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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

Commonwealth Games necessitates tough love for Gold Coast food businesses


Sitting here at the Gold Coast airport waiting for my flight, I’m reminded of the broad spectrum of business types that many foreigners have been exposed to – and the importance that Gold Coast f&b businesses recognise this of their coming Commonwealth Games customers.

During my 14 years working overseas, it became apparent to me how insular Australia is in many respects. Some people will refute this statement, but it’s just how it is. As a graphic designer working in London, I recognised that Australia is many years behind the times when it comes to branding, for instance. Some cities have more progressive branding scenes (such as Sydney and Melbourne), but the majority of high street brands that we’re exposed to as Aussies are frankly, woefully outdated and often, just plain bad. Income has stagnated for so many years in Australia now that decent marketing budgets are considered a luxury by most business operators, though paradoxically, marketing is invariably the only thing that will give a business the exposure required for success.

Restaurants, cafes and other food & beverage businesses that are preparing to welcome Commonwealth Games visitors, must represent themselves with contemporary professional photography and branding. This is absolutely imperative. Business owners who are emotionally attached to their brand and it’s marketing collateral must audit their brand in an honest way, or have a qualified person do this for them.

As Aussies, we sometimes like to think of ourselves as the most progressive nation in the region, when in fact, this is simply not the case. Affluent Commonwealth Games tourists from neighbouring countries will have had plenty of exposure to food businesses with strong interior design, branding and food photography. On the Gold Coast and to a lesser extent in Brisbane, I still see f&b brands that consider their branding and marketing to be passable while their prospective Comm Games customers will view them as laughable. As the title of this article states, ‘tough love’ is what Gold Coast/Brisbane businesses require if they are to attract customers as hosts of the #GC2018! It’s only once you’ve removed yourself from this market for an extended period then return to it that you can see it objectively.

The good news is, the large number of poorly-marketed food businesses in the Gold Coast and Brisbane, make it easy to stand out and excel. This can be capitalised upon quickly by restaurants, cafes and hotels hoping to reap the benefits of being a Commonwealth Games host city. Over 650,000 visitors are expected for the games. This potentially represents massive revenue for the businesses that are prepared to entice foodies to their venue. The marketing spend to grab this opportunity is fractional and a no-brainer!

Get in touch today if your f&b business is preparing for the Commonwealth Games – there’s still time to see your investment returned many-fold, just as THIS recent client of mine did. #GC2018 – game on, Gold Coast foodies!   🙂


A fine dining dish of scallops atop pork belly squares, presented beautifully on a white plate with garden salad.

How this Gold Coast restaurant grew their online bookings 40-fold in 4 weeks

An image of the bar at The Lazy Lobster restaurant, Gold Coast. Food venue photography by Gold Coast Food Photography - Gold Coast and Brisbane


Here’s a very good example of how great marketing can benefit Gold Coast restaurants.
The Lazy Lobster is a seafood restaurant in Labrador. A large venue with a modern, fresh interior, it offers lunch and dinner guests a range of areas to enjoy – their cosy interior, bar area or sun-drenched (and air conditioned) window-frontage dining area that overlooks a stunning view of the Gold Coast’s Broadwater and it’s esplanade.

While the waterfront scenery alone is offered by only several other seafood restaurants along the whole Gold Coast, coupled with truly great food, The Lazy Lobster’s offering is very strong. Testimony to this is the almost 20 years that they’ve been in business (the equivalent of about 6 lifetimes in the restaurant game)!

Even so, an out-dated website and sub-standard food photography was letting the owners down for too long – an issue that they recently addressed by getting in touch with a good food photographer (moi!) and a good web designer, to get themselves quality image content that’s not repeated on their pages – plus free them of Google’s SEO penalisation for having a site that’s not mobile-friendly.

Take a look at the old food image they had been previously using across multiple website pages:


An example of poor food photography (NOT shot by me)!

NOTE: The above is NOT my shot!  😉


Wisely, the owners recognised that it was time to invest in imagery that did their fantastic food justice…

An image of a cooked salmon fillet on a black rustic timber restaurant table

An image of a plate of seafood pasta

An image of a cooked King Prawns served onto a black rustic timber restaurant table

An image of seafood platter served on a contemporary black stone restaurant table

An image of dessert served on a contemporary black stone table in a fine restaurant

Together with the owners, myself and my food stylist met to discuss a more contemporary art direction to showcase their food, it’s beautiful presentation and the generous portions that they still serve. The results speak for themselves and within four weeks, this Gold Coast restaurant’s online bookings went from one per month to 10 per week and still rapidly climbing.
Get in touch today if your Gold Coast or Brisbane restaurant’s reservations could use a boost like this.   😉

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!





