November 2020 // The Business Edition

The Business of Food Photography | Chelsea Kyle


The main purpose of the imagery is to illustrate a recipe, method of cooking, or story around a particular food or recipe. While this can be uniquely stylized, the most important feature of the imagery is to be literally illustrative. Unlike more classically known commercial food photography that can be exaggerated, editorial food photography must be representative of the ingredients and outcome the reader would have. If an ingredient is shown in the image that isn’t in the recipe, it can hurt the integrity of the recipe and the recipe developer. Publications like New York Times Cooking , Food and Wine , and well-known publications all organize teams of photographers and food and prop stylists that have experience in this type of imagery. While the creativity of the image with setting, mood, and lighting can vary a lot, the food is the main focus of the image, usually consisting of more than 50% of the frame. Photographers who succeed in this area of photography often know how to light and photograph food to look most appetizing and real, working in tandem with a stylist and knowing how to create a story. If a publication has a supporting story or context to a recipe—for example, Christmas dinner—the photographer needs to know how to direct a scene representative of that look and feel, and often in a different season due to how early publications shoot content for print media. In most cases, the flexibility of editorial allows photographers to be creatively involved in the execution of these styles in terms of illustrating the story. Due to the publicity it offers the artist to be published in these magazines and the lower budgets that magazines often have, it is industry standard that photographers are credited with a byline in magazines and digital outlets. This allows a lot of photographers to use editorial to show other potential clients how they would execute imagery in other areas of photography, kind of like paid personal work.

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