Food Aesthetics

Food photography is considered the art of presenting food in elegant compositions that resemble true works of art. When Daniel Dytrych takes up his camera, he sees himself as an artist seeking to examine the origins of the food through photography – from a natural perspective. Whenever he needs to produce the best possible pictures, ZEISS lenses are always nearby.

The key element in Daniel Dytrych’s photography is light  – in this case natural light, because he believes that only natural light, not artificial studio lighting, can present food at its best. The dishes and foods for his photo shoots are always freshly prepared, using the best ingredients. The image produced should speak for itself – without artificial embellishments.

D300s, Planar T* 1,4/50, f/3.5, 1/1000, ISO 160
Fish, Padstow Harbor, Cornwall, England

This philosophy gives Dytrych’s food photography a sense of being somewhat improvised. This picture, created during an assignment for the harbor-side restaurant “The Basement” was taken on board a fishing cutter: “Here, you can see one of the cooks examining the fish. He lifted two fish straight from the ice at random, and held them up to me. On the fish on the left, you can even make out a bit of ice still sticking to it – all in all, it’s a completely spontaneous moment.”

Besides his photographic instincts, his most important tools for capturing such moments are the Distagon T* 2/35 and the Planar T* 1,4/50. “Both of these lenses are fantastic, especially the Planar T* 1,4/50. I use this lens for 90 percent of my food pictures. I’m completely in love with it!” The carefully composed plate with the crispy fried frogs’ legs is a good illustration of what Dytrych means. Though this dish may not be to everyone’s taste, the picture makes your mouth water as if the dish were sitting right there in front of you.

D300s, Planar T* 1,4/50, f/7.1, 1/80, ISO 10
The Basement Restaurant, Padstow, Cornwall, England: crispy fried frogs’ legs, parsley jelly, garlic puree, parsley emulsion, mixed baby leaves and olives

One of the biggest challenges in food photography is developing one’s own style. Daniel Dytrych’s style is a devotion to natural photography: “I use as little staging as possible, and if I do need stage props, I use natural materials. It’s only the food that matters to me. A well-conceived recipe with an abundance of good ingredients needs no further additions. The natural light provides the finishing touch. All of my pictures are shot right there where the food is made.”

D300s, Planar T* 1,4/50, f/3.5, 1/250, ISO 200
Red cabbage

In some cases, props can be as simple as a person’s hands, as in the picture of a halved red cabbage head, which captures the attention with its full and highly contrasting colors. It was this combination of simplicity of subject and photographic composition on location that fascinated Dytrych, and which did so again at this year’s grape harvest at the Coates & Seely vineyard. “ZEISS lenses have many outstanding features, but what fascinates me the most is the ‘3D effect’. You get the impression that the subject is jumping right out at you. Another feature of the lenses that I really like is their velvety bokeh. In the picture with the grapes, the transition from super-sharp focus area to blur makes your mouth water, especially if – like in this image – you take the pictures with the Planar T* 1,4/50 at a wide aperture.”

D300s, Planar T* 1,4/50, f/2.8, 1/250, ISO 160
Grapes, Coates & Seely Vineyard, Hampshire, England. On the left, Pinot Noir, on the right, Chardonnay.

Daniel Dytrych has been earning a living as a freelance photographer for the last four years. He did not receive any formal training in photography; he is self-taught and keenly pursuing this interest. His photographic fascination with food is, as he freely admits, a “natural” thing: “I always had a passion for healthy food. I like to cook and try out new things. I began to collect cookbooks and became very interested in the food pictures of other photographers. My style continued to evolve. Essentially, it is based on a love of nature and a certain relaxed attitude concerning perfection. My work is anything but perfect, but that is just how I like it. I would say it’s eloquent and rustic.” It is as eloquent and rustic as the freshly brewed caffè macchiato, which he photographed in one of Oxford’s best cafes. The only decoration was two pieces of tree bark, and the lighting was provided by the natural light coming through the window. It is fair to assume that, after taking this picture, the photographer – naturally! – also enjoyed his coffee.

D300s, Planar T* 1,4/50, f/3.5, 1/160, ISO 100
Caffè macchiato, The Missing Bean, Oxford


About Daniel Dytrych

Daniel Dytrych lives and works as a freelance photographer in Derby (Derbyshire, East Midlands, England). Besides his main area of activity, food photography, his portfolio also includes lifestyle photography, natural product photography and detailed images of flowers. His clients include the restaurant “Fifteen” in Cornwall, which is run by the well-known gournet chef Jamie Oliver. In addition to photography, Dytrych is currently also studying horticulture and tree surgery.

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