My guest post for the ‘Good Food Gold Coast’ food blog

Recently I was invited to write a guest blog post for the excellent ‘Good Food Gold Coast’. As one of the best food blogs I’ve come across, which keeps readers abreast of any and all additions and improvements to the Gold Coast food scene, it’s WELL worth checking out. Good Food Gold Coast attracts a very wide audience of restauranteurs, cafe owners dedicated foodies – and no doubt a large number of amateur food photographers and Instagrammers, so I thought a few pro tips may be a good topic to add to the menu…
Bon appetit!


Syrup_being_poured_onto_a_dessert_with_excellent_texture showcased_by_food_photography_back_lighting

Shortlisted for the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Award

Pink Lady Food Photographer of the year award 2016 logo

I’m very honoured to have just been shortlisted for the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Award. Considered the world’s most important food photography awards, my shot has been selected from over 7,000 entries this year.

The judges panel of 38, includes names like David Loftus (Jamie Oliver’s photographer), Nigel Atherton (Time Inc’s Group Editor) and Australia’s own Curtis Stone, who will also present to the category winners in person.

I’m not allowed to publicly share the image in question until the awards night in London, but will post it here once that’s all tidied away. In the meantime, my Gold Coast and Brisbane clients beckon, so it’s back to reality for a while longer!   🙂

Devilishly good food coming to Brisbane!

SALAD DISH at the Norths Devils Rugby Club. Menu_photography_by_Paul_Williams_of_Gold_Coast_Food_Photography

A welcome effect of the popularisation of food appreciation in Australia, is the improvement of food standards and service. One group of f&b outlets that has long been associated with ‘bog-standard pub grub’, is the humble Australian sports club.
While patrons have appreciated the generous meal portions served at sports clubs, the standard and creativity of the food was almost never a talking point. And the photography that was ‘selling’ the food in the menus is usually, in a word, shite!

One club looking to break this stigma is the North’s Devils Rugby League Club in Brisbane. Currently undergoing major renovations and upgrades, the North’s Devils have anticipated increased membership and patronage at their restaurant and have created a food menu that will cater for this. Their food is not only one hell of a lot more sophisticated than Brisbane and Gold Coast sports club patrons are used to eating – it also meets the more old school expectations in terms of generous meal portions.

The presentation of the meals now being put up is a credit to their team of chefs, who’ve worked hard over the past year to develop a food menu that will lead the charge in changing the way that Australian’s view sports club restaurant food. The club’s Gold Coast design agency had briefed me to shoot a suite of 13 minimally-styled shots that were highly consistent, allowing each dish to be the undeniable hero of each shot.

I came. I shot. I ate. I left.
That’s how I roll.
If you’d like to feed me and would perhaps like to also talk about involving food photography while I’m there, please do get in touch!    🙂



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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New ‘Pods’ cookbook completed!

Pod essence olive-infused ice cubes
A few weeks ago I was approached by a Sydney food publisher to photograph a cookbook for Lisa Bryant, titled ‘Pods’. Lisa has created a wide range of frozen ‘pods’, which are essentially ice cube infusions. They range from curry starters consisting of herbs and spices to throw into a curry pot, to alcoholic ice cube pods for cocktails and fruit-infused dessert pod treats.

They’re a great idea for busy people who want a frozen stash of meal starters, ready to go. Of the 120 recipes featuring in the book, I was asked to photograph 40 of Lisa Bryant’s creations for the image content.
For this food shoot, I enlisted the talents of Pete May – a very skilled food stylist who works in the the Gold Coast & Brisbane region. It was going to take a man of Pete’s talent to devise 40 different ways to shoot ice cubes and make all of them interesting and unique food shots!

During pre-production discussions, I suggested that we fill a baking tray with water and freeze it. This provided an excellent small ‘table surface’ to shoot a number of the shots on, which also allowed me to light an additional glass tray from underneath, giving a dynamic, illuminated texture to sit the pods on, while also keeping them cold.
Pete’s terrifyingly vast range of food photography props and textiles provided relevance and character to the art direction and our client’s were immensely grateful and happy with the work – which is always so nice to hear!

The book looks excellent (from all reports) and has been bumped-up from national release to international release for Christmas 2015. A great result.

