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5 Secrets to Nailing Thanksgiving Food Photography

"Don't put the camera down just because the meal started—you'll miss out." Photographer Amy Lombard gave us the skinny on getting fat with your grandma.
Images courtesy the artist

Food photography is an art, and this Thanksgiving you'll want to pad your Instagram with extra-special pics to stand out from the turkey-posting masses. We asked photographer Amy Lombard—who shoots lifestyle, fashion, editorial, and grub for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Refinery29, VICE, and more—how you can up your Thanksgiving Instagram game.

Lucky for us, Lombard is very enthusiastic about the indulgent starting shot of the US holiday season. "I love Thanksgiving. It's very American—we celebrate ourselves, overeat, then spend the entire next day fighting each other off while shopping," she tells The Creators Project. "For my work, I find it very picturesque. A lot of people don't know this, but photographing food is actually one of my favorite things to shoot. I really believe cooking is an art and I have such an immense appreciation for the process."


Whether she's snapping White Castle burgers, gourmet seafood, or a full roasted pig, Lombard has a knack for framing color and texture in compelling compositions. She's cultuvated a taste for overexposed images that heighten food's inherent munchiness, setting her apart from the competition. The advice below, stemming from Lombard's near-decade of experience as a photographer, isn't hard and fast rules for optimizing Instagram likes. These are fundamentals of the psychology of photography, and will be useful beyond your Thanksgiving dinner table

1. Embrace the Unexpected

"Whether it's a professional photographer's work or just a photo of someones meal I see on Instagram, I find a lot of photographs of food to be generally boring. I think I find what guides my process when it comes to photographing food is to reject what you're 'supposed' to do. You don't need impeccable lighting or a world class chef to make interesting photographs from this holiday."

2. Don't Be Fake

"First and foremost: reject the idea of aspirational lifestyle photography we're constantly bombarded with. Thanksgiving is not avocado toast time, so let's not pretend it is. (Or hey, maybe your family rejects the traditional Thanksgiving cuisine. That's cool. I'm all about a nonconformist). I don't want to see your ring finger hand holding an impeccable store bought pie. I want to see real life!"

3. No Detail Is Off-Limits

"One of my first memories taking pictures was actually during Thanksgiving. I was probably six or seven at my grandparents house in Vermont. I stole the camera, and most of the film revealed close-up photographs of an uncooked turkey. I'd still take these pictures today, and I recommend you do as well. Embrace the unexpected details, flaws and decadence of it all. This could be focusing on a particular garnish, your aunt's lipstick on her martini glass, close-ups of grotesque looking yet delicious mashed potatoes, or follow my lead with an uncooked piece of meat. I find that flash helps really make these close-ups shine, but it's an aesthetic choice that's not for everyone."


4. People Are Beautiful When They're Eating

"Don't be afraid to photograph people eating. This is the one thing I am told multiple times a week not to do—particularly when it comes to celebrities. Your family probably doesn't have a publicist around to tell you not to do this, so go for it! Photographs of people eating can yield some really interesting moments—whether it's a shot of someones hand reaching for something, your cousins yelling across the dinner table, or just chomping into the feast. Don't put the camera down just because the meal started—you'll miss out."

5. Do It for You

"Take the photographs for yourself to remember the good and the bad. We don't have to act like every family gathering is all butterflies and rainbows. (Is it ever?) Let it come through in the photographs. You'll want them someday."

See more of Amy Lombard's work on her websiteClick here to check out her new photo book about internet subcultures, Connected.


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