Food Photography, by Corinna Gissemann – Book Review

Food photography isn't easy, but it's also very possible to take great photos without fancy gear or studios and with some basic techniques and tricks. Corinna Gissemann's new book shows you how.

A while ago, I put together an overview of some of the best new books on food photography. With several restaurants as clients, it’s something that I’m called on to do sometimes even though it’s not my primary focus.

The folks at Rocky Nook recently reached out to let me know of a new book of theirs, Food Photography: A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Appetizing Images, by Corinna Gissemann. And they sent me a copy to take a look at.

The German version of this book actually came out in October 2015, the English version was published in July 2016.

The book is divided into 11 chapters:

  • What Gear Do You Need?
  • Basics
  • Lighting
  • Image Design and Composition
  • Styling
  • Five Food Photography Projects
  • Image Processing with Lightroom
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Homemade Props
  • How to Boost Your Creativity
  • Now It’s Your Turn

The presentation is attractive and clear, and although it’s translated from German, you’d never know it–there’s no hint of any tell-tale translation issues, and it reads clearly and smoothly. Each point is made in a short, concise section that makes it easy to absorb the information and follow along.

This is a good example of what I mean by not only showing the lighting setup for the final shot. The ones on the left show slightly different setups that didn’t work so well, which can very useful to see when you’re tying to troubleshoot your own shots.

There are several things I particularly like about this book. The first is the overall approach. The author has thought through the kinds of questions and uncertainties that someone just starting to learn the craft of food photography is going to have. There’s no assumption that you’ve been doing this for years or that you’re an expert gear-head when it comes to handling your camera, but it also doesn’t come across as dumbing down. That’s not always an easy balance, but it’s handled especially well here. Book marketers often try to aim their pitch at a broad market, promising that anyone from beginner to pro will get something out of it, but this is one of those rare books that lives up to that.

More specifically, there are a few sections that I found especially interesting. I particularly like the behind-the-scenes shots of the setup that are presented side-by-side with the resulting shot. And many of the projects include a series of in-progress shots that show how the scene is built in stages. The Tips & Tricks chapter isn’t just a laundry list of bullet points–there are before, during, and after photos to illustrate things like simulating condensation, using gelatin as a base to make the bowl look fuller, and using blocks as placeholders so you’re not taking too much trial and error while the attractive sheen of freshly cooked food fades.

The homemade props section is also very good, with well-illustrated and simple tips using the kinds of things you’re likely to have on hand already. Making an instant mini cake stand out of a teacup and saucer was one that made me smile, but it works surprisingly well.

There is of course quite a lot of time spent on lighting, but it’s not the kind of lighting that requires investing big bucks in gear but rather by using available light or a single flash with carefully placed boards as acting reflectors. It helps reinforce the idea that you don’t need a fancy studio setup to get great shots.
Many photography books will explain the lighting used with a particular shot, but this one also includes examples of what didn’t work, and why. And that’s especially helpful when it comes to trying to troubleshoot your own shots if they’re not turning out quite how you’re aiming.

There’s a chapter on post-processing in Lightroom, which is very much an overview but provides a good place to start.

About the Author/Photographer

Corinna Gissemann is a German photographer who focuses on food and still life photography. You can find her website here, where she has some beautiful examples of her work. She favors subtle, or even moody, lighting, and some of my favorite shots of hers have a distinctly vintage and painterly look to them. She also sells some very attractive foot photography and still life backgrounds of different colors and textures, many of which contribute to that rustic, vintage look.

Rocky Nook, the publisher, is a California-based imprint focusing mainly on photography but also puts out books on computers and technology.

Wrap-Up

Overall, I’m impressed, and there’s not much I can think of to fault. It’s especially well-done, and as a result, I’ve added this one to my roundup of the best new books on food photography.

It’s pitched as a beginner’s guide, but don’t let that put you off. Even photographers and food bloggers who have been doing this for a while are likely to get something out of this book.

Availability & Price

The English version of Food Photography was published in July 2016 and is available in paperback and Kindle editions with a publisher’s MSRP of $39.95.

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