Once declared the most exciting food city in America by celebrity chef David Chang, Houston has become a hot spot for foodies and photographers alike. The immigrant-built culinary scene offers up some of the most diverse cuisines, while the opportunity to work with first-generation chefs has not been lost on Houston food photographers. These passionate image-makers are using their talents to showcase the beauty of authentic, hand-crafted dishes –– each adding in their own version of Texan flare.
1. Ralph Smith
Outfitted with a degree in commercial art from the University of Houston (go Coogs!), Ralph Smith has demonstrated a strong passion for food presentation. Smith’s decades of experience in commercial advertising, along with his enthusiasm for cooking and gardening, allow him to focus intensely on the food he shoots –– emphasizing the flavors and textures through sharp, inviting eye-level and overhead shots.
Emile C. Browne’s editorial food photography highlights the emotional characteristics of food, incorporating silky smooth bokeh and low f-stops to draw the eye in. His unique, media-savvy approach reflects his belief that images should add value to the businesses and organizations he works with. With soft vignettes, cool undertones, and food-focused framing –– Browne has been able to achieve this goal while becoming one of the best Houston food photographers.
3. Michael Ma
Michael Ma brings the bold flavors of Texas to life with his distinct brand of down-home food photography. Using overhead angles, shallow depth of field, and warm earth tones –– Ma is able to create joyful images that capture the festivity of the food he photographs. His blossoming career has made the transition from accountant to creative, a wise pursuit of passion. When he’s not shooting, Ma can be found on the soccer field or sampling the many cuisines that Houston has to offer.
Izzah is a multi-talented food photographer, blogger, and chef. Her stunning cookbooks display her exceptional ability to craft bright and elegant photos that bring out the beauty of her Pakistani and South Asian cooking. Izzah was also a 2018 finalist for the Saveur Blog Awards. Her incredible dedication to healthy and well-presented food continues to draw attention, quickly making her one of the most popular Houston food photographers.
Whether she’s cooking or photographing, Nguyet Vo finds joy in sharing delicious food with friends and family. Vo’s background in graphic design helps her to create images with strong and intriguing compositions. Rich colors and deep shadows add drama to her portfolio of sophisticated editorials. When she’s not shooting, Vo uses her skills in information technology to update her blog, Taming of the Spoon, with new recipes and mouthwatering photos.
6. Julie Soefer
Julie Soefer works with local brands and restaurants to express the full spectrum of Southern flavors. Her straightforward approach uses eye-catching pattern and strong intersectional points to highlight the textures and shapes that make each dish unique. Soefer’s work with fashion photography shines through in her collection of sharp and stylish food portraits. Her work has been published in Wine Spectator magazine, Mountain Living, and Houston City Book.
Jeff Blickenstaff’s bright and exciting work combines advertising and product photography to make food look amazing. His appetizing photos convey the temperature and mouthfeel of hearty meals and playful snacks. As the photographer for FLYWHEEL, a branding and web agency, Blickenstaff creates images that place the emphasis on food while maintaining visual balance and fullness. His use of stop-motion animation and pop-art set design adds to the fun and free-spirited vibe of his work.
As a native Houstonian, Shawn Chippendale brings his innate respect for Texas to his work with local and national restaurants and businesses. Using inventive framing, soft lighting, and a low aperture, Chippendale is able to generate luxurious and eye-pleasing images. His stunning work has been featured by CNN Travel, USA Today, Food & Wine, and The Houston Chronicle. He’s also worked with brands such as Uber Eats, Red Bull, California Milk, and Tabasco.
9. Adrian Verdi
Adrian Verdi incorporates movement and elements of lifestyle photography into his work with food. From cheese pulls to sauce pours, Verdi’s images use action to draw the viewer into the experience. This self-described Houston foodie (and one of our favorite Houston food photographers) is not only obsessed with new flavors –– he’s also obsessed with presentation. Smooth bokeh, tight framing, and expertly chosen exposures characterize Verdi’s energetic style and passion for Houston’s incredible food scene.
Elizabeth Slack is known for her ability to capture the essence of the brands she works with. As a graduate of Sam Houston State University, Slack uses her bachelor’s in photography and minor in visual art to handle technical challenges like tricky lighting situations. Her strong grasp of photographic techniques allows her to focus on style and composition without sacrificing quality. Slack’s striking photographs have been used by clients such as MGM Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Vegas Rated magazine, and local favorites like K-Bob’s Steakhouse.
As one of the most dynamic Houston food photographers, Shelby Tsika is well-versed in the art of creating bright and clean images that express her client’s vision. Her stunning photos have been featured in Snippet & Ink and Voyage Houston, along with various cookbooks. Her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for photojournalism has landed her the position of lead food photographer for Musée Studios in Houston.
12. Kirsten Gilliam
Kirsten Gilliam’s experience as a photographer in New York City gives her the insight and trained eye needed to become a successful Houston food photographer. Her adoration for photography began early in life as she flipped through her mother’s extensive collection of photo albums. Today, Gilliam’s childhood fascination has turned into a burning passion that can be easily seen throughout her portfolio of gorgeous, high-quality images.