The Dance That is Food Photography

Alison David

A picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to photographer Allison David, her work will light up your five senses. David’s ever-evolving career is equal parts getting in her 10,000 hours of hard work, taking inspiration from her worldview, utilizing what’s around her, and staying ahead of industry trends. With how fast society moves today, that may seem impossible, but for this photographer, capturing what she sees through the lens is in her blood.

You’re a multi-hyphenate photographer, so if someone asked you what you do for a living, what is your elevator pitch?

First and foremost, I’m a commercial photographer. If I had to be even more descriptive, I would say food, product, chef portraits and executive headshots. There are a lot of things that fall under the umbrella of commercial photography. I diversify because I have an interest in a lot of different things. I’m absolutely in my element as an entrepreneur and I love doing all the things in my own business, such as marketing, etc. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not just a photographer. I’m also a small business owner, endlessly interested in photography. There’s so much to learn, document and photograph.

When did you get into photography?

When I was younger my dad always had a camera. He was in the service and I lived overseas – Panama, Germany, France, all over. There were always things to take photos of. I guess that is why my dad always had a camera. To me, it was just the way it was. You take photos. I learned that very young; I feel like I’ve always had that in my genes. I’ve always taken photos myself, not professionally, necessarily. I decided to do it as a profession almost ten years ago and I slowly evolved into doing it full-time. Although I do travel to surrounding areas, I’m located in Dallas. I also have clients from all over the country who will mail me products to photograph.

Where does your artistic eye come from, and how has it developed and changed over the years? 

Not a lot of thought went into this necessarily. I haven’t lived my life going, ‘oh, I’m going to develop my eye by going to this museum.’ It just happened that I tended to have partners who were artists interested in the arts, going to museums and traveling. My dad instilled that into me as well. A lot of my influences come from other photographers, but not necessarily food photographers. My eye gravitates to shapes and certain textures. I was photographing some ice cream, and the texture and cracks of the ice cream are something I love. I look for that in other things out in the world, like tree bark. That’s something that will create a cool shadow. It’s not something I deliberately think at that moment. It’s just what my eye does.

Photo: Allison David Photography

What does the prep look like before going into a shoot? 

If a brand is hiring me, I want to know about them. I also want to know what their goals are and what their aesthetic is. Over the years I’ve had to hone down and be more deliberate about how I go into a shoot. The other day somebody started pouring a drink and I immediately went over and knew exactly where to be with the camera to get the right light, the label right, to get everything. That may seem impromptu, but it’s not. It’s because I have the experience of doing it multiple times – a lot of mess ups, a lot of taking photos. I go in knowing that I want to do my best. It’s a balance.

How would you explain the difference between food photography and other types of photography?

Food photography is a big genre. For food photography there’s a lot more styling that goes into it. It’s a lot more technical. There’s a lot more studio lighting and more buying of props like backdrops and dishes that go into the photos. Knowing food in general and being into food is important. It takes a lot sometimes to make something look like there’s no effort in it. Your eye has to dance around a photo and not get stuck on something. It’s controlled messiness; it has to look like it still flows but not look too manicured. It’s a dance.

What does authenticity in photography mean? How does that translate through your work?

I genuinely, authentically love what I do and the people I work with. I want to offer a great client experience. I love helping create images of what they do, what they make, and what they feel happy and excited about.


Allanah Dykes

Allanah Dykes is a freelance writer whose niche is home decor and food, but she has written in almost every field from mental health to political op-eds. Her favorite pastimes are listening to Biggie and Bach and enjoying New York Italian ices and slices


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