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Book Bag: That Photo Makes Me Hungry Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

17 March 2020

Under the guise of a book promising to concern itself with "photographing food for fun and profit," New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani has hidden a treatise on being a photographer in the 21st century that more than once reminded us of Machiavelli's The Prince.

Machiavelli was ostensively giving political advice to a young prince but he had much bigger things in mind. And so, apparently, has Scrivani.

This isn't a list of food styling tricks to emulate real dishes while making the food inedible. Just the opposite. It's about showing how delicious real food actually is by using light, your camera and your eye to tell a story.

In fact, those are the chapters: Seeing the Light, Decoding the Settings, Compositing the Shot, Telling a Story and Making a Living.

They are packed with practical advice from his great grandmother Sadie's kitchen to his own studio. And they go well beyond where to put the plate to how to build a network of people to help out and how to treat even troublesome clients on the set.

He even shows you how to negotiate a contract with a list of questions to ask and he gives you advice about getting more business.

It isn't the conventional advice you've read over and over, either. Take this paragraph on lighting style:

Lighting has the ability to shape how we feel, to imply season or time of day, and, most importantly, to convey the intention of the photographer as to what story she wants to tell. It is an essential aspect of determining both the individual image and the overall style for which a photographer wants to be know. Many times, a client will hire a photographer more for the way they light than the way they compose. Understanding what our intentions are and how you can use light to tell your story visually is the first step.

No slight of hand there. Scrivani focuses on the fundamentals not tricks.

Spreads. Mouse over or tap for captions.

Sometimes the advice is not what you want to hear, of course. But coming from Scrivani, it's a well-lit, sugar-coated morsel. Like this:

I have very often looked at the portfolios and Web sites of photographers I have taught and trained and given them some simple advice: highlight what you do best and lose the rest. Sometimes this is very painful, because it means letting go of the things you really enjoy photographing but when an objective viewer tells you that you have an eye for this and not that, it is wise to listen.

We took a very long time to get through this 184-page book because we enjoyed it so much that we wanted it to last. Which, when we thought about it, is how we feel about a good meal. We want it to last.

If Scrivani rings a bell, it could be because we featured a short video of him in 2017 as part of a Saturday Matinee.

Scrivani's photos may indeed make you hungry but you'll find his text satisfies that hunger. It goes well beyond food photography toward a philosophy of life that just happens to involve having a camera handy.

That Photo Makes Me Hungry by Andrew Scrivani, published by Countryman Press, 184 pages, $24.95 (or $14.99 at

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