Tastespotting is one of the top food photo submission sites. In this interview
the an editor for Tastespotting and food writer, Jennifer Bartoli, tells few secrets on why some photos are never published on the website, what are the elements of great food photo and what to keep in mind, if you would like your photos to be published on Tastespotting reveals a few secrets to great food photo and what to keep in mind if you would like to submit food photos to Tastespotting. In this interview, we ask Jennifer to share with us, some common problems in most food photos and advice for food photographers.
Let’s Welcome Jennifer Bartoli
the an editor for Tastespotting.com. She goes through hundreds of food photos every day looking for those few photos that may make it to the Tastespotting website and then get viewed by thousands of people. In this interview Jennifer talks about what is a good photo, how she selects a food photo and why so many food photos are not published. In this interview Jennifer talks about what makes a good photo, and what kind of things keep a photo from being published. She has a food blog Chocolate Shavings, where she posts recipes. Her blog won “Good Looking Blog” award from the “Does My Blog Look Good in This” (DMBLGIT) team twice in 2 years. (Read more about: How to Make Your Blog Good Looking.) She is also listed in Saveur’s “Sites We Love” list.
Tell us about yourself? How did you get involved with Tastespotting?
Born in Paris, France I’ve been passionate about food for as long as I can recall. I was always cooking and baking as a young teen, and spent countless afternoons making up recipes to my mother’s despair (they really weren’t all good!). After obtaining my political science degree from McGill University, I decided to follow my childhood passion and moved to NYC to attend the French Culinary Institute (FCI). It was then and there that I decided my career would have to revolve around food. I had already started my personal blog, played around with a camera and with food presentation and I decided to turn into a career. A few years later, here I am…
I’ve been working as a food writer, recipe developer and photographer and have also been an online editor for Tastepotting for the past 2 years. Tastespotting was born in Los Angeles in 2007 out of a desire to bring together the most beautiful food photos from different blogs and websites around the world. Today, the site is expanding and we are happy to say that we are getting an ever-growing number of submissions daily.
What is a good photo?
First and foremost, I think it’s important to state a simple fact: a photo is a true form of artistic expression and what I like and what speaks to me might not be something you find esthetic or beautiful.
That being said, a few basics have to be present for a photo to be qualified as "good". Lighting, especially in food photography, is absolutely essential. The food has to look the way it’s supposed to look, colors have to be vibrant, and the subject has to be properly lit or the shot will not have its desired effect… making you want to dig in to whatever is presented before you!
Composition is also essential. A good photo will hold your attention and make you want to keep on looking at what’s in front of you. If the composition is too crowded or not aesthetically pleasing, the viewer will turn away.
A good food photo will give you an instant impression of dimensions that go beyond the 2-D image: it will tell you what the texture of the food is like, the ambiance surrounding a meal or a dish, and maybe even the smell that could be emanating from the dish.
When you are selecting a food photo, what are some of the absolutely basic things that are required in a photo?
For me, the first basic thing is that a food photo has to look appetizing or have a special visual appeal. Some subjects make that easier to achieve than others (think of a perfectly frosted slice of cake versus a chunky shapeless vegetable stew) but the end result has to be that your first impression when seeing the shot is that you would love the dish to make its way to your table right away.
Secondly, the photo must be properly composed. You want to be able to see what is being photographed, and the subject should be crisp and sharp, drawing the eye in. If the photo is dark and blurry, it’s usually not a good sign!
What are the most common problems that you see in photos that are submitted?
The most common problems that I see in the food photos we receive is that the photos are not properly focused and that the image isn’t sharp. If the image isn’t sharp enough, the photo immediately becomes a little bland. Another common problem is lighting – food photography can be fussy because a yellow-light (like the ones most of us have in our homes) will make the colors of the food unnatural and fake with a yellow-tint.
Another common problem is composition and food styling. Even if a plate of spaghetti with generous amounts of tomato sauce can be absolutely mouth-watering in real-life, in a food photo it can look messy and unappetizing.
How can aspiring food photographer improving the composition skills?
My advice would be to play around with plating options at home, try different things and experiment. Try photographing a slice of cake in the foreground with a blurred steaming cup of tea in the background. Then try placing the slice on one side of the shot, and placing the whole cake on the other side in the background….always try a vertical and a horizontal shot to try different compositions until you find the one you believe most suited to the subject.
Which is your favorite food photo that you took and tell us how you took it?
I don’t think I can say I have one favorite food photo.. but If I had to choose one at the moment it would be these chocolate zucchini muffins. I took the photo for a publication I work with and I wanted to capture the rustic, uneven texture of the muffins. The aerial shot seemed to be the best suited to that idea and I just like the simplicity of the end result.
Which is one of your favorite food photos taken by someone else and tell us what you like about the photo?
In terms of aesthetics, I really like anything Donna Hay. Some of her dessert pictures are just amazing – and you can recognize a photo as being Donna Hay’s from miles away. She has a real ‘style’. I also love the photos from Cannelle et Vanille (like these food photos). I find it absolutely stunning!
What advice do you have for people that would like their photos published on Tastespotting?
My biggest advice would be to work on making sure you have the proper amount of lighting when you take a photo so it’s clear and crisp without being overly-exposed and looking like you used an over-powering flash.
Also work on composition and clarity – sometimes when you’ve made a meal, tasted it and seen it you forget that a person who simply looks at the photo has not. You have to make them feel those things without having them be there when the meal is served.
Your favorite food photographers/stylists? Any favorite food photography blog and food photography book?
As I mentioned, I absolutely love Donna Hay – her books, her magazines, the whole package. I also really love the photographs and food styling in the Australian version of Delicious magazine and the photos from Good Food, one of the food magazines of the BBC. I also love the photography in the books by Trish Deseine.
In terms of blogs, Cannelle et Vanille (Neel’s note: Read our food photography interview with Aran Goyoaga) and Green Kitchen Stories are favorites of mine these days…but there are many more since I get to look through the most beautiful photos daily when working on Tastespotting!
Thank you Jennifer
Thanks a lot Jennifer for sharing some tips on what can food bloggers do to get published in Tastespotting.
Dear Reader, if you have a specific question on how to get published in Tastespotting or anything related to Tastespotting, leave a comment below and I’ll follow up with Jennifer and we’ll try to get you an answer.
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Your comments mean a lot to me and I am sure the interviewee appreciates it also. If you would like to learn about lighting for food photography don’t forget to read/listen to our interview with Liz from Zested.
Some information in this interview was updated per interviewee request.