Category : Food photography tips Toggle

Australian food photography challenge: Jerky edition

A table filled with seasoned jerky to share


The Gold Coast (the whole of Australia in fact), is rich with attractive food to photograph, though jerky, most definitely does not fit into this category!

A new Surfer’s Paradise client of mine needed to rebrand and reshoot their jerky food packaging imagery. Their brand is very popular with tourists visiting the Gold Coast, though was in desperate need of more contemporary food photography to give the pack some shelf appeal.

The challenge with photographing meat, is always making it look succulent without glistening like a terd, fresh without looking like an abattoir floor, textured without looking like graphic roadkill. Understandably, this is precisely why few food photographers are comfortable shooting meat!

As a food subject, jerky simply is what it is – dehydrated cuts of seasoned meat. It splits and becomes heavily textured while drying and looks like a bicep off-cut left in the sun. And there is no succulence to capture with dehydrated foods. Challenge accepted!
Fortunately for me, some years back I had a trial by fire to really perfect my lighting techniques when shooting meat products in a marathon three day shoot involving entire carcasses being wheeled into the studio to be butchered and photographed!

Being so familiar with the reality of how the product looks, my client was beside himself with happiness when he saw the final shots. I tried to style the below shot in a way that tells the story of jerky a little, by way of serving and pairing suggestions and also brass drying racks subtly featured in the background.
Whether sharing a platter with friends or demolishing an entire bag on your own with a beer in a hammock and a self-indulgent grin, I think the final photographs are plenty to tempt buyers to pick up a bag of the world’s ugliest food type and enjoy it!

If you have a challenging food product that needs photographing, do get in touch with Gold Coast Food Photography today…   😉


Top-down image of beef jerky, surrounded by complimentary foods on a table to share

Food photography advice for planning your shoot

A behind the scenes image of a studio food shoot at Gold Coast Food Photography, Brisbane


My food photography clients are widely varied in their business types, but their needs when planning a food shoot are often similar. So here is a list of things that I commonly encourage clients to consider when planning their food photography shoot.

– First, you’ll need inspiration for the art direction or ‘look’ of your food shoot. Start looking through my food photography folio and social media feed. Also be sure to look for inspiration from other photography, magazines, sites or food business marketing collateral. Think about if you’d like wide variation between the look of your dishes or a consistent look to your suite of images. As a third option, perhaps a daytime then an evening feel to the light will provide the variation that you’d like in a cost-effective way…

– Think about how much of the set you want in the shot. The more ‘table’ we have in the shot, the longer the shots can take, as there’s more propping to think about and change around. Even if you’d like the same setup for all shots, you’ll still find that prop changes are needed as a result of wanting a white wine in the background instead of that beer, as it goes better with fish, for example. Also, some plates have a higher lip than others (between soups, dinner plates etc), so what works for one shot won’t work for the other, as the serviette and cutlery will be hidden by a taller bowl etc. You’ll start to understand the variables once we start shooting and why food photography almost always takes longer than anticipated!

– If your business is a restaurant or cafe, have a selection of serviettes on hand and also make sure the tablecloth is well-ironed of creases (if applicable). A few serviette colours is good, if possible – just white and dark grey/black is a starting point. No patterns, as these date shots quickly once fashions or seasons change. These will of course need to be cloth – not paper (even if your food venue only supplies paper in reality).

– Think about table surfaces. If your venue’s tables are dated or worn, don’t shoot on them. Tablecloths are generally quite a dated look also (unless fine dining), with interesting rustic, timbers being a contemporary example. The table surface is very important in food photography.

– Think about if you’d like to be completely true to the venue regarding what a table will be set with (ie: just use what you normally have there), or if you’d like to bring in a few special props to make the shots look nicer.
Either way, I recommend only using plates/bowls with a LOW rim. This allows us to ‘see’ the food and lessens shadows being cast by lights that can’t get ‘inside’ the dish to light the food. Tall crockery may look cool, but it hides the food, so is best avoided for the purposes of a food shoot.

– Are you (wisely) open to using a food stylist? If so, you don’t need to think about much of this! I work with a genius food stylist who has a wide range of custom timbers and other textures we can shoot on, plus access to his plethora of proppery and textiles to complement any food manufacturing, restaurant or cafe business. Well-versed in the craft of art direction and knowledgeable about current food trends, food stylists bring enormous value to a project.

You can also refer to the FAQ section of this site which has lots of helpful pre-shoot info and things to ponder prior to the shoot. You’ll find it very helpful.
The above is just what pops to mind – please do feel free to contact me to fire any other questions my way once you’re ready to shoot and take your food industry business to the next level.


A behind the scenes image of a studio food shoot at Gold Coast Food Photography, Brisbane

How to utilise good food styling to tell a story

Last week a 5-star Gold Coast hotel client asked my advice on how to best photograph the food being served at their Vegan buffet.

They obviously wanted beautiful photographs, but needed to ensure that these particular food shots weren’t misleading – the meal offering is a buffet, after all – not a-la-carté…

I thought that the table styling could help to tell this story, while avoiding simply showing a line of hot platters on hotel trestles. I suggested that I photograph a single plate of food that their highly-awarded Chef has plated up nicely (unlike the physics-defying pyramids that many diners construct when embracing a buffet)! Plating-up the food this way communicated the fineness of the food on offer at the hotel, while the surrounding table styling made it clear that this was not an a-la-carté dish for one.

This was achieved with stacked plates and serviettes as well as scattered handfuls of cutlery, rather than a place-setting for one.
A great story-telling solution for a suite of images that the client was super happy with!





