03/27/2012 03:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Bad Food Photography -- New York Edition

I've taken an out-of-town sabbatical for the past month. I've seen many things. This is what I've learned.

Hypothetical question: Lets say you own a restaurant in New York City. (Sometimes known as the Big Apple.) You want to convey to your customers that the food served from the kitchens of your restaurant is really "yummy" and/or "delicious." So what you decide to do is grab a camera and take photographs of the food items on your menu.

How hard can it be?

You know your food is scrumptious, all you have to do is grab any old dish, put it under some florescent lights, snap away and then put the final photographic result in your restaurant window and wait for the hungry crowds arrive. Yes, no need to hire a professional photographer -- you can do the photos yourself (You own a camera -- remember?). Except the end photographic result is usually the opposite of what you intended: the images make people not want to eat the items on your menu. Whether blurry, out-of-focus, or just plain sun-faded restaurant photos, let's salute the art of bad food photography: New York-style!

Nuclear Holocaust Lunch

This is what all sandwiches will look like after the nuclear bomb drops on America, martial law goes into effect, and we're all forced to live in FEMA camps. We'll each consist on one of these radioactive sandwiches per day. Bon appetit.

Some Sort of Cubes

Glancing at this food image, I'm not sure if it's either cubes of cheese, cubes of potatoes, or cubes of diced chicken. It's cheese, right? No. How about potatoes? Wrong again. Chicken cubes? No...

What's in the Middle?

Okay, the French toast I get -- that's perfectly clear. I can also surely point out the bacon in this photo. But what the hell is that large brown lump in the center of the plate!? Was that the result of Chef Tony's last day on the job -- and he was getting back at the manager for firing him by dropping a deuce, dead plate center? No wonder they fired him.

Is It Just More Plate?

For sale by owner: Is this a decorative plate with some sort of food on top of it, or is it a decorative plate with just more decorative plate? Or better yet, is it a plate of ghosts? That's it: these are stir-fried ghosts.


You got me: was this surreal photo shot by Salvador Dali? These could possibly be muffins, possibly not. But the pure genius here is how the what ever this food might be it subtly blurs into the background as one. These could also be several small cups of orange soup. Or one of those acid trip scenes from a 60s Peter Fonda movie: Stop the muffins from melting! Stop melting muffins!

Look Before You Drive

Damn you British Petroleum! Look at the tragic result of the gulf oil spill. I hope the execs at BP walk by this restaurant window and see the harm they caused the environment and its wildlife. Or did the restaurant owner run over this roadkill early with his car?


They have a new feature on cameras: it's called "focus." When I want to entice people with my falafel, the best I can did is stick my lens into the Middle Eastern sandwich as far as I can. The closer the camera, the more appetizing it is for customers.

Where's My F-ing Food!?

Wait a goddamn minute here; they forgot to put goddamn food on the goddamn plate before they took a photo of it and placed it in the goddamn window. Goddamn it!

Photos by Harmon Leon