For Gary!

I do post some of my food and macro pictures in photography forums and on this particular night, I received an email notification that someone by the handle of “gcyhakjj” had a message for me.

“Wow! These pictures are really making me hungry! Can you give some tips on how you will compose your shots? I can never seem to grasp food related photography! Especially with several dishes of food, all in one photo.”

So I redirected this person (didn’t know the gender then) to my old post on how I started, but first, I went over that post to see if it will help him before sending him the link. Memories rushed back to me. I got a refresher course myself. I am grateful he posted the question. I certainly have forgotten some of those tips that I have dished out in that post Igniting A Passion @ A-roy Thai

I wrote back:

Hi gcyhakjj, food like any genre does have a hero or main subject and that’s where i focus after determining it. Where a table of several items are displayed, i try to move the dishes so that the shape and colour (of food) compliment each other instead of competing. I particularly like “action” at table where food is overflowing so as to bring away the attentiion of the “messy-ness” and highlight a different message that is the sharing, bonding and enjoyment of food. The two key points [in food photography is to have a purpose/direction when taking photos. I am no longer simply taking] are 1) photos “of” food but at appropriate times, 2) photos “about” the dish I blog.

If you don’t mind reading a post I blogged on how I started food photography, click here :

His reply?

“Hey SemiHan!

Really appreciate your prompt response and also, the tips you have shared! I read on your blog entry about the point of “zooming in” for details and also, “Food photos need not be displayed “whole” all the time.”. I am glad I read your blog entry and learnt a great deal out of the tips.

Thanks once again 🙂 and looking forward to more works of yours! – Gary.”

That’s how I learnt his name.

This post is For Gary 🙂

I’m posting this on my blog for you, Gary, so you can always return when you forget.

Most of all, enjoy the food after taking the photos 😀

To everyone who is reading this: Since I am learning photography for the purpose of putting reasonably good photos on my blog, I shall write food photography according to my experience and understanding. I am not a professional writer nor photographer so please excuse me if you find what I share hard to swallow. Thank you for your kind understanding.

Ready or not, here we go!

Always determine the message you want to convey to those seeing your photos.

What is the purpose, the storyboard so to speak, that will be the key point to whether you should take photos “of” food (for example product shoot, marketing purposes) or photos “about” food (for example family celebrations, blogging purposes, festive or corporate events for keepsake of memories).

I particularly like “action” at table where food is overflowing so as to bring away the attentiion of the “messy-ness” and highlight a different message that is the sharing, bonding and enjoyment of food.

Seoul Korea Day 3

Random photo-taking of natural activities at the table…

BBQ Chicken Wings @ Pasir Panjang Food Centre

Taking food photos in different angle.

Come Daily Fried Hokkien Mee

Help the hawker or chef if the food presentation is obscure by rearranging the ingredients.
This is not cheating as you are not adding extras to the actual food.
Many hawkers are also facing problems like inflation. If you like the food served, highlight them so the business can continue to be roaring and your favourite stall is functioning sufficiently during hard times.

Hua Ting Restaurant-9341-2

Taking photo “of” food.
This is rather straight forward and is similar to product or still live shoot.

Heng Long Teochew Porridge-2279

Food photos like this gives more information to my readers instantly.
They know my meal was not consumed in a fancy restaurant leading to an estimation of cost of meal, also.

Joo Seng Teochew Porridge 裕成潮州糜

Food photos can look good in Portrait frames.
Choose a hero and in this case, it was the braised duck in the foreground.
You can choose something in the middle too but I feel taking food at the back would be too much guess work for the viewers.

Show readers the natural environment if you are a blogger or the like, the partaking and enjoyment of meal. Was it casual or business?

Heng Long Teochew Porridge-2330

Although the depth of field is shallow, one can still tell that this was eaten at a coffeeshop, cafe, or medium size eatery and not a fine dining restaurant.

Seoul Korea Day 3

The table may be overflowing but we can still focus on a hero, in this case the Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup, Samyetang.
This photo also tease the reader’s mind, was this a local restaurant or enjoyed overseas?

Il Teatro Wynn Macau-0968

If the texture of the food allows, show the texture and colour to stimulate the viewers’ salivary glands, making them hungry and wanting to eat the food (sublimal – photos in menu can make people order a small side dish even though they’ve just had eaten).


A waitress pouring drinks quickly lets you know about the level of service and its efficiency the restaurant engage in and therefore the likelihood of paying service charge although it is not true for some establishments.
A simple visual like this also lets you know that this is probably a Japanese restaurant.

Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant-6951-2

This Golden Sand Bun “Liu Sar Bao” immediately clue you that we were eating at a Chinese restaurant, probably having dim sum.
Some foods are noted for their particular flavour or traits and in this case, Liu Sar Bao should be runny not pastey so reader of a food blog could easily identify with the diner’s response or critcism and decide for themselves if they ought to give the food or place a try.
Bloggers should take care not badmouth or over-rate a F&B joint for personal agenda or vendetta, they are also responsible for their readers’ hard-earned money.
That said, I do agree that taste is subjective.

Ju Feng Garden Kitchen-6477-2

Food dishes need not be taken “whole”.
We can tell this was a steamed squid baby squid dish.
Now that was easy isn’t, it?

chirashizushi @ The Japanese Association Singapore

How about this dish?
You’re right! It’s a Chirashi, Japanese one dish meal with sashimi on rice.

Chicken Roulade @ Bonding Tool's Recipe

Food porn!
Are you salivating yet?

Chinese Roast Pork @ Imperial Treasure @ Amara

This was taken with a macro lens.
The lens brought out the crispy crackling’s texture perfectly!
Again note the angle of food taken.

This post is dedicated to Gary but it is also meant for me. I got a refresher course.

Thank you Gary!

Happy photo-taking and eating 🙂

Click to read related articles:
Igniting A Passion (How my photography began)
When 19’s Not A Crowd (first started learning DSLR)
Stop Bugging Me! (finally pursued another genre in photography)

2 Responses to “For Gary!”
  1. It’s a Chirashi, Japanese one dish meal with sashimi on rice.
    My favorite photo…
    Keep on keepin’ on … ME and the Boss

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