Food Photo Critique Request # 3 – Chicken Quesadillas

Chicken Quesadillas

This week’s food photo critique request comes from our long time reader Jenn from Jenncuisine. She has requested your feedback on her Chicken Quesadilla photo. How will you improve this quesadilla photo? What will you add? What will you remove?

About Chicken Quesadilla Photo

Here are the details from Jenn about the photograph


Setup of this photo

This is the blog post, which also shows my photog. setup at the bottom. – it’s a pretty typical setup of mine, literally a plate on a napkin, with a blue wooden serving tray propped up for a background, and the light from the window coming in at about 4:00.  It was a pretty gray day out so I did not bother diffusing the light any.

Technical Details

Below are the technical details of this photograph:

Focal Length: 95mm

Aperature: f/5.3

Exposure: 1/20 s

Camera: Nikon D200

Lens: 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6G AF VR

RAW image processed in Photoshop Elements.

Goal for Quesadilla Photo

My goal for this shot was to give an otherwise flat and colorless food some interest and height – so I stacked the quesadillas on top of each other, and then topped the stack with some of the fillings to add in some color.  The plate isn’t the most "quesadilla – like", but it was that or a plain white one and I was already using a white napkin to set the plate on.  I’d tried with two different backdrops – my wooden cutting board, which I decided blended in with the tortillas too much, or this blue wooden serving tray, which I thought provided more contrast in color – my thoughts were that together the blue plate, blue/gray background would complement the warm and vibrant colors of the quesadilla stack.  In post-processing I did not do much, but brightened a bit and decreased the contrast a fair amount.

I feel like the photo is missing something, and I’m not sure what.  I suspect it needs most help with composition and styling.  It was accepted by Tastespotting (Neel’s note: Read how Tastespotting selects food photos – Tastespotting’s editor explains ), but rejected by Foodgawker for "harsh lighting/overexposed", so obviously Foodgawker thinks that lighting is the main issue.  I’m curious as to what everyone’s thoughts are about how I could improve this shot.


My Two Cents

In my opinion, this is a unique and creative presentation of quesadilla. The stack is well exposed and green and red at the top add some good color to the dull quesadillas. Since the objective was to some interest to a colorless food, I think the tomato and a slice of avocado does that.

If I were to shoot this, I would start with the food. As you did here, if we decide to go with stacked quesadilla and tomato and avocado on it, I would change the other colors used in the photo. If you look at this photo there are three shades of blue, a pale quesadilla, green and red – too many colors. These 6 different colors distract me from the food. I would stick with red or green and use either one of these colors or their shades. I think this one thing really stands out for me and as I said, if i were to do this, I would choose a color or at most two and create a photo based on that. In some dishes, having many colors works (like ice cream with sprinkles) in others it does not – in my opinion.

As I said, overall this is a new presentation that I have seen for quesadilla. Its fresh.

What Do You Think?

What would you think? What are your suggestions for Jenn? Read this photo. What do you think about the frame? What about background? Your thoughts on the bright spot on the bottom right corner?

Do you need a feedback on your food photo? All you have to do is send us a note by clicking here or tweet me. We’ll get in touch with you and do the rest.

Photo used in this post is copyright of Jenn from JennCuisine.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention --

  • I think the blues are distracting. The quesadilla may have popped if it were set on a black dish. It is a little washed out with all the blue. Also, the avocado is too large for the stack.

    • Thank you for your comment Joan.

  • Actually I mostly like it, but I have a feeling the work you did in post-production went too far. I think the image is a little too washed out (especially the bottom right corner) and could benefit from a little more contrast.

    I also think you could have upped the saturation just at tiny bit. The overall image itself has a pale pastel look to it that could benefit with a little more punch. No need to go neon, but a little more kick would make the green avocado and the red tomato pop more. But that’s an aesthetic thing. I like my colors to pop.

    That said, I do think I like the little bit of tomato and parsley at the bottom of the dish. It helps draw your eye up and down the quesadilla. Adding back a little more contrast will help create more texture with the ridges of the quesadillas. And as Neel said, changing the color of the background from blue to a green or some other color would probably also help give the picture more depth.

