StockFood presents a new photography style

Chiaroscuro: The Magic of Light and Shadows

Munich, 16. July, 2019.

A new visual language is currently captivating the food photography industry. “Chiaroscuro” is the style of which photographers and food bloggers alike are thrilled. Light and shadow, light and dark – out of this pointed contrast the new imagery draws its special magic. The trend scouts of the world’s leading food stock agency StockFood have discovered this fascinating photography style. Its origin is “Chiaroscuro” as in late Renaissance and Baroque paintings.

The food photos in the photography style „Chiaroscuro” look like magnificent still lifes of old masters. The term comes from the Italian and is a composition of the words “chiaro” for bright and clear and “scuro” for dark. The strong contrast of light and shadow creates a highly dramatic atmosphere. In the foreground stands irrefutably the food, which is moved by the light into an exposed position. The light is inserted like a cone frontally or from above and directs the view directly to the dish or an ingredient. The painters set the bright accents at that time as if the light fell through an open side window. This is exactly what food photographers try to imitate.The atmosphere is supported by props in dark and subdued colors, vintage and a bit rustic. This makes the arrangement very authentic and honest. The whole thing is placed against a dark background. In this way, the characteristic light-dark contrast is achieved, which is typical of the new imagery.

The founder of the artistic term „Chiaroscuro“ is the Italian painter Caravaggio, who in the 16th century introduced a new and more realistic pictorial design through the use of light and dark painting. He inspired, among others, the great Dutch painters of the 17th century, Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer, who are considered masters of chiaroscuro. The artists were primarily concerned with the dramatic expression that could be achieved in oil painting through light-turned subjects on a dark background.

This long-standing artistic tradition is currently being implemented in food photography worldwide. Like the old masters, the photographers make use of the skilful interplay of light and shadow to clearly model dishes and ingredients and emphasize their spatiality. The new style is popular in the scene because it has a high recognition value. Aesthetically appealing, the food pictures so photographed look like noble, old paintings.

Trend expert Petra Thierry of the Photographers & Art Department at StockFood sees this as one of the greatest strengths of the new imagery: “this style is very familiar to most, as they remember the painted still lifes. It also meets high artistic and aesthetic standards, which is important on Instagram and Co. That’s why Chiaroscuro has become a true social media favorite.” Thierry names Russian bloggers Anna Ivanova and Justina Ramanauskiene from Lithuania, Spanish photographer Victor P. Torres, as key figures in the new style from the StockFood photographer pool Photographers of Picture Pantry.

Photo: Justina-Ramanauskiene (Chiaroscuro)
Photo: Justina-Ramanauskiene (Chiaroscuro)

StockFood regularly detects new trends in food photography long before they become mainstream. Thanks to cooperation with more than 1500 photographers and the permanent observation of the international scene, the trendspotting department always succeeds in identifying and naming new trends and developments in the market at an early stage. This is one of the reasons why the picture agency is a leader in the worldwide licensing market for professional food photography. The trend scouts of StockFood named the distinctive visual languages “Rustic Soul” (2017) and “Perfectly Imperfect” (2014) as formative styles in food photography. Additional image languages are presented on the website. With the identification of the new photography style “Chiaroscuro” the experts of StockFood show how people’s general longing for familiar elements in food photography is reflected in these turbulent times.