An Interview with Dennis Prescott, Instagram's Favorite Food Photographer
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Dennis The Prescott produces the kind of food photography that you want to print, frame, and hang on your wall. — InStyle Magazine
If you've ever absent-mindedly browsed Instagram for photos tagged "food photography", you've undoubtedly stumbled on Dennis the Prescott. The wildly popular-on-Instagram chef has just released his first ever cookbook, Eat Delicious.
We asked Dennis a few questions about his journey into food, photography, and the secrets behind his really, ridiculously good-looking recipes.
As a cook, what’s your favorite un-photographable meal? (Something you love to make, love to eat, but just can’t seem to photograph?)
That’s a hard one. I tend to fight to get an image, even on the most challenges of days. I think it’s good practice to force yourself to work to find an image, even if you ultimately decide not to add it to your portfolio. It’s a fantastic exercise in learning light and shadow. If I had to pick one, curries are always a challenge to shoot.
What food/meal is the most photogenic?
My passion is cooking and photographing large, feast-style scenes that highlight the community table. Friends and family gathered with the meal being the main event. It’s my favorite way to eat. Sunday roasts, charcuterie boards, and sushi platters are favorites of mine to photograph. Lots of people getting stuck in. As a photographer, the human element (hands with a fork & knife or glasses of wine being poured) is so exciting and visually interesting. And burgers…they’re total culinary rock stars.
What got you started as a chef?
I was a full-time musician living in Nashville, TN, and couldn’t cook at all. Like, I could barely boil pasta. I was broker than broke, living on the fast food dollar menu, and I knew that I needed to make a change. I visited the public library, borrowed three cookbooks, and started working my way through them. From that first recipe I was hooked. I couldn’t stop cooking, wanting to learn each and every single thing about a dish.
What got you started as a photographer?
While spending my days in Nashville split between the studio and the kitchen, I started shooting (really poorly photographed) iPhone images of the dishes that I was cooking, mainly to remember the recipes that I had tried. I was cooking so many dishes, sometimes 4 or 5 a day, and was nervous that I might forget what I’d learned. Like a visual diary. It started with zero agenda, but quickly grew into a passion for light and shadow.
How did your blog – the perfect blend of the two talents – come about?
Initially, I started an Instagram account because it was the new, hip social media platform. My first image is actually a selfie (I know, sorry). As my Insta account grew into a food space, my friends and some folks online challenged me to start posting recipes on a website. I was quite hesitant at first. There is vulnerability and authenticity required in posting your work for the world to see, but it’s also incredibly rewarding, challenging, and exciting.
Do you have any tips for aspiring food photographers?
Photograph everything, in every available light and angle. Walk around your subject and study how the light hits it as you move. Study the work of photographers who inspire you, observing the light, shadow, and composition (then create something new and unique with your individual style). Photograph something, even if it’s a peanut butter sandwich, every single day. And photograph subjects other than food.
How do you make the food look so perfect? Are there any inedible tools involved?
Inedible tools? Never. I strongly believe that real, beautiful ingredients that are cooked properly and photographed in the best available light will always look more authentic (and ultimately more delicious) than fake products. They key is in pre-planning your image and styling so that you’re ready to click the shutter when the plate hits the table.
Do you see yourself as a photographer, then a chef, or the other way around?
I love both equally, but definitely view myself as a chef first, then a photographer. But it’s a very, very close second.
Do you have hobbies that don’t involve food or photography?
I love playing guitar, I love music and collecting vinyl records, I love nerdy talk radio, and I love traveling (which usually involves a lot of eating).
Tell us about your upcoming cookbook.
I’m so pumped! Eat Delicious will hit store shelves this coming April 18, 2017. It’s a cross of internationally influenced comfort food recipes with heavy influence from my Maritime, Eastern Canadian surroundings, ingredients, and dishes. I wanted my first book to read like the cook books that really inspired me early on in my culinary journey. Recipes that are attainable, relatable, delicious, and beautiful.
What’s next for you?
The next six months are going to be a whirlwind of awesomeness. So excited! Right now we’re scheduling my upcoming book tour for this coming April, visiting cities in Canada and the United States. I’ll also be traveling to Barbados, Rome, and Kenya in the coming months. And when not on the road, I’ll be in the kitchen working on becoming a better chef and a better photographer.