Everyone likes good food. Food photography — some call it foodtography — is not something always whetting one’s appetite. This however is food like you’ve never seen before. The Photography of Modernist Cuisine, an amazing photography book for food, is not if you’re looking for recipes. You get enthusiastic descriptions — of food photographs.
Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft executive turned cookbook author, doesn’t do anything by half measures. The chieftain behind the six-volume, 2,400-page, 43-pound Modernist Cuisine publishes his latest oeuvre: a (very) large-format 312-page compilation of the cookbook’s best and some not yet published, 145 full-bleed photographs.
It is a coffee table book for food and photo lovers. There are no recipes in the book, but there are plenty of photo tips, including tips for taking photos of food at home or in restaurants:
- Sit where the light is good
- Shoot from a high or low angle, focus on the closest or most interesting part of the food, and simplify the scene
- Use a tripod and the self timer to prevent camera shake
- When shooting with a smartphone, use an app that can capture high-dynamic-range images
- Diffuse a flash through a napkin
- Bounce the flash off a card and a white surface
Take the front cover closeup of a beefsteak tomato, so macro you can see the fibers of the stem. Crystallized vitamin C was photographed using a microscope — well that’s useful for imaging the cellular structure of plant tissue or details such as the fat-covered bubbles in whipped cream.
Other closeups include a grapefruit segment whose membrane has been sloughed away by enzymes, the undulating folds of the surface of red cabbage, the black foot of a silkie chicken.
Or take the frozen hindquarters of a pig that was cut with a band saw for a cross-sectional view, illustrating the areas that contain more dark-red myoglobin. Pots and pressure cookers were sliced in half and heat-tolerant glass adhered to the side so that food could be photographed during the cooking process.
A chapter on the techniques of modernist food photography pulls back the curtain at the cooking lab to explain, in a highly visual way, how they captured and digitally edited their most distinctive images.
The book shares details on the cameras, lenses, software and lighting techniques used, including tips for taking better photos of food at home or in a restaurant, even if all you have on hand is a point-and-shoot camera or a camera phone.
+++ You can order the Photography of Modernist Cuisine from Amazon.