Food and people: how to use them both in a photograph


Food and people: how to use them both in a photograph

When I take a photo of food, I am always careful to tell a story. This story is told through various elements: from colours, to light, to the human factor that may or may not be present.
I am often alone when I take pictures, so it’s difficult to find an available subject. I try to bribe by sister, my grandma, my parents or my boyfriend into getting involved.
The deal is always the same: you lend me your hands for a while and, in exchange, you can eat what’s in the photographs. Of course, they can only bite into the cake or biscuit after I have made sure that the photo has come out as I hoped!

They often make up barely credible excuses to get out of modelling for me. The most common excuse is: my hands aren’t neat and manicured, I don’t want you to use them in a photo that everyone will see. But it is exactly that sort of photo that has the most meaning.
When my grandma taught me how to recognise wild herbs, I managed to steal this photo of her as she sat in the garden cleaning rocket leaves. All the story I wished to tell can be seen in those hands lined with age and work.


When I manage to get around the excuses, I enjoy including a human subject in my photos.

My preferred method is to add a bit of action: a hand taking a slice of cake or holding a cup. I don’t want the hand to be the main subject of the photo, instead I want it to add a bit of movement, of human warmth. I want what is just a simple photographic set to be transformed, as if by magic, into a scene stolen from daily life.



I like to use human subjects to better show off the food, to render it immediately the central subject of the photo, cancelling out any possible distraction.

In this case, obviously, the subject must dress appropriately: no loud colours or patterns that disturb the photo. Even the clothes themselves, the choice of what to wear and how to wear it, will add something extra to the story that you want to create.


A white, woolly jumper is best suited to winter photos, with an almost Christmassy theme: it makes a uniform background and adds texture and warmth to the photo. A checked shirt, however, talks of springtime, trips to the country and picnics. You don’t need to add anything more to the photo; with these small details, you already manage to place the food, the star of your photo, in a very precise context.



A photo with a human subject can also be used to better present ingredients, which would otherwise lie abandoned on a table. The artichokes in this photo, held in the hand and presented in a suitable natural light, are almost like a bouquet of flowers.


Even when we want to illustrate a step in a recipe, it can be handy to have someone available to help with the photos. When you knead bread or prepare fresh pasta, the hands suddenly become the main subject. In this case, I like to take the photo from level with the table top, to focus all of the attention on the hand movement.



Of course, you don’t always need to have a model available: with a tripod, a self-timer and a few practices, you can manage to have enough time to get from behind the camera to in front of it, get into position and even crack an egg.


Giulia Scarpaleggia

Giulia Scarpaleggia, teacher of Tuscan cookery courses for tourists, Tuscan food blogger, writer and photographer, 33 years old, from Colle Val d’Elsa (Siena).
I started my blog in February 2009. In January 2012, I began working full-time as a food blogger and teacher of cookery courses.
In December 2012, my first book ‘I Love Toscana’ was published by Food Editore in Italian and English.
In September 2013, I won the Macchianera Food Award for best Italian food blogger.
In September 2014, my second book, ‘Cucina da Chef con ingredienti low cost’ (Chef Cooking with Low Cost Ingredients) was published by BUR.
Blog: www.julskitchen.com
Twitter: @JulsKitchen
Facebook: Juls’ Kitchen
Pinterest: Juls’ Kitchen
Instagram: JulsKitchen

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