Penny De Los Santos is an award-winning documentary photographer for whom food photography is a gateway to exploring and celebrating culture, history, and community.
ConnectionsWhat I love about food photography is that it combines the two photography subjects that most resonate with me: culture and how we connect with food.
Street FoodNo matter where I’ve been in the world, street food has given me the opportunity to photograph culturally interesting and engaging scenes.
ContextWhen I’m on an assignment I’m always thinking about sense of place and how I can put my subject into context by giving an idea of location.
LandscapesFood scenes, or landscapes, are images with multiple elements that give viewers the feeling of sitting at a table.
Behind-the-Scenes MomentsWhen I'm looking for moments around food, I always go to where it’s being prepared and where the workers are on break.
GatheringsThe reason I’m so drawn to food as a subject is because of its ability to connect each and every one of us.
CompositionThe three main angles used in food photography are three-quarter, side view, and overhead. Spontaneous MomentsThe moments that happen around food are endless, which is why I love it as a subject. Subscribe to National Geographic magazine and save. Print and digital editions available for as little as $12. Sam Abell learned photography from his father at their home in Sylvania, Ohio, where he was born on February 19th, 1945. In Africa's Afar depression, pastoral tribes and salt traders survive amid a surreal landscape of fissures, faults, and a boiling lake of lava. Evoking a scene from biblical times, caravans arrive at the salt mines of Lake Asele, 381 feet below sea level. At a salt-extraction facility in northern Ethiopia, briny water is pumped from hypersalty Lake Afrera into evaporation ponds. Ancient lava flows near the Awash River in Ethiopia resemble the vertebrae of a fossilized beast.
Sculpted by winds that consistently blow from east to west, sand dunes called barchans migrate across an ancient seafloor, rising about six feet and spreading 20 to 30 feet across. Ramparts of salt, mud, and potash, some 80 feet tall, rise above a maze of canyons and crags on the flank of Dallol Mountain. Spires called travertine chimneys are fashioned by mineral-bearing vapor rising from underground magma chambers. Christian Ziegler, a native of Germany, is a photojournalist specializing in natural history and science topics.


I always make a point of stopping at random food stalls and markets in any city or village I'm in.
The best way to ensure you have the opportunity to capture context is to show up early and stay late with your subject. Going behind the scenes can give you the best opportunity to see moments, especially in restaurants. It forces us to gather at least once a day and share a moment together—around a table, over a drink, at a counter.
Look at still life compositions with the idea of exploring each of these angles, and always remember that you’re looking for the best possible way to show the food. Her work has been supported through grants from the Fulbright Scholar Program and National Geographic and honored by UNICEF, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Society of News Design. Kennedy provide key beats in the story on the fateful day of the president's assassination. Production was temporarily halted last year when a volcano in neighboring Eritrea erupted, blanketing the salt in ash. One of the canyons provides a highway corridor for truck traffic moving between Ethiopia and Djibouti. Intense heat and strong winds fuel rapid evaporation, leaving a bathtub ring of minerals around the lake's shore.
A tropical ecologist by training, he has been working extensively in tropical rain forests on three continents.Ziegler is Associate for Communication with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, where the main focus of his work has been for the last ten years.
One thing to remember when starting out is that food photography is just like any other photography—the same principles of light, color, and composition apply.In the case of the image above, I was prepping for a photograph on a cookbook shoot when I noticed the colorful ingredients for the next shot on the counter where the food stylist was working. It's not just about food on a plate, but it's also about everything around it—the moments, the connections, the scenes, the places, the stories.This image is from a long-term project I did for National Geographic magazine on life in a town near the Texas-Mexico border. They take time and thought, but they can really add to the storytelling power of a food photograph. Later, Stoughton made perhaps the most famous—and most important—image ever taken by a presidential photographer as LBJ is sworn in on Air Force One. As an assignment for STRI, he spent 15 months in the field taking the images for a book on the ecology of tropical forests. I was on assignment for a food magazine that wanted to do a piece on this famous, family-owned tortilla factory that made corn tortillas and chips.
For example, including a knife in the image above wouldn’t have been a good choice because flan is typically eaten with a fork or spoon.
She studied photography at the International Center of Photography from 2001-2002 and subsequently pursued a master's degree in visual communication at Ohio University.


A Magic Web, published by Oxford University Press in 2002, was named the best biology book by the American Association of Publishers.
This is a region known for its citrus groves and orchards, and this scene revealed to me the lives of the people who work in the industry. Whenever I get an assignment to profile a chef, for instance, I always head to the location early, get to know the staff, and ask questions.These types of photographs can be the some of the hardest to make—you have to look beyond cliches and obvious shots for something more interesting and illustrative of your subject.
I drove hours to get there only to discover that it was a dark warehouse with one tiny window. After spending the entire day photographing this woman and her daughters as they made thiebou jen, the national dish of Senegal, I found that the true moment was when they all sat down to eat together, sitting close, all reaching into the same bowl. Prior to becoming a photographer, she worked in New York City as a producer, interactive designer, and writer for award-winning multimedia projects.Her clients include the Nature Conservancy, National Geographic, Gourmet, Newsweek, the New York Times, and GEO, among others. He sees himself as a translator, sharing the extraordinary beauty and scientific fascination of tropical ecosystems with the general public and thereby raising awareness for their conservation.Ziegler’s work is frequently contracted and published internationally in leading magazines such as National Geographic, GEO, BBC Wildlife, National Wildlife, and others. Try replating the dish and even adding more of one of its ingredients if it needs a boost of color. After spending much of the time photographing the process of making the tortillas, I started to think about the space and how it felt, the vastness of it and how tiny the workers seemed and how mass-produced the product was. That same year, he worked with author Leah Bendavid-Val to produce a retrospective of his life and work titled Sam Abell: The Photographic Life. In addition to his editorial work, Ziegler has been working in educational projects with museums and with environmental groups such as Conservation International and the World Wildlife Fund.
It’s not something you see everyday, and it evokes several ideas and asks so many questions. If it has a lime, for instance, ask for an extra, squeeze it on the food, then place it on the plate before photographing. I started to really think about photographing in that vein, thinking about the subject in relation to the space.
Two additional book projects, Four Stories and The Life of a Photographer, are scheduled for publication in October 2007 and October 2008, respectively.Sam Abell lives in Albemarle County, Virginia, with his wife Denise. He also has worked extensively with the scientific community, mainly by contributing thousands of images to the Smithsonian Institution, but also in collaborations with Princeton University, Max Plank Institute, and others.His work has been awarded several international prizes, including two category winners each in the BBC’s WPY and the EWPY, the Grand Prize of the National Wildlife Foundation’s annual photo contest, and several feature category prizes in Pictures of the Year.
Single exhibitions of Ziegler’s work include a travel exhibition produced by the Smithsonian Travel Exhibition Center and an exhibit produced by GEO magazine.




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