Food Photography Tricks and Creative Options

I’ll admit that one of my guilty pleasures is watching TV food shows. At this time of year (between the mountain of papers to grade), it is fun to watch the holiday bakers creating all manner of tasty and beautiful creations. It is like a peek into the creative process behind the glossy cookbook photos that seldom look exactly like my finished products. Those TV bakers are amazing.

But I felt a bit better about my not-quite-cookbook-photo ready cooking efforts when I saw a recent video on food photography hacks. Motor oil on pancakes is more attractive than syrup? Jello and white glue supporting breakfast cereal? Who knew? They looked delicious. I could not find a way to embed the short video here, but if you’d like a slightly longer version, check this out.


So, what do we do with all this in school? Do you teach about advertising? How about giving your students a glimpse of the hacks behind the camera, if for no other reason than helping them think critically and flexibly about the things they see in the media. It also could be interesting to think about students designing photography hacks for an art assignment, perhaps taking photographs with their (seemingly ever present) phones. What would make an apple look particularly delicious? A carrot? Of course you’d need to think about options for students without smart phones, but that could be managed.

I will admit that considering this assignment brought back the memory of my mother, who had heard a TV personality suggest that putting a bit of green food color in the cooking water would help broccoli keep its bright green color. It worked, too—until she added the cheese sauce, which promptly turned a putrid green. Not all creative efforts are successful, but that isn’t a bad lesson to learn, either. If some of your students try and have them less-than-optimal results, just tell them about my mother’s cheese sauce!

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