Food photography is one of the most emerging genres of social and print media. It is rightly said that everyone belongs to the kitchen. We all have an undying love for food and everything else related to it. However, it is not all about creating a great taste. It is also about creating an impact through the way it looks as eyes taste before the stomach does. In the modern age of digital and social media, food photography is probably the most effective way of marketing your business.
Food photographers have the ability to make you feel hungry even after a full meal. Very recently, we came across a food photographer par excellence( whom we should better unfollow lest we will keep feeling deprived of all the yumminess ) Shahzad Mahmood whose Instagram account keeps our timeline ablaze. Luckily we were able to catch a hold of his thoughts and bring it to you.
1. Tell us something about yourself(childhood, education etc.)
Shahzad: Hi I am Shahzad Mehmood. Being a Punjabi I have an undying love to eat and explore different cuisines. I have lived in multiple cities because my father was in Pakistan air force. Living in different places helped me explore the regional cuisines of Pakistan. I have studied multimedia arts from NCA where I got to learn the artistic side of photography especially street photography and since then I have polished my skills pretty well. Right now, I am working as a lecturer at the Institute for art and culture.
2. Food photography is an unconventional idea. How did it start? How did your family react to it?
Shahzad: From the beginning, I was inclined towards product and studio photography and hence have experimented a lot with the lights and compositions. While working I came across some friends who were working in the field of social media marketing for the restaurants and that’s when I came to know about the field of food photography. I started exploring this field because to me it was very interesting since it involved studio photography techniques as well as food so it was a win-win situation for me.
My family really appreciates my work; especially my brothers because both of them live abroad and have exposure to different cuisines. Whenever they see my work they really look forward to trying it upon visiting Pakistan.
3. What are the challenges and hurdles you face in this field?
Shahzad: The challenges that I have faced and still facing is the platting of the dishes. Most of the chefs here have very less knowledge of platting a dish so I have to work with them to arrange the plate right.
Secondly, the issue of space where I have to do photography in the restaurant is a big issue because it has to be done during the serving hours of restaurants, so doing a setup there takes more time than expected. Another thing that I would like to mention is that the freebies are letting this market down.
People want work and not just average work. They expect you to give your best. But when you ask them about the remuneration their answer is ‘You will get a mention in our famous blog’. I think it’s a joke to ask someone to work for free. I hope people grow mature enough to stop asking for freebies
4. What are the incentives and perks?
Shahzad: Besides eating a lot of good food and exploring different cuisines, you get to know the latest food trends, cutlery trends and how the food culture is diversifying in Pakistan. My friends call me a food directory who can guide them where to eat and what to eat.
5. Which are your favourite campaigns so far?
Shahzad: Wasabi Gulberg’s any campaign is my favorite to work on. The reason is that I have full liberty there and they have allowed me to completely change the look and feel of their food. I get to play with different cuisines along with choosing backgrounds that goes best with that cuisine.
6. Do you believe that taking pictures of the food kills the taste?
Shahzad: It actually enhances it! Working as a food photographer, I get to make it pleasing as well as appetizing. I will share a personal experience here; Previously the thought of eating sushi was out of the book. It wasn’t until I photographed it and edited it for the campaign that I started craving for one. Photography actually enhances the taste of food.
7. Any improvements that you can suggest to the restaurants in Lahore?
Shahzad: There is a lot of space in Lahore for the new cuisines. There is a lot of monotony in the menus of the restaurants of the same cuisines. The ambiances of the restaurants are pretty good but they lag in customer. The tastes are not consistent, recipes are not standardized. If the chef leaves a restaurant, the taste of the dish changes drastically. Also, restaurants don’t sell the local cuisines as high-end food and they don’t experiment with the local foods.
8. Any tips for the newcomers, please.
Shahzad: Experiment with light, textures, colors, contrast, mood, temperature and do a lot of practice. When I started I was just another photographer but now I know how to make a food pop up by adding different feels to the photography. Also, don’t forget to experiment with post-processing because it’s very important in food photography and enhance your art directions skills.
9. What are your future plans?
Shahzad: I want to capture cuisines from all over the world. I want my second love i.e. traveling to be part of my job.
O Shahzad, why do you do this to us? Trust us, even compiling this interview was a test of nerves. His pictures make us want to run to all the restaurants he has been photographed. We wish all the best to Shahzad for his future endeavors and aspirations.
You can follow Shahzad at