finding solutions to various challenges and once the shooter finds a solution to a particular challenge, he tends to use that solution the next time that same challenge arises.  For example… If I’m shooting a cylinder-shaped food item, such as an ear of corn, I tend to place the main light where I think it will best enhance the shape of the corn.  Because of that, all my “corn shots” and all my cylinder shots, tend to look similar.  Over time, I’ve developed a “look” for shooting cylinder-shaped food, and the same goes with other shapes and textures of food.  I have solutions to problems and I tend to use them over and over.  That’s become my “look”.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing… It is what it is…

Clients – Another thing that commercial food photographers tend to do is to try as hard as possible to make their clients happy.  And just like photographers, clients have things they tend to like and not like.  If a photographer shoots a lot with a particular client, that client ends up influencing the photographer’s portfolio and even that photographer’s preferences.  Your dominate client may like shots with the camera looking straight down.  Before long, the photographer has a bunch of portfolio photos shot from that angle and that becomes a big part of that photographer’s “style”.

Is having a “style” good for a food photographer?

I think it’s good to have a “style”, if, over time, the photographer is willing to tweak it.  In fact, photographers should always be tweaking what they do.  Your look should be constantly evolving.  Some photographers never evolve and that’s a mistake.  Their looks never seems to change and before long, their portfolio ends up looking old and dated.  What was “cool” once, looks ancient after a few years.  To keep up to date and fresh, food photographers should try new things and be willing to risk failure in order to keep that evolution happening.  That’s easier said than done.  Failure is not something clients like to experience, but failure is also a relative term.  Failure is not always fatal.  Maybe the photographer tries something and it doesn’t work at first.  They can always go back and do it the safe way, but it’s important for the food photographer to keep on experimenting.

Embrace your food photography style

Since you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re either a food photographer or someone interesting in the subject.  If you are a food shooter, you probably already have a “style” of shooting.  The important thing is that you understand what it is that makes your work look the way it does, and more importantly, what it would take to change that look if you choose to.  Having a recognizable style isn’t a bad thing, in fact it’s a good thing.  You just need to be able to change that look as time goes by.


  1. Dan Erb · June 22, 2016

    Thanks for that reminder about style. It is fun to experiment.

    I know you had something big happening so you were not able to blog
    as much as we all got used to. It’s good to have you back a bit more.

    Question? Have some of your old blogs become unavailable or hard to find?
    I have been with you for some time and it has become “I think” harder to find some of “them” older ones. Will most of the material be in the book?

    Your one on one class is it flexible? There are things you list that I learned years ago in your blog. I need some intense shooting.

  2. Michael Ray · June 22, 2016

    I thought about writing a book, but it probably won’t happen. I’m not sure about the old posts. When I get some time, I’ll look for them and let you know. As far as the class goes, I teach lighting, but will cover any subject you want. It’s totally flexible.

  3. Michael Ray · June 23, 2016

    Dan – This link is buried here, but it’s here…


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