¡Ask a Comida Critic!--Why Not More Photos of Actual Food in OC Weekly Reviews?

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The way our website is set up, I get an email every time someone leaves a comment on a blog post. On a dead tree story? Never. I have to remind myself to keep checking back for comments to my This Hole-in-the-Wall Life review, but they rarely get any :-(.

So my apologies to Diamond Dog, for just realizing this week that he left the following question/comment on my review of Teriyami:

Thanks for the find. I will have to try this place out. When you guys write articles like this, could you try to include pictures of the food a bit more? Edwin usually has pictures of smiling people that work at the various places and you may catch a glimpse of the food if they are holding it, but the food is seldom the "star" of the photos. Just do it like you do in your blogs (BTW I am glad that many of you still maintain your blogs outside of OC Weekly)!

My response after the jump!


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Photo by Kimberly Valenzuela...damn, can she shoot!
This is actually a fight I've had with multiple art directors in the many years I've been in charge of the Weekly's food section. Most ask our photographers to focus on the food. I'm actually of the opposite school: for the most part, I don't like pictures of food and prefer that photos accompanying our reviews have people in them.

My reasoning: food portraits tell me nothing other that how a dish looks. That, however, is the job of the critic: if we can't make the reader visualize--nay, taste--the dish with our prose, we're not doing our job. Besides, anyone can eventually take a purty picture of a meal.

Photos that take out the zoom lens and try to tell a story? Much harder, and much more evocative. Consider the picture to the right, by Weekly photo intern Kimberly Valenzuela for Edwin's review of the second Dosa Place. This picture tells the proverbial story: of the dosa's gargantuan size, of this location's elegance, of a proud owner and chef, the beautiful contrasts of colors. One of the best photos to ever appear in our food section. If Kimberly just concentrated on the dosa, it would've come out nice, but nowhere near as great as what she took.

A good food section does need variety, though, so that's why I'm not opposed to solitary shots of food, and why I always ask that our photographers also snap eaters, action shots, the layout of the restaurant, some outside shots and NEVER the owner holding a glass of wine and smiling ala OC Metro. But my preference is with people, and I do get my say done every once in a while...

Got a spicy question about comida? Ask the Comida Critic at GArellano@ocweekly.com, or leave a comment below!
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