The Photography of
Modernist Cuisine

About the Book

Why publish a photography book?

Nathan has had a passion for photography as long as he has been interested in food and cooking. Photography was a big part of both Modernist Cuisine as well as Modernist Cuisine at Home. We created a distinctive look by focusing intently on the food itself and by using innovative approaches that allow readers to look inside pots and ovens or to examine food at high magnification. Reviewers and readers have consistently commented on the beauty and creativity of our photographs. After wrapping up production on Modernist Cuisine at Home, Nathan and the team began looking at the photos they had accumulated over the years and came to believe that they deserved to be showcased in a book of their own.

What was your intention for this book? Is it a coffee-table book, a technique book, or a cookbook?

We think that many people will be happy to display this book on their coffee tables with their other art books. Those who wish to learn more about our photography will enjoy the chapter that reveals all our techniques and equipment. And those who are interested in the scientific, culinary, and historical context of these photographs will find those backstories in the book as well.

What will I learn from this book?

Whether you are a budding photographer or have years of experience in the field, you will find something of interest in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. Beginners will learn about software, how cameras work, and how to take better photos with simple point-and-shoot cameras. Seasoned amateurs and even professionals will be intrigued to learn more about microscopy, the geometry of lighting, and shooting fast phenomena.

We go into detail about several areas of photography in our “Techniques of Modernist Food Photography” chapter. Besides those listed above, we also discuss shooting on black, shooting on white, lighting from above and below, how we created our cutaways and levitating sandwiches, and much more.

Why didn’t you include recipes in this book?

Our two previous books include nearly 2,000 recipes, as well as extensive coverage of the science of cooking. The goal of The Photography of Modernist Cuisine is to highlight the photos themselves. If you are interested in trying our recipes, please take a look at our other books or check out some of our favorites in our online recipe library.

Will there be a digital version?

A printed edition allowed us to create large photo spreads without losing quality. While we continue to explore the possibility of a digital version, at the moment we feel that the photos are better experienced in print.

Mind-blowing Statistics

How many photos are included in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine?

There are 405 individual photos in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. Over the course of producing Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home, we shot 212,000 images. Of these, we selected 127. We also selected 152 previously unpublished photos, and we shot an additional 8,862 photos, of which we used 126.

Of the 405 photos chosen, 145 span the entire page.

How big is this book?

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine weighs about 12 pounds. It is 12 inches wide by 16.5 inches high (330 mm by 419 mm), which is substantially larger than the main volumes of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home. Increasing the trim size allowed us to include even larger two-page photo spreads that allow you to see unprecedented detail in these photos. The book contains 312 pages.

What types of paper and ink were used in this book?

We used LumiSilk 200 gsm matte art paper. It is thicker and more opaque than the paper used in our previous books and even than that found in many art books.

This book was printed using stochastic screening, as were Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home. For more on stochastic screening, click here.

How many people worked on this book?

Thirty-seven photographers, chefs, editors, writers, artists, and machinists had a hand in the production of this book.


How much does it cost and where can I buy it?

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine retails for $120.

You can find it online on our Buy page or wherever fine books are sold.

How do I license the rights to use the images?

Please e-mail info@modernistcuisine.com with information regarding your intended use, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Techniques and Equipment

Do I need special cameras, lights, or other equipment?

A quality camera, a few lenses, and some software will help you create beautiful photos, but it’s also possible to take great shots with simple point-and-shoot cameras. The book includes two full pages of illustrated tips on shooting at home or in a restaurant with such cameras.

What types of cameras did you use? What do you recommend?

We used professional or “prosumer” DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras from Canon, which have sensors the size of a full frame of 35 mm film. Nikon has a similar line of full-frame cameras. Sony, Fuji, Sigma, and several other camera makers also offer excellent products, but fewer kinds of lenses are available for those brands. Lenses are almost always more crucial to the quality of the photo than the camera is. We have used, at some point or another, nearly every lens that Canon makes. But we mostly used four lenses: a 180 mm macro, a 100 mm macro, a 50 mm macro, and a 24–105 mm zoom.

For more on our cameras and lenses, see pages 242–243 of The Photography of Modernist Cuisine.

What other books on photography techniques do you recommend?

We have consulted many books on photography over the years. There is a further reading list in the back of The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. Some books on the list include Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques by Harold Davis; Practical Digital Photomicrography: Photography Through the Microscope for the Life Sciences by Brian Matsumoto; Light Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, and Paul Fuqua; Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera by Delores Custer; Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin; and Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S. Young, among others.

How do I share my own photos?

We love seeing our readers’ photos! You can share your food photography of our recipes, and of anything else you might make through Twitter (@ModernCuisine) and Facebook.

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