When Bad Food Goes Good


Sometimes, as a food photographer, you have to make really ugly food look beautiful. There are many people who are true masters of this. I wouldn’t call myself one of them. But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. And the main one is distraction. The thing about ugly food is quite often, it actually is really delicious. Hummus is a big beige blob, but if you swirl it around, dress it with a little oil and finishing salt and put it in a nice bowl, maybe with a chip taking a little dive in, suddenly, it becomes the appealing dip that it actually is.

Last month’s photo remake was all about taking a dish of something that is probably not all the beautiful, and making it into something that looks like you may actually want to eat it. I had a recent photo shoot that included a recipe for a molded salmon pate. I was worried about the shot going in… it sounded like it might be fairly Fluffy Mackerel Puddingesque. My worries were justified… when I unmolded the pate, it wasn’t anything you’d want to take a photo of. (Of course, I did anyway) And then, I proceeded to style it to make it look like something you’d actually want to eat (because despite its looks, it was tasty).

before styling

In styling it, I knew that it would be important to do two things. First, notice that I haven’t put to much of the pate in the shot. Just enough to show what it looks like, but not enough to overwhelm or feel blob-like. I almost feel like this is cheating… if I had been up for more of a challenge, I would have figured out a way to make the whole, molded pate look lovely. It is possible, but would have been far more work.

Salmon Pate-4
after styling

Secondly, I surrounded the pate with beautiful things. The olive wood board was a quick choice, as was the garnish of dill. Anything to add a bit of color and visual interest without taking too much focus away from the subject. The little crostini toasts piled in the back brought a little more life to the image as well.

Suddenly, that pate starts to look pretty appealing.

I’ll be posting August’s remake challenge tomorrow! So, if you have anything to post for July’s challenge, get it in quickly!

0 thoughts on “When Bad Food Goes Good

  1. Hi, just want to say a big thank you…..I discovered your blog 4 days ago and have been reading non-stop. I’m just starting with food styling and photography, and you have helped me so very very much.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your insights so generously, you are truly inspiring 🙂

  2. Hi, your blog is recommended as an inspriation in Lesson 4 of our new online course Prop Styling 101. Wondered if you’d like to post an excerpt of the lesson written by Chicago prop stylist Beth Reiners on your blog? If so, please drop me a line. The class starts September 8 and we’re trying to get the word out!

    You’ve always been helpful in sending people our way and we appreciate it. Also please check out my blog theinvisiblestylist.com! Susan

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