Portrait of a Young Food Photographer

by Katherine “KC” Hysmith

Photo: KC Hysmith

There’s nothing better than food people. It’s a sentiment that I share with our guest lecturer, food photographer Nina Gallant, from our food writing class. This idea is reinforced every week when I meet with my BU gastronomy peers, the food folks at places around Boston, our fabulous professors, and the affable and adorable Sheryl Julian. Each of these people helps create the wonderful food scene in and around the Greater Boston Area.

Sheryl introduced us to Nina Gallant and her photography at the beginning of the semester, and each week we eagerly awaited our “field trip” to visit her in person. A brisk walk from the Regina Pizzeria bus stop and down a darkly lit street lined by brick and glass warehouses led to Nina’s little studio. The hallways are painted a clean grey and her studio door was propped open invitingly. Inside the one room flat was a neat little galley kitchen, fresh white palette-like walls, and photography gear poised for the next shot.  Nina’s friend and colleague Meridith Byrne was there helping style a photo shoot featuring passion fruit flavored baked goods (which she graciously shared with us later!).

Together they went over the finer points of food photography, styling, and working in the food scene. They gave us pointers and then threw us into the fray armed with a camera, a handful of vegetables, fruits, or other produce, and any props we could procure around her studio or in her extensively stocked prop closet. Did I mention that she has her linens organized by color? If my closet is any indication, I’m on the right track with this whole food photography gig (and yes I know it takes much more than an OCD armoire).

The experience, to say the least, was superb. Nina and Meridith interacted like sisters, dressed like trendsetters, and answered all of our questions with saintly patience. Some of the best food scene role models a girl could ask for.

Nina & Meridith’s Food Photography Pointers


  • Relate the hero (main food) to the smaller actors (supporting ingredients).
  • Use a piece of white paper/foam core/cloth as a reflecting surface to create more light.
  • Aim for light that comes from behind the subject, somewhere between 10 and 2 o’clock.
  • Think in terms of the full story. What you want to accomplish?
  • Recognize the current food photography trends and find which ones work with your style.
  • Use a wide open aperture (like F8) to achieve the fashionable select focus trend.
  • Look for repeating colors to help carry through a story line.
  • Take your time, take lots of pictures. That’s the beauty of digital!


  •  Textures can work together.
  •  Use props or smaller ingredients to cover up flaws (like sauce on top of a pie).
  •  Start small and think before you act.
  •  You can always add more, but you can’t necessarily take away.


  •  Use shallow bowls and dishes to see more of the food.
  •  Never underestimate the brilliance of white dishes.
  •  Small scale or tiny dishes help focus the shot.

KC is a Gastronomy student. All of the photos in this post are her beautiful handiwork. Follow her food adventures on her blog, The Young Austinian

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One comment

  1. this is great! when i took sheryl’s class last year we were able to chat with the amazing bea from la tartine gourmande, but seeing a studio is an invaluable experience. super jealous :) thanks for sharing all of their tips!

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