How to Take Fantastic Food Shots

We asked one of the premiere food photographers…how’d you get that shot?

By Michael Persico As Told To Brian McManus
Images by Michael Persico

I started my career thinking I’d be a fashion or music/portrait photographer but my love for food, cooking, and the culture surrounding it pulled me in. All through school I worked in restaurants, learning from all types of friends, both front and back of house, as well as friends who happened to be farmers or other producers. It really clicked for me when one of my first full time jobs required me to shoot a food review each week for a small local publication in Philly. I went all around town shooting this vibrant food town and all these dedicated craftsman making and serving food that they loved. It was amazing!

Travel and the opportunity to constantly meet passionate people doing what they love is my favorite part of the job. We all have that zest for life and I cannot get enough of it being around like-minded food people.

To take really great food shots that pop, I’d say try your best to show the it in a way that would get you super excited about seeing that photo. That could be the light, or other things on the table, shooting friends/people to remember the moment…it’s really interpretive. It could even be a food fail, think dropping ice cream off of the cone….the story of making (or messing up) is alot of the fun too. It’s an experiential thing at its core, so let that come through however possible.

Beyond that: composition is key, of course, but also those other elements in frame have to compliment the story. That’s important. Pizza with some grated cheese and hot pepper flake sort of spilled and scattered. A drink with condensation and a squeezed lime to the side…a bid for that “lived in look.” If that’s not your vibe maybe it’s a perfectly sliced lime still atop the drink, and the pizza gooey and steaming, ready to eat…no mess. Again, this is all really interpretive. What makes you excited?

As for lighting a shot, I’d say tend toward a nice clean singular source. Natural light can do incredible things for food. Figure out if you want it to be hard or soft and find some great spots inside (or outside) your house and have them in mind when you want to photograph your dish. I like my light to come somewhere from the top half of the frame…it’s a great start and usually makes the food look great.

But most of all I think being curious and experimental is really important. I still remind myself every day, every shoot—every phone photo, even—to try and find another way to shoot whatever is in front of me. I take a look around and check in with my surroundings to see what else is possible. Some of my best photos have been a result of that “What if we ran over there!” curiosity. That’s not just limited to photo, I try to live that way however i can, too.

A photo of a woman sitting on a table in front of a two-tier tray full of seafood. From Lobster to shrimp to oysters served over ice.
Flaylay photograph of seafood on ice while a pair of hand shuck an oyster over it.



View the latest issue of Herein
, now exclusively available to Owners of Marriott branded Residences.

back to top
Translate »