For more info about what’s being touted by some as the next food revolution, you can check out www.ThePodEssence.com

Pod Essence collage-Various ice cube meal starters and treats 1. Photography by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer Pod Essence collage-Various ice cube meal starters and treats 2. Photography by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer Pod Essence collage-Various ice cube meal starters and treats 3. Photography by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer


Pod Essence Brown ice cubes with olives and serving knife. Wide hero shot by Paul Williams, Gold Coast & Brisbane food photographer


'Pods' cookbook cover image showing frozen ice-cube creations and drinks from above on a black ice tabletop.

The cover of the new book


Gold Coast Food Photography’s new partnerships

Gold Coast Food Photography by Paul Williams-New clients and partnerships
It’s been a lonnng time between blog entries for Gold Coast Food Photography because I’ve been swamped with shoots these past few months – yikes! Plenty of material has been shot for upcoming blog entries though and the food scene on both the Gold Coast and Brisbane is looking very healthy! Some sample food images to follow very soon…

I’m very happy to announce that I recently won the Zarraffa’s Coffee account to do their food and drink photography, after a very successful food shoot together, showcasing their delicious new menu. By the time I had photographed the menu, I’d also eaten most items as they came off the table – some self-control issues there, so it’s back to the gym for me! Many thanks to Pete May, for his excellent food styling work for Zarraffa’s – full credit to you, Sir!

On the new business front, I’ve also secured a partnership with Burleigh Tourism, as their exclusive food photographer, so will be shooting food and drinks for the various fantastic cafe’s and restaurants around the Burleigh area. Burleigh Tourism is enjoying an exceptionally proactive new chapter in engaging local Burleigh businesses in helping them succeed. This is also great news for visitors to Burleigh and the Gold Coast’s development as a travel destination and lifestyle choice.

Another bit of great news for Gold Coast Food Photography is the new partnership with Gold Coast Food & Wine Tours. This is an excellent business model that’s had great success in the Brisbane market and is now coming to the Gold Coast. The concept is in the name and the info you need is here. So grab some friends, make sure one of them is a non-drinker so you can get into the wine and discover some of the great food and eateries that the Gold Coast has to offer!

A food shoot inspired by nature and shot in-studio

A beef hamburger/burger with fries sitting on a table ready to eat - Photographed by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams
Here’s some insight into how I like to approach my food photography, in the form of a recent example while shooting for new Gold Coast client, Jack’s Creek.

Jack’s Creek produce exceptionally high quality Wagyu and Black Angus beef. Because they’re an Australian company with true Aussie heritage, I’d sourced some native timber slabs that I wanted to shoot their cooked meat products on. While sanding these slabs down the weekend before the food shoot, I noticed that the tree canopy above me was casting beautiful shadows across the timber and I set about figuring out how I could recreate this light in the photography studio.

2 hours later, I had created some custom tools that faithfully mimmicked a complex gumtree canopy light that’s available to me any time of day in the studio. Once the lights were in place, this took the Jack’s Creek food shoot to the next level, by casting a distinctively Australian dappled light across the food products, giving their brand’s photography styling a completely unique and ownable look.
This is photography lighting that no other brand is doing in their industry, which is dominated by beef and other meat produce which has been shot against white, to make it look ‘clean’ – when in my opinion, this kind of art direction only makes meat look like it’s for sale on eBay.

Art direction and pre-production like this is one of the things that keep me busy with new business enquiries from clients looking for quality food photography – which is great. But greater still, are the Brand Managers for clients like Jack’s Creek, who recognise opportunity to do something new when it’s suggested – something special and then put their faith in us to still deliver on their brief. This is how not only brands, but creativity itself can improve, evolve and inspire everyone on the project.

Below are some of the results from the 2 day food shoot and I must credit the incomparable Pete May for his exceptional food styling, management, prep and cooking. Enjoy!

Nature's light canopy inspiration!

Nature’s light canopy inspiration!


A food photography studio table-top setup by Paul Williams of Gold Coast Food Photography, Australia

Reproduced in-studio.

Cooked beef ribs sitting on a table by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams Cooked beef rump roast sitting on a table by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams A raw cut of beef sitting on a table with herbs and spices by Gold Coast/Brisbane food photographer, Paul Williams

Gold Coast Food Photography joins forces with Pete May Food Styling

Having just completed two extremely successful food shoots together here on the Gold Coast, I’m very pleased to announce that I’ll be working with food stylist, Pete May on a regular basis.

