I apologize for the delays in posting the winners for January's edition of Does My Blog Look Good In This, the long-running monthly food photo contest.
The entries were somewhat varied, and mostly of high quality. I did not ask for camera type as was previously the norm because I think that as the photography skills of bloggers and food photographers has increased over the last few years, the type of camera used has become mostly irrelevant; great photos are often taken with mediocre cameras, and most photos are terrible no matter what camera is used.
The entries were judged in three categories: edibility, originality, and aesthetics.
In addition to myself, the other judges were Betty from Trouble With Toast, Michael from Chicken Fried Gourmet, Sudeshna from Cook Like A Bong (whose entry this month was received too late to be eligible), and Sygyzy. Each judge used his own aesthetic judgment, and likely had his own pet peeves. I certainly did.
For my part, photos shouldn't just be pretty to look at, they should usually tell a story in some way, or represent a moment in time. When the story you tell doesn't make sense, or has inconsistencies, then your photo suffers for it. Therefore, you should make sure that your photo stands up to scrutiny. To that end, here are some of my pet peeves:
- Stacking macarons in real life is stupid because they will always fall; doing so in photos is just as stupid. Plus, stacked macarons are so common in food photos as to be an eye-rolling cliche.
- For that matter, macarons are increasingly being thrown into food photos of something else to add visual interest, and it's starting to make any photo with macarons a cliche, no matter how presented. No one in real life spends hours making macarons just as a background garnish for their simple cake that took ten minutes of prep to make. The exception is, of course, if you are simply taking a photo of macarons.
- Mixing anything inedible or not intended to be eaten with the food has been taboo for a long time now. For instance, it's one thing to put a bunch of basil on a dish. It's another to put a bunch of sage or oregano, or a sprig of rosemary, all of which would completely overpower the dish and be disgusting if eaten as is. It's even worse when it's not even food, like a wine cork or something like that.
- Food is typically prepared in the kitchen and served at the table. Sometimes food is prepared on the table, but rarely would you have some nice, festive tablecloth on the table when doing so. Therefore, if you want to include prep in your shot (like prep bowls with spare ingredients, whisks, deliberately spilled ingredients, etc.) don't make it on a beautifully set table. It's contrived and incongruous. If you're more excited about your table than about having your photo make sense, it's easy to avoid this problem: just don't move the prep to the table for the photo. It'll actually save you time.
- Increasingly, a shot the subject of which is a single dish of food is styled with so many other things (plates, utensils, napkins, a serving dish, table, tablecloth, other completely irrelevant food, stray ribbons, etc.) that the photographer ends up zooming way out to capture all their precious bullshit, and we can barely see the food. Lay off the other crap. I don't need to see your collections of tablecloths, napkins, or impractical serving vessels (though a collection of tablecloths or napkins might make great subjects for their own photos) if seeing those means I can't see the food you're shooting.
- Don't use the on-camera flash. With very rare exceptions it's the quickest way to make an ugly photo.
- Sometimes, the photo just works despite violating any of these rules.
With all that out of the way, here are the winners.
"Chocolate Buttercream Sponge Cake decorated with Blackberry & Raspberry Macarons" by Mowie Kay @ Mowielicious, London, UK
Great shot, and well styled with the only "extra" in the shot a sprig of currants. I don't know why the currants are there, but at least there aren't macaro--oh wait, there are macarons. But it works because the macarons are part of the subject! They are integrated into the cake, instead of just scattered about the frame because macarons look cool. I gave this high marks, and its blown out lighting really highlights the dark cake and the bright fruit (and macarons). I still would have preferred it sans macarons.
Overall 2nd Place
"fudge" by sara bardelli @ qualcosadirosso, from Italy
It's simple fudge, but on a squiggly plate. I liked this shot, but don't have much to say about it.
Overall 3rd Place
"Raspberry Jelly Swiss Roll Cake" by Dita Wistarini @ My Culina Sanctuarium, from Kuwait
This was my favorite photo this month. There's no extra nonsense in the shot, and while it obviously has been styled (with that strainer placed just so), that fact would never occur to anyone looking at it. It looks natural, like a real scene from prep. Its narrative is believable. On top of all of that, it looks very delicious.
Winner for EDIBILITY (overall winners excluded)
"Chocolate-Pomegranate Torte" by Fitri @ Rumah Manis from St. Louis, USA
This photo didn't really stand out to me, but I guess it did to the other judges. To me it's not nearly tight enough to the subject, and I can't help but roll my eyes at the ornaments strewn about, flowers next to the cake, very deliberate pattern of pomegranate seeds, etc. I also have trouble with it because I wouldn't want the texture of pomegranate seeds getting in the way of my smooth chocolate torte. Still, as long as I could scrape the seeds off first, I do kind of want to bury my face in the torte. It would have been nice if we could have seen the inside of the torte, like with a slice cut out.
