Photographing Stunning Food Portraiture

Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture category calls for images of food that are good enough to eat, whatever it may be. From a plate of crisp whitebait to a soufflé trembling and piping hot, a steaming bowl of soup with home-made bread, an oozing slice of cream cake on a napkin, a bacon sandwich or roast Sunday lunch.

A gorgeous shot, Mulled Pears, won this year’s Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture category. Harriet Harcourt’s sumptuous image beautifully captures the pouring of spiced wine syrup over poached pears.



Emma Sleight, Head of M&S Food Content: Social Media, Editorial & Art Buying, shared her thoughts on this incredible image...

‘An absolutely stunning image of mulled pears from a Perth-based photographer and worthy winner this year. When we talk about food photography, we talk about it in a sense of it being a piece of art, which it very much is. But when it comes to the subject of food, it has to bring an appetite appeal. This image embodies that undeniable, tangible sense of appetite appeal; It is a gorgeous, glossy, rich, luxurious, picture. There is a tenuous iridescent drizzle of sugar syrup falling in from the top of the frame and languorously sliding down the side of one of the plump, shining pears.

It is a perfect example of beautiful food artistically shot, but not inaccessibly so. Yes, you want it to be so beautiful that you’d choose to hang it on your wall, but it’s also enticing enough that you’d also want to stick your face in it! This shot is multisensory to me it is beautiful to look at, but it is also messy and sticky and evocative enough that you can also almost smell it. It is warmth on a plate and I really would love to eat it.’

To hear more from Emma and other esteemed judges on our winning images, tune into Food Fm’s Podcast: Food Through the Lens.



We invited Harriet to share more about her photography, and her incredible winning image.



What made you enter Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year?

‘I first entered Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year in 2016; to be honest I can’t remember how I heard about the competition, but I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. It takes courage to expose your work to the rest of the world, but I definitely think it’s good to have a go!’


Tell us about yourself and your background in photography...

‘My life has revolved around food since I was a little girl, and for most of my working life as an adult I have worked with food as a caterer, food stylist, recipe developer, and cooking instructor amongst other things. 

 As a food stylist I was very familiar with photo shoots but had never learnt anything about photography until I moved from New Zealand to Western Australia in 2010. I came to WA not knowing a soul and my partner was working away from home a lot, so I took to wandering the streets exploring my new environment and taking pictures on my little digital camera – which I had never bothered to learn to use.

 After a while I was bitten by the bug and wanted to know more about how to capture what I was seeing so I signed up for some beginner classes on photography in 2014. Inevitably people started saying to me “oh, you’re good at this – you should be shooting food” and I would say “no, no, it’s just a hobby!” 

 Eventually however, a couple of things happened; one was that I was really struggling to break into the food styling industry in WA (and as a consequence unable to update my portfolio). 

The second – and a major turning point - was a conversation with a good friend who was the food editor of a magazine at the time. She strongly encouraged me to pursue food photography since I could already write and style and adding the photography string to my bow would make me more versatile and therefore more marketable. Many trials, tribulations and tears later I am SO grateful to her for her very sound advice!’



Tell us a little about your winning image...

 ‘Originally destined for a Mulled Pear, Blue Castello and Pecan Salad recipe, the pears looked so pretty after I cooked them that I couldn’t resist photographing them before I made my salad.

 The first set of images I captured didn’t include pouring the syrup, and while they had a really nice texture and I liked them a lot, I felt that shiny syrup running over the pears would make it more interesting.

 While shooting tethered to my laptop, I poured the syrup in a little jug with one hand while pressing the shoot button on the laptop with the other. 

Needless to say, this was an interesting exercise in coordination, a sticky situation indeed! 

 Of the shots captured, this particular image spoke to me; there were a couple of others that were very similar, but the syrup was pouring in a straight line and somehow felt a bit less dreamy.

 In this image, I love how the curve of the syrup mirrors the curve of the pear and seems to wrap itself around the fruit; it gives me the feeling that I can almost see into the heart of the pear.

 Sometimes, when editing my photographs, one pops out that I lose myself in. This is one of those!’



How did it feel to win the category?

Absolutely wonderful!  It still feels a little surreal – definitely very, very exciting. 

It took me a moment to register when the lovely Master of Ceremonies Fred Sirieix announced the winner in his gorgeous French accent – I didn’t recognise my name! 
(And it was also 3.00am where we are, so all round a little unreal).

I feel as though all the effort I have put in over the last few years has really paid off.’





To view all of our Marks & Spencer Food Portraiture finalist images, take a look at our finalist galleries: 

Keep posted with our finalist stories on our blog page.

In an exciting first for the competition, the exhibition of the 2021 Finalists will be premiering at The Royal Photographic Society, one of the world’s oldest photographic societies, in Bristol.

The exhibition will run from 20 November - 12 December 2021. Entry is free, and we hope to see you there!


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