Douglas Merriam shared his secrets of great food photography.
If you read glossy food magazines, you’ve probably seen Douglas Merriam’s work and drooled over the dishes he photographed. The Santa Fe-based food, travel and lifestyle photographer gave a presentation at the Society of American Travel Writers Western Chapter meeting on his secrets on how to take great food photographs. He shoots in situ, not in a studio. I’ve figured some of these trick out myself, but my trusty little Panasonic Lumix, which I operate on automatic, isn’t the equal of his SLRs. And I photograph food that I and any dining companions are about to eat, not between meal service times with dishes that the chef has specially prepared.
Some his advice is impossible for the likes of me. I can’t rearrange the furniture or stand on a chair to shoot down at dish, nor do I travel with white sheet, an iron, reflectors and even a spare plate in case the restaurant’s crockery is too busy. With those disclaimers, I write that if this blog has better photographs in the future, the credit goes largely to Doug Merriam.
Here are some of his tips that most of us can use:
- Wear neutral-color clothing.
- Use natural light. No flash!
- Eliminate extraneous garnishes. Simple is best.
- The eye is drawn to the brightest color, so the peel on the lemon wedge becomes the prominent element on the plate
- Photographing food at a 45-degree angle most closely mimics the way diners see food.
- Pizza and other flat foods can be photographed from directly above. Food with height should be photographed at an angle the shows the height.
- If a beverage is included in the frame, use a short glass instead of stemmed wineglass,
- However, the base of a stemmed glass, the rim of another plate, a piece of flatware or other element on the periphery can add compositional interest.
Photographing food via the “Merriam method” can improve ever so many food images.