We might think about GiftAMeal—in addition to its being a meal donation system and a marketing platform—as a sort of amateur food photography archive. GiftAMeal has thousands of users taking pictures at local restaurants. So, do our users count as—albeit amateur—food photographers? We started thinking about how a program like GiftAMeal and professional food photography might relate to one another.
We reached out to two local food photographers, Steve Adams and Jonathan Gayman, to find out more about what it means to make a living in food photography. Neither Adams nor Gayman began as food photographers. Adams studied fine arts photography in school, while Gayman took photos for businesses before coming to food.
Adams’s first experience in the food photography field was through an Anheuser-Busch job. After 10 years in New York, Gayman moved his photography business to St. Louis. In the midst of the transition, he started a food blog as a means of keeping busy. The hobby eventually developed into a professional field.
We, as GiftAMeal users, photograph all different sorts of food and drink items: burgers, pancakes, BBQ, coffee, beer, etc. So, we asked if Adams and Gayman had favorite types of food to shoot.
Adams enjoys the challenge involved in photographing ingredients and says, "there are a ton of fun things that you can do with ingredients and colors and giant constructions." Whereas, Gayman prefers sandwiches: “Sandwiches offer a wide range of creative challenges that can result in some really lovely images. Plus, who doesn’t love a sandwich?” The possibilities for beautiful sandwich photography are certainly something to keep in mind when deciding how to set yourself up for the perfect GiftAMeal shot (order a sandwich).
Of course, something like food photography can be easy to underestimate. We pull out our phones, snap pictures of our meals, and publish in under a minute. But naturally, there are variables that most of us don’t consider when we publish.
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, however, 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.”
For anyone interested in extending their food photography career beyond GiftAMeal, Adams and Gayman have recommendations. They point to tenacity as an essential part of a career in food photography. “Shoot all kinds of food, paying special attention [to] less attractive food, and figure out how to make it beautiful,” says Gayman. “And then do it again. And again.”
Here at GiftAMeal, the reason we take pictures of our food is to provide a meal. Building a beautiful visual record of where we’ve been, what we’ve eaten, and with whom is an added benefit.