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Step away from the hairspray

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Step away from the Hairspray

First off, thank you to the dozens of you who told me Chocolonely’s gold and brown look-a-like bar in last week’s press release was a nod to Ferrero Rocher. Of course it was. I feel very stupid. Clearly no invite to the next ambassador’s party for me.

In more press release related news, last week I got an email from Shotkit (“the home of photography tutorials, inspiration and unbiased gear reviews”) exposing the top tricks food photographers use to capture their professional images.

You know the kind of thing: motor oil instead of syrup on pancakes so it doesn’t soak in, PVA glue instead of milk to stop cereal going soggy, hairspray on vegetables to stop them wilting.

These lists are always great fun to read (which is why I’ve made it the press release of the week below) but I don’t want you to think it is the norm.

In the Seventies and Eighties? Absolutely. That’s why cook books from those days now look so dated (and the food so awful). And I guess it probably still goes on in advertising. Perhaps as I write, someone somewhere is varnishing a chicken so it will hold long enough to obtain top-level client approval for the positioning of the third chip from the left.

But in editorial? We don’t have the time or budgets to indulge in such things, and nor would we want to. Our aim is always to show natural-looking food and we do that by photographing real food and working fast. The quicker you work, the less effort you have to put in to disguising the fact you didn’t work quickly enough.

We need to photograph 8 recipes for our shoots in the Times Saturday magazine (not that we are doing any right now, obviously) and chefs and their PRs will often assume they’ll need to block out most of the day for it. Yet we are normally done within 2 hours (I think our record is 1hr10m). The more time you give yourself, the more the temptation to tweak and to preen, and all the while the cooked food is losing its vitality. 

So if you are charged with having food photographed for a client, don’t be bamboozled into making it more complicated than it needs to be. It really can be as simple as having a good chef make a nice plate of food and having a good photographer take a picture of it.

No hairspray required.

What Tony Thinks…

“Mashed potato for ice cream, eyeliner on steaks… more photographers’ tricks of the trade.”

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