Food photography is a still-life photography genre used to create attractive still-life photographs of food. It is a specialization of commercial photography, the products of which are used in advertisements, magazines, packaging, menus, or cookbooks. Professional food photography is a collaborative effort, usually involving an art director, a photographer, a food stylist, a prop stylist, and their assistants. In advertising, it is often – and sometimes controversially – used to exaggerate the attractiveness or size of the advertised food, notably fast food.
For a long time, food photographs tended to be shot and composed in a manner similar to the way people were used to encountering their food: laid out on a table setting and shot from an overhead perspective, i.e., from the point of view of the eater. Stylists accordingly arranged the food to appear good from above, with the items arranged flat on the plate and clearly separated from each other. The actual photography can take place in a studio under controlled lighting conditions, or under natural light. The light, background, and setting are carefully prepared so as to present the food in as attractive a way as possible without distracting from it. The color and texture of the background are selected so as to effectively complement that of the food and to assist with its lighting.