  • Thanks for all of your ideas! I think I’ve been relying on that backdrop too much because of my limited space, so I’ll definitely work on finding a different set up 🙂

    It’s funny that you mention the lack of contrast – I had done two different processing versions in Photoshop – this one and a more saturated/contrasted one. I held a twitter poll about the two versions and most people picked the lighter one!

  • Iza

    Very nice shot. I actually like the blue atmosphere of the image- backdrop and the plate. I think it is toning down a bit and contrasts with brown filling of the quesadilla. At the same time, I would pick the plate without pattern on it all, I find that distracting. Also, I do not like the pieces of cheese and parsley at the bottom, in my opinion they don’t add to the image, they look like they were dropped while you were styling the plate and forgot to pick them up. I would prefer a clean plate.
    I like your framing and angle, but I was wondering if you tried also a lower angle, from the bottom. I just wonder what effect would it have on the quesadilla stack…

  • As I said in another comment: lowering the point of view would make the picture mor attractive. Secondly, the light is to flat. Bright light gives food a fresh radiation.

    With simple tools you can make much better results.
    1. lower the point of view
    2. tilt the camera a bit, let’s say 15°
    3. decrease the dof so the avocado is sharp but behind is blurred
    4. Put the subject further away from the background
    5. put your flash from left and a white board or foam on the right side to light up the shadows a bit. Can’t give you any distances, just play with it and you will see what’s more interesting to watch and what not.
    6. Cut a piece of it and pull it a little bit out or lay it on it’s side on a seperate plate in front of the quesadillas. Focus on this piece with the big one blurred on the background. Even better could be to take a bite from the piece
    7. sprinkle the avocado with very little olive oil. This creates beautiful highlights which make you almost crawl into your monitor to eat it 🙂

    Main important thing for food photography is that the light comes from right or left behind

    Hop this helps

    Bye from Holland

  • I’m from south Texas and quesadillas don’t get stacked like this and don’t look like this. I understand you were going for a different, new approach but to me this doesn’t scream quesadilla. I feel food should be presented so it’s instantly recognizable. Quesadillas should exude melted cheese. These appear to have refried beans inside – another bland food to photograph. To me the avocado is the center of attraction in this picture due to its size and color.

    That being said, the background and plate are distracting and overall the picture just seems dull/flat. There is too much “air” above the avocado. I am nowhere near a pro at this stuff but I try for a “mood” with my food photos. This food evokes no mood for me.

    Quesadillas are very tough to get just right – I know because I’ve tried and so far have always failed. Like me, keep trying!

  • kristin

    i agree about the plate -I think it reads asian not mexican and the shot is a little bean-y needs some nice melt-y cheese and the avo is a little large but I like the idea and it is a nice shot!

  • Marnu Gouws

    I love the competition of this image and the colour of the food with the bright reds and greens. On the other hand the advocado piece on top seems to distract me from the rest of the photo , it seems to big . If you make it a little smaller I think it would give a whole other dimension to the image . 🙂 but over all very good well done!

  • M

    1) I love stacked food.
    2) My eyes went to that sweet avocado arch, and to the food in general, immediately
    3) I like the amount of color. Like I said, I still focused on the food first, and I like that the red on top ties in with the red detail on the plate which then leads you to noticed the blue background, but not in a way that takes away. Just — it’s there. It almost reminds me of a chalkboard, like someone is going to write the specials down after they have lunch.
    I think it might be a tad overexposed, making the tortillas a little washed out, but I like the mellow muted colors. The only thing I know I don’t like here is that bright white table. I work my way around the photo and get to that and it kind of startles me. I like the amount of space between the edge of the photo and the edge of the plate, but I feel like the bottom could be cropped a touch just to minimize some of that white without impacting the perception of that margin.

  • Todays deal provides free coupons and discounts codes of on line deals to save your money on online purchase. Its is side where you can search and browse more than 15000 free discount codes and coupons of online stores, products and brand of your own choice. Todays deal helps people to save their money on online purchase by availing free discount codes and coupons on our webpage while making online purchase from your favorite online stores and brands. We provide the guide line not only to our regular customers but also to those who are new to online purchase by extending the benefit on your retail order by using discount codes and coupons.

  • Ramona

    Nice photo but could be better. I would have gone lower,tighter, reduced the size of avocado (way to big and distracting) and the plate was kind of random.