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FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY 101

Creating food porn with texture

April 10, 2013|By Noelle Carter

How do you make a dish look appealing? It's one of the more frequent questions we hear in the Food section. Readers want to know what we do to make food look appetizing in a photo. While photographing naturally beautiful food really helps, there are a number of ways to manipulate both the dish and the viewer's eye. It really depends on the food itself and what we are trying to convey.

Often, we play up the texture of a dish.  The slow drip of a creamy glaze, the rich crumble of shortbread or condensation beading on a cold drink can all help sell the shot.

Check out the photo gallery above for a visual demonstration. The captions give additional details and links to the related story or recipe. I include photos from various Food stories where texture makes a difference, brings action or energy to a shot, and/or draws the eye to some aspect of the dish we want the viewer to notice. You'll see both successful shots and shots where we could have improved the dish before we shot. Continue reading below for additional tips.

PHOTOS: Food photography 101: Tips and tricks from the L.A. Times

Train the viewer's eye: Texture can help sell the dish to the viewer. If you're shooting a recipe for "ooey-gooey double chocolate cookies," show that ooey-gooeyness by breaking up a warm cookie and shooting the molten chocolate interior. Shoot it next to a big glass of milk for extra points.

Show how wonderful a cold cocktail is by focusing on the condensation beading on the side of the glass. Even more perfect if the recipe is running on a hot summer day.

And does anything sell a grilled cheese sandwich quite like the sight of melted cheese oozing out of the sides?

Explain or sell a dish or recipe: Why make tofu at home when it's so easy to buy? When we shot a homemade tofu recipe, we focused on the soft, custard-like texture of the finished dish, a texture so smooth it could only be homemade.

The same thinking applied when we shot a wheat-free muffin. For the shot, we decided to pull back the muffin wrapper to focus on the moist, crumbly texture of the muffin inside. You know, just in case any readers might be worried the recipe would be dry and dull.

Add a playful element: A perfect slice of pie or cake is an achievement, but having a little imperfection can be fun. A few crumbs alongside a shortbread cookie, the slightest drip on a scoop of ice cream, the lazy drizzle of glaze over a batch of warm cinnamon rolls, and the filling gently spilling out of a generous slice of pie all work to make the shot, and the related dish, that much more tempting to the viewer.

This is part of a series of posts on food photography, sharing some of the tips and tricks we use here at The Times. We've received a number of great questions from readers, which we will answer in upcoming posts.

Questions or suggestions? Food photography challenge? Comment below or email Noelle Carter at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

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