My First Time as a Food Photography Judge

My First Time as a Food Photography Judge

I’ve recently been invited to sit as a judge in a food photography contest. While I have already sat as a judge in a number of food contests, I haven’t really tried judging in a food photography contest. I guess, the organizers thought that since food presentation is among the criteria in judging food contests, I’d be a good judge. Well, they were right. Things went well and I enjoyed the experience.

The other judges (two professional photographers, a restaurateur, and a well-known food blogger) were very helpful. They gave me few tips on how to judge food photographs. I learned a lot from them which I can use on my future cooking projects.

As a food contest judge, one of the things that initially catches the attention of judges is the food plating; the same is true with food photography. Food presentation is king and this can be achieved through a close collaboration between the chef and the photographer. It’s actually a team approach. I don’t think you can take a sumptuous shot on a lousy dish. It just won’t work.

In one of the entries, the photographer did a wide aerial shot, several feet above the large plate. I guess, the photographer used one of the quadcopters reviewed on this site. The chef and photographer exemplified teamwork on this project. The dish was plated perfectly, maximizing the rich tones of the table and the background, and capitalizing the space. The plate seems to tease the heavenly gods.

I’ve seen some photographers do sketches and drawings which the chef used while arranging the dish. It’s just exciting how vision turns into reality. The dishes varied in colors, shapes, textures and themes. It was a food fest not for the palate but for the eyes.

Simplicity is beauty. It may sound cliché but it applies even to food presentation. I find overly decorated, busy plates distracting rather than appetizing. In one of the plates, the photographer used the Hubsan X4 H107C (check out this site for its review: to take a very simple, yet powerful photograph. The simplicity of the dish makes it a real stand out.

I was looking for a dish that playfully uses the textures, colors, shapes and ingredients of the dish to create a mouth-watering presentation. The plate should not look too busy that it overpowers the function and flavor. Moreover, the lens should capture and highlight the main ingredient while giving equal attention to the ‘support’ ingredients. Garnishes, especially the greens, are very helpful supporting ingredients.

While I may not know the technical rules of photography (such as the lighting, focus, exposure, etc.), I know how good food looks in pictures. I guess, if the picture looks live and appetizing, then the photography is awesome.

Overall, the entire experience was a refreshing and enjoyable one. The only frustrating part is that I don’t really get to taste and eat the food! I just have to settle with my imagination.