Chicago’s reputation for heartwarming, Midwestern comfort food is quickly being outpaced by its Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end cocktail bars. Our favorite Chicago food photographers know how to showcase the best of both worlds. Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining or craving a slice of traditional deep-dish pizza (or just looking for some drool-worthy food inspiration) –– the meatpacking capital of the world has something for you (even if you’re vegetarian).
Stephen Hamilton’s commercial and food photography has caught the attention of national magazines, cookbooks, and even Top Chef on Bravo TV. His images combine still-life photography with live action –– bringing a sense of realism to his work. Whether it’s a cloud of backlit steam, a waft of cigar smoke, or a melting slice of cheese –– Hamilton’s use of motion helps to highlight the temperature, consistency, and experience of Chicago’s best cuisines.
As one of the most extraordinary Chicago food photographers, Kristen Mendiola uses her casual aesthetic to bring out the “approachability” of finer foods. Her style shines throughout her portfolio –– where oysters and gnocchi are right at home alongside a colorful box of donuts or a plate of messy tacos. When she’s not shooting for publications like USA Today, Chicago Tribune, or the Wall Street Journal, the self-taught photographer and marketing whiz can be found training for marathons and savoring Korean barbecue.
3. Jeff Kauck
As a former watercolorist, Jeff Kauck has a knack for capturing precise tones and lighting. His images reflect his background as a painter –– with rich, saturated colors, as well as full backgrounds and striking highlights. Kauck’s use of intersectional points and unique framing gives his photos the look of fine art while maintaining the overall goal of enticing viewers with mouthwatering food.
Kate Cauffiel’s passion for food and drink is clear throughout her portfolio of tempting food photography. With a unique ability to visually depict sensory experiences, Cauffiel crafts images that give viewers the feeling of being presented with something delightful (you can almost hear the ice clink against the glass). Her photos are bright and lively with a special emphasis on capturing natural movement.
Armed with a double major in cinematography and photography from Columbia College, Jordan Balderas is able to compose sharp and sophisticated photos that look and feel like a scene from a movie. His talent for lighting glassware and bottles has made him a go-to for MillerCoors, as well as hundreds of whiskey-loving Instagram followers. When he’s not shooting, Balderas can be found in top cocktail bars across the globe or thoroughly preparing for his next project.
Matt and Sarah Haas work together to create stunning food photography that speaks to the viewer emotionally. With a passion for storytelling and fusing multiple styles of photography, the Haas and Haas team have communicated the vision of brands like Screamin’ Sicilian Pizza, Cosmopolitan, Virgin Hotels, and the Honest Kitchen –– with full compositions and a penchant for rustic elegance.
Laurie Proffitt’s eclectic portfolio combines the graphic elements of modern art with the soft details of classic cookbook photography. Her vibrant tabletop photos are both sophisticated and lighthearted –– with pops of childhood colors alongside hearty backgrounds with layers of semi-transparent washes. As a rising star among Chicago food photographers, Proffitt is backed by Bockos Creative Representation and regularly collaborates with stylists and art directors.
8. Neil Burger
Neil Burger doesn’t just have the perfect last name for a food photographer –– he also has a sharp eye for food-flattering lighting and framing. His asymmetrical tabletop compositions are bright and friendly, and pair well with his warmer eye-level images. His use of playful patterns and organic backboards gives his work a distinct style that has been used to promote some of Chicago’s finest eateries.
Jason W. Kaumeyer combines hazy sunlight and sun flare with saturated colors to produce dreamy photos that allow ingredients to truly shine. His artistic approach to fruits and vegetables gives his images the same visual appeal as a still-life painting. His photos never neglect the human element of food –– using texture and focus to lovingly emphasis each dish’s functionality. When he’s not shooting, Kaumeyer spends his time appreciating the city’s culture and cuisine with his family.
10. Jason Little
Jason Little’s talent for high-impact photos is anything but little. As one of the top Chicago food photographers, Little creates striking imagery reminiscent of 1950s magazine art (despite his enthusiasm for nostalgic 1980s movies). His use of bold colors and high contrast combine to make stunning and memorable images that enhance symmetry and shapes of the food and beverages he shoots.
11. Regan Baroni
As a former advertising art director, Regan Baroni has been able to combine her talents to push her brand of gourmet photography to new professional heights. With dark backgrounds, heavy contrast, and matte highlights –– Baroni has developed an avant-garde style of photography that has gained recognition from a variety of high-end clients, as well as SAVEUR’s Best Food Photography contest.
Inspired by the human connection to food, Jason Richardson creates photos using handcrafted lighting solutions, crisp edges, and careful consideration of negative space. His framing is pleasing to the eye and benefits from his choice of 45-degree shooting angles. Tactile backboards add visual interest and help to emphasize the size and shape of simple ingredients.
At the age of 19 and still in college, Nathaniel Crawford launched his photography company after discovering a deep-rooted passion for food and storytelling. His narrative-driven culinary style is rich with vibrant colors and tones, transporting the viewer deep within the scene and surfacing with something pure and delicious. As a young, rising star in the Chicago food photography scene, Nathaniel’s muted highlights and stark shadows have given him a strong and undeniably recognizable creative voice.