2022

Talking with Local Food Photographers

Conversations with Steve Adams and Jonathan Gayman

With over a million meals provided nationwide, most people know GiftAMeal as a program that helps restaurants make a big difference in their local communities.

Thanks to the round-the-clock work of our users — diners taking and sharing photos of their purchase for a good cause — we've also become known as the industry's happiest amateur food photography archive.

Every photo on GiftAMeal can feed up to 4 people, so it's no wonder our users smile so much. Our passion is healing hunger, and we're grateful to do it by helping people capture and remember their fun-filled moments. 

Our users tell us all the time that their photo feed always makes them happy… and hungry! And restaurant owners are clear: great food photos make all the difference.

To learn more about the power of food photography — and what it means to dedicate yourself to the craft of making food look its very best — we turned to local professionals Steve Adams and Jonathan Gayman

Neither Adams nor Gayman began their career with a focus on food photography. Adams studied fine arts photography in school, while Gayman honed his craft on commercial photography before moving to food.

For Adams, the first foray into the culinary world came through a job with St. Louis' own Anheuser-Busch. Gayman's path was less direct, developing out of a personal food blog he started simply to keep busy and stay creative in the midst of relocating his commercial photography business from New York.

Given the wide array of foods that GiftAMeal users photograph, we couldn't resist asking both pros: what foods are the best to shoot?  

Pressed for a favorite, Adams confessed that his favorite shoots were those that allowed for creative interpretation in the form of photographing individual ingredients. He enthusiastically explained the joy of rising to the challenge of capturing these foodstuffs: "There are a TON of fun things that you can do with ingredients… and colors… and giant constructions..."

For Gayman, the ultimate assignment comes between two slices of bread: “Sandwiches offer a wide range of creative challenges that can result in some really lovely images. Plus, who DOESN'T love a sandwich?” That certainly rang true to the team at GiftAMeal, where every day countless lunchtime photos show that people agree.

But while for GiftAMeal users the flow of ‘app—photo—post’ may be completed in under a minute, professional photographers may spend the day taking hundreds of photos in various conditions and configurations of lighting and equipment.

We asked Adams and Gayman what the most difficult part of taking pictures of food is. For Adams, it’s the lighting: “Lighting is the most important thing in any photograph... I think that’s also the most difficult.” 

Gayman suggests that “the hardest part about food photography is forcing yourself to not take the ‘same’ photograph over and over again… The challenge is to figure out how to make each shot unique and visually interesting without duplicating yourself.”

Finally, Adams and Gayman offered their advice to anyone interested in pursuing professional food photography. The most essential ingredient in such a career? Tenacity. “Shoot all kinds of food, paying special attention [to] less attractive food, and figure out how to make it beautiful,” explained Gayman. “And then do it again. And again.”

Here at GiftAMeal, we love a good food photo. And we're grateful that no matter how we set up our shots, each photo has the power to help feed a local family. Now, that is beautiful.