Pete is one of the best food stylist’s in the country and is without doubt, the most passionate foodie that I’ve ever shot with. His food knowledge is incredible, from the aesthetic through to the molecular and his background as a restauranteur / foodie is almost as extensive as his vast collection of props, textures and tabletops (which need to be housed in TWO sheds)!

Pete’s early work life involved styling for retail, which later influenced his food styling – developed further through studies in visual communication. Pete brings a very sharp eye for the less tangible aspects important to food photography such as colour palette, graphic shape and form and yes, even light. The textiles, propping and food management aspects of the craft that Pete brings to the set are something that I can’t overstate the value of as a food photographer, as this allows me to focus on perfecting the lighting and every other aspect of my job for the client.

Following on from very enjoyable back-to-back food shoots over the last two weeks, our food photography work together has already been noticed with some potentially very exciting news to follow soon from a Brisbane client!
In the meantime, keep watching this space and if you’d like to see more of Pete’s impressive food styling work, you can of course read later entries at this blog or view his folio at Pete’s site, here.

Food Stylist, Pete May, working on a food shoot with Gold Coast food photographer, Paul Williams.

Pete working his magic in the studio last week (please excuse the iPhone photo)!

Billie McKay wins MasterChef Australia 2015!

MasterChef Australia 2015 winner, Billie McKay



An ENORMOUS congratulations to MasterChef Australia 2015 winner, Billie McKay!

Billie was a Chef who I tipped as ‘one to watch’ from very early in the contest and she grew from strength to strength with each cook. Easily the most composed in the kitchen, she is a Chef who thrives rather than folds under pressure and has phenomenal skills right through to plating. Heston promptly (and wisely) offered Billie a job as she was crowned, and in doing so, a collective ‘Doh’ could be heard from restauranteurs all around Australia!

Even with some favouritism being shown by the MasterChef judges towards Georgia in the last 2 weeks of the contest, Billie managed to push on and show Australia that she is, as Gary Mehigan himself put it, the best Chef that has ever set foot in the MasterChef kitchen! Was this a tad awkward, given that last years winner, Brent was standing four people down from him as he spoke?! Perhaps, but who cares?! BILLIE FOR THE WIN! Wooohoooo!

Now, about that cookbook food photography, Billie….    😉

My client’s guest spot on MasterChef Australia!



It was great to see my old food photography client, Janice Wong, appearing as the guest Chef on MasterChef Australia last night. She did great!

I photographed Janice’s famous desserts a few years back in Singapore, for her multi award-winning restaurant, 2am:Dessert Bar. Janice has been named Asia’s best dessert chef twice and has an incredible list of accomplishments under her hat.
She set the unenviable task of recreating one of her jaw-dropping desserts in the latest elimination round, which saw (*spoiler alert*) Rose bow out of the competition.

Seeing Janice’s amazing dessert brought back a lot of memories of photographing her food, so I thought I’d post a few of the images that I shot here. Watching her work was a real privilege – it always is to see someone at the top of their game.
I photographed Chef Janice fishing desserts out of vats of liquid nitrogen (it was pretty wild!) and her plating was impeccable. The shots ended up featuring in ‘Asia Eater’ magazine’s launch issue and were very well received by Asia’s fastidious foodies!

Enough words! Here are a few of the photographs!


Janice Wong by Gold Coast food photographer, Paul Williams



Janice Wong by Gold Coast food photographer, Paul Williams



Janice Wong by Gold Coast food photographer, Paul Williams

Deliciosa! Food photography for Mena Delights, Gold Coast

Food photography-Food photographer-Gold Coast-Australia-Brisbane-Food shoot


Here are the results of a food shoot, taken a week ago for another new client on the Gold Coast.
The brief called for vibrant, descriptive shots of their delicious slices and bread loaves – and I’m happy to say that the clients are ecstatic with all 70 shots.

Mena Delights use quality natural ingredients in their gluten-free products, so I decided to photograph them using natural props such as lightly-oiled slate stone, native timber and hessian. These surface textures beautifully complement the textures of the food, caught the play of light that was crafted and when coupled with the talented presentation of Chef Eric, produced these excellent results.

And yes, I ate virtually everything as it came off the product table – and it was awesome! Food photography has it’s benefits!

Food photography-Food photographer-Gold Coast-Australia-Brisbane-Food shoot Food photography-Food photographer-Gold Coast-Australia-Brisbane-Food shoot Food photography-Food photographer-Gold Coast-Australia-Brisbane-Food shoot Food photography-Food photographer-Gold Coast-Australia-Brisbane-Food shoot