A picture is worth a thousand words, whether that adage is true or not, let’s face it, it is far easier to take a picture than write a thousand words on the same. Less time consuming, and more attractive, food photography has become the prime way people consume food, apart from actually eating it. In fact many prefer just to gaze longingly at molten cheese oozing out of humongous burgers, or chocolate sauce drippings over decadent oreo shake creations, than actually eating the cholesterol bombs.
But, pictures of food are like the pretty runway models; after a while, you crave to know more. You want to know what sauce is giving the pork spare ribs that cherry red glistening; you want to know if it’s a smoky sauce redolent with African spices, or a caramelised fruity reduction of pomegranates. The food writing, or the food caption to these pictures provides the soul, to the pretty faced picture.
No matter how glorious the picture, the ultimate gratification shall come through the written word. Or the spoken word in the form of video, but they shall be words, that help you savour the food.
I see a lot of pictures on Instagram with captions such as “so good.” “ Yum, who wants some?” or some with just the caption “THIS” . These insta accounts have thousands of followers, and I am not saying all of them, but a large number of them have a limited vocabulary. Not that I am judging, I dig those pictures too. They are the bomb.
But, this blog project #indianfoodwriting is not about hash-tagging your way to food writing fame. It is about the truest form of love for food. It is called “let’s write about food “ for a reason.
Now I ask you, if you were food, and someone proclaimed their undying love for you. Would you want a heartfelt love-letter, or would you be content with #bae #mylove.
My love for food is as deep as my love for writing, or the love of words. I love the way ‘Pavlova’ sounds. The delicate, almost whisp of the v consonant, or the lyrical quality of the rise and fall of the syllables, as they are spoken add to the actual experience of having the meringue and fruit dessert. Try it. Now try saying ‘croissant’ and tell me you don’t feel distinctly aristrocratic. Now try a few Indian names. Rustic; Makki di roti. Lush; Shorba. Try saying Kishmish or pulav.
Food photography has enhanced food, as well as food writing. Do not consider it a competition, consider both alies, both fans and followers of the same ‘mehbooba’ ; food.
Food writing, can enhance your picture, breathe life into them, imbibe soul. Some pictures tell a story, the reason why that dish, or even the plate it is plated in is special.
A picture of apples, next to a sunny window. The food writing maybe about the first sunny day, after many days of cold winter rains, a sign of hope and cheer. Or it could be about the whimsical fairy tale, Snow White and how just looking at the single perfectly rosy red skin, makes you feel as if you were Snow White herself. You don’t care, that the shiny skin is most probably wax, maybe if like the various youtube videos, you actually scratched the skin, you might see the white waxy residue peepling away. But, do you reach for the butter knife? No, you know that the shine might very well be wax, but the ruby red has you enthralled. You are hypnotised, just like Snow White, maybe she knew the apple was poisoned, but she was unable to resist the temptation, the scarlet calling.
The picture is the wand, but how you write is the weaving of the magic. Be a magician.
There are food photography classes and even food styling classes. And in this blog post we are going to take all the tips and tricks taught at the food photography and food styling classes and apply it to writing.
1. Create a mood: Both food photography and food styling try to build a certain mood with the use of lighting and props. A dim, dark, moody lighting, or a bright, fresh sunlit photograph of the same food object reveal different moods. A dark chocolate cake rests next to a tall glass of wine, a few suggestive strawberries, and a single red rose, all lit up in candle light hues, makes for a romantic setting. Let the words that accompany them then, also reflect the same mood. Look for @shivesh17 on instagram for more
2. Use of props: The use of brassware crockery, antique forks and spoons you sourced from the flea market, your kids toys, or even your mom’s sari used as a backdrop. Props are often used to either make a picture pop, or to tell a story, or set the scene. Make your props the story while writing the captions. So the picture of your son’s tiffin, with his toys can actually be about parenthood, and how motherhood made you the home chef you never knew you could be. Tell stories, not necessarily just of the food, but why it is special to you. The love for apples, and your honeymoon in Shimla. Look for @masterchefmom aka Uma Raghuraman on instagram for more.
3. Choose a focal point: The rule of thirds, was one of the toughest lessons for me. I always put my object of interest right front and centre. If you do not know the rule of thirds, then here is what it is. Take any picture, or painting. Now divided it such that two lines run top to bottom and two from side to side, dividing the whole picture into 9 equal parts. Somewhere at the intersection of these four lines, are four points where your focal point lies. Your writing too should have a focus, an end goal. What are you trying to say? Do you want to say it was a delicious meal, or do you want to celebrate the oranges in the picture. Loved the rossettes on the cake? Or the crispness of the waffles. Having a focal point also helps start conversations around the same. Look for my own instagram @thefoodietrails
4. Inspire: You would not think it at first but food pictures can inspire. Inspire fitness, with pictures of smoothies and salads, food photographs taken at spas, and detox clinics. But apart from eating healthy, food pictures can inspire to buy local produce, when we showcase our Indian ingredients, and the local farmers. A lot of western food writers, and even food shows showcase the local farmer, they film them growing their veggies and fishing, and even cattle farming. But in India we rarely know where our food came from except the local bhaji wali. Time to bring Indian farmers and local small fisherfolk in your area into focus. These people don’t have Public relation teams, or marketing, but dignity of labour is an important aspect not dealt with in India. Focusing on the people that bring us the food, builds a healthy social environment. Food photography and food writing can help build tourism, help humane killing of animals for food, help sustainable food production, build food communities, help children eat cleaner. Take your pick of the inspiring story you want to tell. If you doubt your power to make a change, then remember you have already been given the power, you are an influencer. Which indirectly means you are influential.
Ok . That was too much Gyaan for one post , but if you made it through; thankyou for your patience. Go out and be influential and not just an Influencer. Write, and know that your words can bring change. I hope mine are , that’s why I decided to celebrate food writing especially Indian food writing on my blog for the month of December . #blogchatterprojects
Read previous posts on why I started this project HERE.
How to develop your writing Voice HERE.
4 tips on how to write about food tastings HERE.
Also happy to give a shout out to fellow food blogger Shivesh who is also sharing his food blogging tips and has a very cool one related to Instagram and pictures HERE