Francesco Tonelli’s food photography tips

With his background as a chef and a culinary arts teacher, food photographer Francesco Tonelli is ideally qualified to offer tips on producing compelling food photography. Some of his advice:

  • “First you have to love food,” says Tonelli. “Really, it is important to establish a connection with the food you are photographing. Look at it, touch it, cook it, eat it.” He explains that he does his best work photographing a dish when he can imagine himself eating it. “That helps me capture the taste and essence of a dish.”
  • Embrace the small imperfections and allow the food to be natural and itself. Often a small piece of food that fell from where you placed it or that sticks out slightly adds a real and natural touch to the image, which can make it more relatable and therefore appetizing.
  • © Francesco Tonelli
    Be ready and work fast. The appearance of some food changes the minute you take it off the stove or out of the oven. He says, “Pizza, for example, is bubbly and alive when it’s cooking but when you take it out of the oven the cheese stops bubbling and the sauce settles a little very quickly. It’s a challenge to capture that special, volatile moment of freshness that may only last seconds.”
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. “Some of my favorite pictures are of half-eaten dishes of food. Take chances. Be creative.”
  • Details matter. “The shapes, colors and textures of food can inspire you how to light a shot. Look for a food’s most unique characteristics and focus on them. Remember what you are after is appetite appeal. You know you are ready to shoot when the food looks so good you want to eat it!”

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Rober Kiener is a writer in Vermont