What makes one Food Photographer better than another?

That’s a very interesting question, especial to a food photographer… :o)

Some photographers are better then others.  If I had to articulate the things that makes on food shooter better than another, I’d give you a little list…

Ability to understand what the client really needs

Food photographers are rarely hired just to make “pretty pictures”.  Sure, it’s a bonus if the photos are pretty, but they usually have a purpose and have a marketing function.  A good food photographer will understand the WHY the photos are being created and HOW they fill that function.

Ability to light for shape, texture, separation, and mood

Most all photographers can get a good exposure and a sharp photo, but very few can use light to make the two dimensional photo look like the three dimensional scene in front of the camera.  That is probably the greatest art of the food photographer.  Most photographer that don’t have this mastered, worry about if there is enough light, but the master photographer in concerned about the direction and quality of that light.  A food photographer, that is really good, can create texture where he wants it, and separate surfaces, and even create a desired mood in his photography.  And his lights are his tools to accomplish all that…

Eye for composition

Even when the composition is determined by an advertising layout there me be many decisions that affect the final food photo.  Having a “good eye for composition” is hard to describe.  There are accepted rules of composition that if adhered to, are thought to create a pleasing visual design to the viewer, but photographic composition is more fluid than that and is really difficult to articulate.  There are a million little decisions to be make with every food photo.  Should the place overlay, touch or be separated from the cup?  What colors look good together and which do not?  Does that crumb make the shot look more “real” of just messy. Each and avery food photo is the result of those kinds of questions and the photographer’s “eye for composition” is probably one of the biggest characteristics that will separate him from his competition.

Ability to get the most out of the food photography team

A food shoot usually has many team members and if that team is at all dysfunctional, the shot suffers.  Getting those team members to work well as a team is usually up to the food photographer.


I sometimes get approached by clients buying food photography for the first time.  They know they need “pictures of their food”, but they haven’t really though thought how those photo will end up being used.  An experienced food shooter will know the questions to be asked. For example, do the photos need to be horizontal of vertical?  If the webpage or menu that the photos are going to be used in is already designed, then shooting to the wrong dimension will cause real problems.   This is just one example of how an experienced food photographer can offer value to the client. There are literally hundreds of ways to screw up a food shoot, and experience has its benefits.

Open Mind

Some food photographers are in a rut.  That’s only normal really… What happens is that they find solutions to photographic problems and then fall back on those solutions time and time again.  Some people call this a photographer’s style, but if that photographer isn’t careful, it can become a rut.  The truth is that trends and styles are always changing.  A photographer also needs to change and evolve too, to stay relevant in the world of food photography.

So, there are many elements to the answer of the the question, “what makes one photographer better than the other?”  Each photographer has his own strengths and weakness and to determine which is the best for your project, I’d suggest that you visit their webpage and compare that to the competition.  Get an overall feel and then pick the one you like best.