a stack of food photography books sit on a counter top with a coffee cup on top of them

11th December 2019

7 Essential Food Photography Books to Read in 2020

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Let’s talk self development. 2019 is coming to a close and we’re starting to get into goal setting mode for 2020. With food photography education freely available online, it can be easy to forget the humble book.

7 Essential Food Photography Books to Read in 2020

I love getting stuck into a meaty book that fully explores a topic, allowing you to grow your knowledge in one area in a big way.

Before we dive in, I want to tell you about my super exciting announcement for 2020! In just a few weeks, I’m launching Food Photography Academy, a creative membership academy for aspiring food photographers. In the Academy, you get access to ALL my online courses, a tech vault, monthly live masterclasses and an academy community.

Let’s dig into some 2020 readin’!

This post contains affiliate links which means I may make a commission if you choose to purchase a book through my link. This does not affect the price you pay and does not affect my decision to recommend it to you!

1. The Photography of Modernist Cuisine

By Nathan Myhrvold

The stunning photography from Nathan Myhrvold’s series of state-of-the-art cookbooks gets a spin-off edition all of its own. Needless to say, the result of seeing all these images collected together in a single tome is pretty darn impressive.

If you’re not familiar with Myhrvold’s work, the recipes in the original Modernist Cuisine series fused the culinary arts with science and technology, employing lab-style precision and advanced equipment in the pursuit of new culinary frontiers.

Appropriately enough, the photographs that illustrate these recipes take exactly the same approach; combining meticulous attention to detail, hi-tech trickery, and a good dose of old fashioned creativity to produce a thoroughly modern form of food photography.  

Whatever kind of food photography you’re into, it would be hard not to be impressed by these amazingly well executed images. Particularly the action shots and cutaways. But from a budding food photographer’s point of view, what really makes this book worth checking out is the chapter where the authors dish up the details on how they went about producing their incredible photos. Recommended!

Click here to buy “The Photography of Modernist Cuisine”

2. From Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling

By Hélène Dujardin

Author Hélène Dujardin is the professional pastry chef and photographer behind the food blog Tartelette. This background makes her doubly qualified to guide her readers through the process of becoming a food photographer. A task she tackles admirably in this book, providing plenty of clear and comprehensive advice on everything from the technical aspects of photography to how to approach food styling.

While you won’t find anything too revolutionary here in terms of images, From Plate to Pixel is nonetheless a great starting point for beginners and provides plenty of insight into the life of a professional food photographer.

Click here to buy “From Plate to Pixel”

3. Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots

By Nicole S. Young

Another good practical guide to shooting food photography from pro-photographer Nicole S. Young. Here the author assumes that you already know how to operate the controls of your camera, and instead concentrates on the nitty gritty of food photography itself.

However, Young’s real strong point is in postproduction, and so her book will particularly appeal to those looking to learn digital editing techniques that are specifically applicable to food photography.

Click here to buy “From Snapshots to Great Shots”

4. Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. (Lauren’s favourite!)

By Fil Hunter, Paul Fuqua, and Steven Biver

Many would argue that the only way to properly learn photographic lighting skills is by gaining plenty of down-and-dirty practical experience, with careful real-world observation of light. There’s a lot of truth to this. And if you really want to master photographic lighting, there’s no real substitute for simply working with light time and time again, learning from your own mistakes and discoveries.

But this process can be considerably accelerated and condensed by also profiting from the mistakes and discoveries of others. Practical photography tutorials and workshops are an excellent way of learning, but you’ll get even more out of this kind of tuition by doing some of your own reading and research on the side as well.

Light Science & Magic has something to teach everyone, from curious amateurs to seasoned pros. The fact that it’s also core-reading on numerous university photography programs gives you an idea of just how serious this book is.

Yet despite the in-depth exposition of often technically advanced material, Light Science & Magic neither bores nor bewilders. Hard facts, clearly and comprehensively explained; this is the only book about photographic lighting you’ll ever need.

Click here to buy “Light, Science and Magic”

5. Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera

By Delores Custer

One of the biggest problems that many food photographers encounter early in their careers, is that their photographic skills will tend to grow much faster than their food styling skills. So although you might be getting to the stage where your photography is up to professional caliber, if you don’t happen to know an equally talented food stylist, the styling side of things might be letting your images down.

Probably the best solution to this problem is simply taking the matter into your own hands and learning how to do some basic styling yourself. And on this front Custer’s book is undoubtedly one of the best resources currently available.

Related: My Top 5 Food Styling Tricks for Food Bloggers

You don’t need to have the slightest intention of switching professional roles in order for this book to be useful. Indeed, any styling skills you acquire now will only be an asset in your future career behind the camera.

Aside from this though, even if you have already forged a winning creative team with a fantastic stylist, I’d still recommend getting a good overview of how food styling works. This makes Delores Custer’s book essential reading for all of us.

Click here to buy “Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera”

6. That Photo Makes Me Hungry: Photographing Food for Fun & Profit

By Andrew Scrivani

A serious book from a serious professional, Andrew Scrivani’s no nonsense writing style and clear explanations give plenty of insight into the working methods of this highly successful food photographer.

Scrivani excels in strong compositions and distinctive use of light – often directional and slightly moody, yet always quite natural and attractive. These skills have made him a regular contributor to the New York Times and Conde Nast publications.

Clearly, then, Andrew has plenty to teach us on the photographic side of things. Above all, though, Scrivani has a real talent for making dishes look appetizing through a lens. Read and learn!

Click here to buy “That Photo Makes me Hungry”

7. Still Life: Irving Penn Photographs, 1938-200

By Irving Penn and John Szarkowski

As food photographers, we often define ourselves in opposition to other photographic genres; concentrating obsessively on our core interest in food, and downplaying the overlaps and similarities with other photographic styles.

But that’s a shame, as there’s an enormous amount to be learned from other photographic disciplines. In any case, some people would argue that food photography is merely a sub-category of still life photography anyway.

Whatever your personal opinion on this matter, it makes little sense to ignore the all time photographic greats. Regardless of the area of photography they may have worked in. And they don’t come much greater than Irving Penn.

Penn may be best known for his portrait and fashion photography of glamorous people, but as the book Still Life testifies, he could also pull off some pretty stunning images of more mundane subjects too. Often quirky and original, I’ve found Penn’s still life photography really inspirational of late.

And for those who prefer their photography subjects edible, there’s actually quite a lot of food in this book. Albeit frequently combined and photographed in a somewhat unconventional manner.

Click here to buy Still Live: Irving Penn Photographs

So there you have my top picks for 2020! I don’t think you can ever have too much self development, and any of these books will provide a great start for you.

If you want to join me in the brand new Food Photography Academy, opening in January to the VIP’s, then make sure you click here to get on the VIP list!

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