UPDATED November 14th, 2017
For so many of us, the kitchen isn’t just the heart of your home, but also the heart of your family. When you think about your favorite family traditions, most of them probably involve food, cooking or eating together. In other words, your kitchen (and all the hidden treasures that live in your cabinets and your pantry) doesn’t just represent your family today, but it can help you relive memories and re-enact traditions from your family’s past as well. James Beard once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” No matter what is happening in your life, food can bring your loved ones together, and taking beautiful photos of that dining and cooking experience can make those memories and feelings last a lifetime.
If you want to capture the ingredients—literal and figurative—that make your family special and unique, start by capturing the culinary arsenal in your home, your parent’s home, and even your grandmother’s home.
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To begin, think about the foods and the smells that bring back the best memories from your childhood and your past. That is what you want to photograph when you start snapping shots of the kitchen. Your pictures aren’t just arbitrary images of random recipes and ingredients; they are a way to tell a story and paint a picture of your fond memories and best food experiences with your family.
As Nat Geo reports, according to Penny De Los Santos, an award-winning documentary photographer, don’t just photograph cooked dishes when it comes to your food. “When thinking about food photography, don’t just consider the finished product on the plate or the people eating it. Look at the ingredients—perhaps there’s a beautiful photograph waiting to be made.” Think about the spices your grandmother used or a favorite ingredient that was always stocked in her fridge. Pull those flavors out and capture those memories on film.
Beyond the food itself, the way your favorite dishes were presented should also be captured. Pull out your grandmother’s favorite gravy boat, your parent’s wedding china or that special ice cream bowl you only used on your birthday growing up. Use them and style them appropriately before you start snapping away. While the food should always be the star of the photo, if your goal is to archive family food traditions, then the accessories, serving platters, utensils and beautiful backgrounds that feel like home should be showcased as well.
While most food photography is done artistically and features the food itself, some of the best ways to preserve memories is to take family photos together, while you’re in action in the kitchen. Photos in the kitchen are typically more casual than formal portraits or staged poses. They feel natural and they capture a moment in time, as opposed to everyone saying “cheese” in coordinated outfits at a photo studio. Choose a favorite dish or recipe, start whipping it up it as a family, and take photos each step of the way, trying to not only showcase what you are making, but also the expressions on your family’s faces as you work, play, laugh and eat together.
After all, sometimes it can be hard to explain to your kids what it was like to walk into your grandmother or mother’s kitchen and smell Thanksgiving dinner in the oven. When words just don’t cut it, beautiful visuals of you together, surrounded by delicious smells and with looks of pure joy on your faces might do the trick for generations to come.