Here at RocketNews24 we often cover food whether it’s weird, wonderful, or a waste of money. As such, we often have to take pictures of it. However, since none of us are photographers by trade, we often make do with whatever is lying around, be it iPhone, SLR, or Game Boy Pocket Camera.

We’re not alone either as many a Facebook or Instagram page can be found flooded with images of people’s dinners. However, even though that picture of last night’s pastitsio looks really good to us, how does it actually compare to someone who takes pictures for a living? Has the technology gotten to the point where anyone can make gorgeous food shots, or has it only fueled our own delusions of photographic grandeur? We decided to do a direct comparison using two people and one dish.

The rules

For this study we have asked a professional photographer Naoko Tachibana to go click for click against our own writer Sato Unit 02 who’s no relation to Mr. Sato – until the test results come back.

On the day of the shoot, both participants are allowed to bring only what they themselves can carry, which means no elaborate equipment. Small, handheld lights are permitted but no flashes are to be used.

It should be noted that this is not meant to be a contest, because we’re pretty sure who will have the better shots. Rather, this is meant to be a comparison of an amateur and a professional when shooting food. Unit 02 is fairly confident in his food recording skills as any RocketNews24 writer is, but that didn’t stop him from making a preemptive concession speech with this lame excuse:

“I’m kind of rusty with my camera because I’ve only been eating Cup Noodles every day recently.”
(Sato Unit 02)

The muse

The subject of this study was chosen to be the 100% Matsusaka Beef Bliss Premium Hamburg Set. This is a hamburg not a hamburger. Hamburg is the Japanese term for a bunless patty served with sauce, also known as a Salisbury Steak in other lands.

However, this hamburg is an exquisite specimen sold by Yacchaba Marche and delivered to your home for 5,480 yen (US$53). It’s a double textured piece with a solid mass of Matsusaka beef coated in ground Matsusaka beef all stewed in a delectable demi-glace. Since this was to be a comparison of delicious food photography we wanted to go big.

Sato Unit 02: Results

Unit 02 arrived at the studio and met with the hamburg. The lighting was kept low to simulate home or restaurant conditions. He whipped out his selected weapon of choice, an iPhone, and began touching the screen to focus.

Here are Unit 02’s best shots:

Actually his shots weren’t too bad at all. The deliciousness could be felt, but the images were a little soft and undefined. This was a bold dish in terms of color and shape but features such as the crinkle in the fries were dulled somewhat. Perhaps he was too anxious.

Naoko Tachibana: Results

Ms. Tachibana brought out her SLR and lamp. Although it was less than she usually works with, she was determined to capture the bounty of deliciousness emanating from this dish.

Here are Naoko Tachibana’s best shots:

Now, that looks quite delicious! The multiple textures at play in the dish can be felt in each image. Especially as we see the demi-glace drizzle between the nooks of the different meats, you could just imagine how it feels as you bite down on the tenderness. They say if you make people want to eat it, then it’s a successful photo, and I’m really hungry.


Afterwards, Naoko also took some similar shots with Unit 02’s iPhone for good measure.

Our professional also left us with some tips for taking beautiful food shots without the need of expensive or complicated gear:

  • Some backlighting is good, and if there’s more lighting in the room then more backlighting can be good too.
  • No shadows. Make sure your head and arms aren’t casting darkness on the subject.
  • No frills. Get rid of anything not related to the meal. It’s a distraction.
  • Choose your angles, and if all the food is on a single dish mind the placement of the main food and side dishes.

So next time when you’re about to eat something so delicious that you have to take a picture of it, why not take a moment to consider these tips and see if your results look any better. Then people might really believe that French toast you had this morning was as incredibly delicious as you say because it truly looks that way.

Or perhaps you feel while Naoko has some style, it doesn’t really make the food look that much more delicious than other photos? Sound off below if you think Sato Unit 02 did a fine enough job or if Ms. Tachibana is the only true photographer here.

Original Article by Kuzo
Photographer: Naoko Tachibana from Taiyodo
Steak from Yacchaba Marche

[ Read in Japanese ]