Winner for ORIGINALITY (overall winners excluded)
"Pasta In Black" by Núria @ Spanish Recipes, from Barcelona, Spain
This is mostly compelling because of the angle of the fork and the oddness of the fact that all the ingredients stay on the fork. We all strive for that perfect bite when eating--the one where we get the perfect balance and a little of everything--and this shot accomplishes the same thing photographically. On the other hand, the placement of ingredients is so deliberate as to be inauthentic, which made this suffer a bit. In addition, the shot was perhaps too uniformly lit, which made it lose any inviting warmth, and too dry looking, which is why it lost on edibility.
Winner for AESTHETICS (overall winners excluded)
Ontbijtkoek/Breakfast Cake by Vania Samperuru @ Our Family Favorite Recipes from Jakarta, Indonesia
This was my second favorite photo this month. I loved this shot because of its simplicity: nothing on the table is superfluous. Unlike with most styled shots, the implements behind the cake (coffee mugs and carafe) are integral to the eating of the subject of the photo. I also love the blurred lights in the background, which make the shot more interesting. If it has one flaw, it's that the table is similar to the cake in color, which makes the cake look a little drab.
"Champagne macarons" by Julia @ Mélanger, from Brisbane, Australia
DMBLGiT hosts have the prerogative to award a special Host's award to any entries that did not receive other awards. I have decided to award a Host's award to this entry, "Champagne Macarons," because every judge but me loved it, and I think it should be acknowledged. It breaks nearly every rule I list above, but it is undeniably a compelling shot, and technically flawless. The trouble is that all I think about when I see it is the annoyance of removing a cork from the glass before eating, the difficulty of getting the macarons out of the flute to eat (hands won't fit into the flute--spoon them out one by one? dump them all out on the table, crumbs and all?). Still, I was apparently the only judge troubled by these things, and if my scores had been in line with those from other judges, this would certainly have won an award.
Thanks to everyone who entered! If anyone would like specific comments on their photo, please email me.
Next month's edition is at Snacksgiving.
Thank you so much David for the DMBLGIT winners announcement. :)
Posted by: Tika Hapsari Nilmada at February 19, 2010 4:05 PM
Well I'd have to say that I agree with some of what you said, but not all of it, and considering it's pretty rare to find people so candid in their criticisms/opinions especially with regards to DMBLGIT, many kudos to you.
Love your blog by the way. Have been reading/following for a little while now.
Posted by: Y at February 19, 2010 10:11 PM
i like your open criticism of photos. it's nice to read something consructive for a change. my favourite this month was actually the champagne macaron shot but i agree with you about the bloody things appearing everywhere. it's almost cringe-worthy to see photos (especially if they're badly made) that are overly contrived and way over the top.
Posted by: cathy x. at February 20, 2010 6:18 AM
every people has their own taste about 'art of pict'. And thank you for your criticism of my pict. Let's make a simply just give me the badge and I will give you a slice of torte, they are 'heaven' if you know what I mean.. :D
*ups btw, I agree about it's not necessary to put camera brand or whatever, just enjoy the pictures.. :D
Posted by: fitri at February 20, 2010 7:34 AM
Hi David! Thanks for your personal comments on the photos. I must admitt your words describe so well the picture... although I'm not 100% with you. However, I love to hear and see how other people understand abd feel the images others take.
Thanks for the roundup and thanks for the Originality Prize!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!
Posted by: Núria at February 20, 2010 8:20 AM
What a wonderful surprise to wake up and find your email, then see I had won the 'hosts award' this month for my champagne macarons.
Despite the fact you weren't enamoured with my photograph, I do appreciate your opinion around food photography. Puts another perspective on how to look at things.
For me, however, I love the fact that the creativity of photography really can have no boundaries. Find new ways to shoot the same thing - that doesn't include cliches, e.g. macaron stacks. But obviously this approach is within reason. (I'm glad I didn't submit my other photograph in the short list for December!!!)
Big thanks to you, and your line up of talented judges. Much appreciated.
Posted by: Julia @ Mélanger at February 20, 2010 1:23 PM
Thanks everyone. I'm not a particularly skilled at photography or food styling, and nearly all of the photos submitted are better than anything I've ever taken. Still, everyone is entitled to his opinion, and I think everyone ought to be a little more honest and blunt in sharing it.
Still, you are all really impressive photographers.
Posted by: David Barzelay at February 21, 2010 12:08 AM
Wow! I can't believe I won this - I've never won anything in my life!
A big thank you to all the judges, especially you David for your honest and detailed opinions.
Posted by: Mowie at February 21, 2010 2:05 AM
Lovely! Congrats to the winner.
David nice to read about your views. It is good to see how different people have different perception of a photograph. I do not go by technicalities, neither am I an expert photographer. i would judge a picture just by how it looks and more with my heart and feel than with reason. If something looks good and appealing and appetizing (esp. in food photography) I would say it is a nice one.
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Posted by: autoclave at June 25, 2010 7:20 PM
wow some of the looks soo good. I am now hungry! I think the best part of it has to be the presentation.
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