Even a "dummy" can tell a food blogger from a "normal" restaurant-goer. The blogger is the one with the expensive camera, ready to focus on any promising morsel.
The word "dummy" is appropriate here, because the "dummy" book industry is now zeroing in on bloggers (Food Blogging for Dummies is already out). Want to tune up the food photos on your blog? It's a snap (sorry), given a little know-how. Well, the truth is, a lot of know-how.
Food Styling & Photography for Dummies by Alison Parks-Whitfield (John Wiley & Sons) tries to bridge two markets -- bloggers and food photographers who want to start a business.
These two don't meet comfortably, at least not in the "dummy" world. Yes, there are bloggers as serious about photography as pros. They'll pat their new $1,500 camera bodies with pride as Parks-Whitfield says, "Sorry, penny pinchers, you can't use point-and-shoot-cameras."
And they'll be happy to load up on lenses, reflectors, lights, C-stands, shooting tables, foam core boards, light box tents, an incident meter and more fun techy things.
You know where this book is going when, as early as chapter four, the topic is "Dealing with Employers, Personnel, and Sets."
Now switch to Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling (Wiley) by Hélène Dujardin, a pastry chef turned professional photographer.
Dujardin writes: "I see gorgeous photography created with P&S (point and shoot) cameras, and I see terrible photography from dSLRs (digital single lens reflex cameras). It's not the camera that makes the photography. You do."
That's more encouraging than being dismissed as a "penny pincher." If you want to upgrade, Dujardin tells how to go about it and explains what you get for the investment -- more creative control. Then she tells how to handle your new toys.
Parks-Whitfield is also a professional food photographer. You may wince when you read some of her styling techniques, like using white glue for milk, brushing a beef or poultry roast with brown shoe polish and substituting motor oil for maple syrup on pancakes.
A longtime L.A. food stylist (who asked to remain anonymous) traces these techniques to the '70s or earlier, before truth-in-advertising laws. "The trend now is natural food so it looks like the recipe," she says. Accordingly, Dujardin focuses on "natural" styling, which means not adding anything that would make the dish inedible.
Both books are heavy on technique and include plenty of instructional photographs. And both concentrate on styling and shooting food portraits. They are excellent for serious food photographers.
Neither addresses issues that bloggers are most likely to face, like how to shoot quickly and inconspicuously in a restaurant, how to get a decent shot between the bobbing heads of other bloggers and how to shoot at food festivals and other foodie events where you have to grab and go -- often hampered by crowds and poor lighting.
In other words, the field is wide open for another book, this time on action food photography for dummies (and bloggers).