Food styling tips for chefs new to food photography

An assortment of sliced fruit breads fanned-out on a cutting board and cake stand, with butter, butter knife, serviette and ingredient garnishing in the background.
Recently I was asked by a new Brisbane restaurant client to put together a list of tips to give to his chef’s, prior to our food photo shoot together. Regardless of how much a client may love to utilise the invaluable skills of a Food Stylist for their food photography, sometimes it’s just not financially feasible for them.

In this instance, I worked with my client and his team of chefs by putting some extra pre-production work in with them. This allowed his chefs more confidence in making their food ‘camera-ready’, as opposed to ‘customer-ready’. Below I have listed a few of the tips that I shared with them, which may also help other Brisbane/Gold Coast cafes and restaurants who need a good food photographer, but can’t also afford a food stylist just yet.

  1. Undercook your food. Properly cooked food looses moisture and shrinks as it cools. For camera, food only needs to not look raw. If you need to brown the meat off a little, apply heat with a kitchen torch. This goes for veggies too. For veggies, a quick blanching in boiling water followed by a dunk in an ice bath will hold the colour of the veggies and keep them looking succulent.

  2. For the camera, you need to take much greater care with your prep than you normally would for customers. Reject any ingredients that looks wilted, bruised or misshapen. Shortlist the most perfect, symmetrical ingredients available to you and have spares. Cut and slice with precision.
  3. When plating-up, consider plate scale and depth. If the crockery that the food is usually served on is so deep that we can’t penetrate the dish in the shot because the lip of the bowl is in the way, choose a shallower bowl or plate. Let the food be the hero of the shot – don’t detract from the food with your table items.
  4. All props used for each shot should have relevance to the dish. These can either contrast or complement.
  5. Small props work best, so they don’t attract the eye away from the food. Petite and interesting teaspoons, a small saucer, or a corner of a serviette ‘dropped’ strategically into the corner of the shot, for instance.
  6. Have ample and relevant garnishes on hand.
  7. For dishes that are usually glazed before being served, consult the photographer before glazing. Too much glaze can make the food look like rubber once lit and there are camera-friendly alternatives that I can offer.
  8. If you have a large amount of prep to do pre-shoot and are concerned about fruits turning brown, cold water infused with lemon juice will prevent this.
  9. If incorporating chocolate in a dessert, you can hit it with a hair dryer briefly before plating it up to be photographed. This will smooth out all the little ‘burs’ on the surface.

The list is virtually endless, but the above food styling tips will be a strong basis for a smooth shoot that will result in better food photography, as it will allow the photographer to focus on what they need to – the lighting.

By the way, any professional food photographer worth their salt, will also bring a food styling ‘box of tricks’, regardless of whether they’re working with a food stylist or not. So give me a call to discuss your food photography needs today.   😉

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Top 5 tips to avoid the pitfalls of Instagram for food businesses.

Let’s cut to the chase. Instagram may be a worthwhile aspect of a social media strategy for businesses such as personal trainers, but for food businesses, users must carefully consider their content. Posting photos without considering the below can not only be ineffective, it can actually damage your food/beverage brand. So here’s some tips to help out restauranteurs, cafe owners and other Gold Coast / Brisbane food businesses:

1)   A recent study  has shown that looking at too many food photographs can often DECREASE the viewer’s appetite. By looking at multiple food images, their senses become satiated and get ‘tired’ of the meals before they’ve even eaten one! To avoid this, give your followers some visual relief by uploading different types of images to your profile, such as venue, decor or produce shots.

2)   Following on from the above point, be sure to upload photos of the management and staff in the workplace. Humanising your food brand in this way is one of the most effective methods of building a restaurant or cafe that’s relatable in it’s day to day operation and people will want to see you succeed.

3)   Other than risking a well-deserved chair attack from a patron for being arrogant, flash photography is also making your shots look awful. Unless you’re using diffused pro studio flash, don’t use flash at all. Certainly not your phone’s built-in flash. The edge vignetting is enormous, the colour balance is thrown out, highlights blown out and unattractive shadows are created. Use natural light instead. If close to a window or light source, try bouncing some light back into the darker side of your plate from a white menu or serviette.

Another consideration is perhaps REconsidering our use of Instagram as a platform itself. Two top-line reasons that come to mind are:

4)   Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram increased the shamelessness of it’s disregard for your rights (SURPRISE!), by relinquishing you of your image rights:
By uploading your photo to Instagram, you now still ‘own’ the image, but have just given up your rights to benefit from it in any way (yes, a spectacular oxymoron and technically illegal in the world of copyright law). So should a competitor restaurant like your food image, for instance, they can now legally use it for their own f&b marketing.

5)   Instagram’s woeful conversion rates for business:
Instagram is the HQ of modern runaway narcissism and offers little else other than the self-sanctity of accumulating meaningless likes. For businesses, this does not convert to real communication, targeted exposure or solid leads and it therefore, for me at least, has seen me lose faith in the worth of the time investment. Put bluntly, if you see me post now on Instagram, you know I’m sitting on a toilet somewhere.

Having just slammed narcissism, it feels a tad hypocritical of me to post examples of my ‘quality’ food photography in this post now. So I’ll instead leave you with some samples of REALLY bad food photography from Instagram – courtesy of Martha Stewart, who does considerable and ongoing damage to her brand by posting horrific shots of food. So bad they’re funny. You can see more of them HERE.



Martha Stewart's horrific food photography.

Exhibit A:
Martha Stewart’s horrific food photography.

Martha Stewart's horrific food photography.

Exhibit B:
Martha Stewart’s horrific food photography.

Martha Stewart's horrific food photography.

Exhibit C:
Martha Stewart’s horrific food photography.