Food photographer, stylist and blogger
Food, says Matt Armandariz, is something that unites all of us. ‘I believe people who cook and feed others are the most generous and warm people on the planet.’ The US-based food photographer, stylist, blogger and author must surely know. For over two decades Matt has been busy documenting dishes on film, writing about his culinary experiences, preparing and tasting dishes – he has even been on Martha Stewart’s television show where he shared his favourite cookie recipe with viewers.
A former graphic designer in the food industry, he admits that it is his ‘love for food and all things related to food’ that led him to become a food photographer. ‘For a while I was art-directing food shoots,’ he said. But when he found he wasn’t happy with the results, he decided to pick up the camera ‘to appease the control freak in me’.
Matt, who is self-taught, spent more than three years learning the intricacies of the camera and today shoots with a plethora of equipment including Canon, Sigma and medium-format digital Hasselblad. A master in the digital format, he usually uses an 80, 100 or 120 macro lens for food photography. ‘For a good food photograph, the food should first and foremost inspire you,’ says Matt, who will be conducting a photography session at Gulf Photo Plus week.
‘Food should inspire you to cook, to buy, to eat, to save for later as a reference, to think about a culture’s food or about the person who made it or grew it.
Matt has written two books - On a Stick and Focus on Food Photography for Bloggers. What kinds of food are most difficult to shoot, and why? Soups, stews and meats go to the top of my list, but I’m always up for the challenge. They are difficult because they are formless, or slabs of dead meat, pardon me for saying that. We overcome the challenges by playing up the props or the things that can lend some beauty, like the surface or a beautiful bowl or additional garnish. How important is it to have a good rapport with a food stylist? Or do you prefer styling food yourself? Styling food myself would be like a fashion photographer doing hair and make-up herself before photographing the model! I joke, but I always say this because working with a food stylist is an integral part of food photography. It’s certainly a team effort. But if I’m at home photographing some cookies I made, well, I’m confident in doing it alone. As far as developing a rapport with a stylist, it’s very important to share the same visual language, to be in sync, and to work closely to produce beautiful images. What’s your take on food blogging? I think food blogging and social media have democratised the art of food photography, and that’s a very good thing. But I’m a bit biased as I got my start as a food blogger before jumping into commercial food photography. What is the basic equipment a food photographer should have? A camera! Since food looks its best in natural light, you don’t need to have tons of equipment. You are a popular blogger. What are the elements of a blog that get people to visit it often? I’ve been a bad food blogger lately, thanks to Instagram! But to me, what makes a blog popular is that there is a unique voice and perspective that the reader can get to know. The writer shares himself so that the posts become a conversation, and one gets to know the person behind the cooking. The most popular food blogs in the world are all penned by people with a unique point and view who take the time to let you into their worlds.
‘Food should INSPIRE you to cook, to buy, to eat, to save for later as a REFERENCE, to make you think about a CULTURE’S food or about the PERSON who made it or grew it’