Six Top Tips for Food Photography

A flock of photographers, myself among them, is gathered on the roof of the Queen of Hoxton pub in London’s hipster Valhalla of Shoreditch. As each of us elbows for a better angle—now on one knee, then doubling-back for a view from behind–you might well wonder what could inspire such a frenzy among snap-happy paps. Kim and Kanye? Brangelina? Britney Spears gone commando again?

Rosé d’Anjou Loire Valley wine 2 bottles_4923

As it transpires, the object—or rather, objects—of our intense interest are a bevy of wine bottles and a table topped with delectable looking platters.

No one cares that the feast has gone cold. We know chef Daniel Ashley will be providing plenty more plates later on, all washed down with a tipple (or ten) of Rosé d’Anjou Loire Valley wines.

For the moment, however, our focus (ahem) is on a food photography tutorial. Our host Douglas Blyde, himself a writer and sommelier, has invited Paul Winch-Furness, one of London’s most sought after food photographers, to share his tips with us this evening.

“People are mystified by food photography,” says Winch-Furness, who counts Michel Roux Junior’s Roux at Parliament Square and Nobu London among his clients.

Paul Winch-Furness, buttressed by bottles of Rosé d’Anjou

Paul Winch-Furness, buttressed by bottles of Rosé d’Anjou

“I like things stripped down,” says the expert, who admits to suffering from “option anxiety.” As a result, he prefers to shoot with a manual focus, fixed-length lens—or even his phone.

“When you use your phone, it lends authenticity,” he explains. “People believe it’s real. When they see processed photos, they think that trickery is involved—and they’re often right.”

Here are Winch-Furness’ top six tips for food photography:

1. Get the light right

“Shoot towards the light or with the light to one side. If it’s dark, I use a reflector: a piece of white paper or a cocoa pops box covered with foil.”

(If you’re in a restaurant, it’s probably best to stick with the white paper. Waiters tend to get snippy when you whip out a cereal box in most fine dining establishments).

Kabobs get ready to feel the heat at the Queen of Hoxton

Kabobs get ready to feel the heat at the Queen of Hoxton

2. Stash the flash

“Turn off the flash if possible. It strips the food of its soul.” (Yes, all food is soul food, to one extent or another).

3. Back off the zoom and give the food room

“If you go right in on the plate, you lose the location and the atmosphere. The candles, the napkins, the salt and pepper shakers, the people…they tell an important part of the story. It’s interesting when you bring life and movement, a sense of reportage.”

Getting down to business with kabobs at the Queen of Hoxton

Dining on the rooftop of the Queen of Hoxton

4. Consider various angles

Just like people, dishes have their “best sides.” Some look great from above; others benefit from a horizontal view.

Seafood platter, top view

Seafood platter, top view

“You just have to try different things. A burger, for instance, wouldn’t photograph well if you shoot it from the top,” Winch-Furness sagely observes. “You’ll just get the bun.”

Seafood platter, side view

Seafood platter, side view

5. Warm it up

No, Wench-Furness isn’t suggesting that we photograph reheated leftovers. He’s referring to the colour of the images.

“Leave it a bit warm or a bit more magenta. It makes the food look more inviting. It makes me want to cook it, and I think that’s what food photography is really about.”

Indian feast, anyone?

Indian feast, anyone?

6. Forget the previous five tips

Chef Daniel Ashley of the Queen of Hoxton is raring to go.

Chef Daniel Ashley is raring to go.

“Don’t get hung up on what you should do. There isn’t just one ‘right’ way. Realizing that frees you up to experiment.”

So, if we follow his advice, can we substantially fatten our bank accounts simply by shooting our food? (With a camera, that is; most of us lack the, er, stomach for hunting).

“The only guaranteed way I have of earning money is if I sell all my equipment,” Winch-Furness says with a smile.

“If you want it to be a business, that’s great. But it’s not just a job; you have to enjoy it.”


View Paul Winch-Furness’ work or sign up for one of his food photography courses:

For more on how to properly “taste” wine—which is, apparently, somewhat more involved than opening your mouth and swallowing—click here:

For updates on the Queen of Hoxton’s special events:

Learn about Rosé d’Anjou Loire Valley wines:

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