Into a world of (often shoddy) Instagram food photos comes the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg's new cookbook, Food + Art, which aims to showcase food as an art form. • The 224-page book, published to coincide with the museum's 50th anniversary, features 116 recipes by Tampa Bay area chefs and other contributors. There's a focus on Florida and global dishes, from jumbo gumbo to Florida grouper shrimp terrine to Southeast Asian chicken curry. The drinks range from vanilla orchid iced tea to a nuevos amigos tequila cocktail, a raspberry vodka martini, a tiki typhoon and even bacon fat-washed gin. There are also tips for entertaining, beer and wine pairings and simply preparing gulf seafood. • Times staff photographer Eve Edelheit shot the photos for the cookbook. Here are a few words from her about the experience, plus some tips for us nonphotographers about how to make your food photos stand out.
Michelle Stark, Times food editor
I fell in love with food photography when I fell in love with my fiance. With every new dish he made at home after cooking all day for a living, I became more and more interested in photographing it. Photographing food clears my brain. Food is the best subject for a portrait — it doesn't move on its own, it naturally finds its light and it gives you all the time you need.
So last winter, when Food +Art publisher Story Farm approached me about shooting the cookbook for the MFA's 50th anniversary, I was elated. For several months, I worked with a team through several shoots as we put Food + Art together. We debated lighting, visual representation of recipes and crumb placement. I learned so much about producing a product that represents the history of a community.
As more and more people are taking photos of their food before diving into the dish for their first bites, here are some tips for making your food look as good as it tastes.
Light: Food looks better in natural light, especially when the light is coming from the side and even the back. Use a reflector, which can simply be a white piece of paper or napkin. This helps reflect light onto the front of the dish. Try not to use a flash when shooting food.
Composition: This changes with each dish. Some dishes look better photographed from the angle at which you would eat them, and others look better photographed from up above. For the cookbook, we had a set way of composing for chapter openers and the photos found within each recipe. I would often shoot from as many different angles as I could to make sure we were capturing each dish correctly. This involved ladders, chairs and lying on the ground.
Styling: I learned so much about food styling on this shoot. Learning from our art director and lead food stylist, I now understand how much thought and effort go into choices about plating, texture and accessories that go around the main dish. The type of surface a plate is set on or the color of the napkin next to it can have a large impact on the overall feel of the photo.
Eve Edelheit, Times staff photographer