Austin is known by many for its live music, famed alternative culture, and big tech industry presence. It is also known for its food, as it’s home to around 1,000 unique food trucks. Austin has influenced the rest of the country to adopt this trend, though no one yet has caught up to the capital of Texas. Its year-round warm weather makes it easier to be outdoors and enjoy the experience of finding, potentially, any kind of food you’re looking for. There are also an estimated 6,000 restaurants sporting just as much culinary diversity, yet its Tex-Mex, barbecue, and, perhaps above all, breakfast tacos make for some of its biggest draws. For dessert lovers, Austin’s official sweet plate is a pecan pie. Health aficionados, on the other hand, can take solace in the city being home to the world’s first Whole Foods as well as 23 urban farms that actively supply many local restaurants. Knowing all this, an Austin food photographer can flourish in advertising one of the most vital parts of this city’s local culture and economy.
At Wonderful Machine, food photography covers food as a product or an experience, including showing how its grown, prepared, served, and consumed. Here are the 7 best photographers covering food in Austin, Texas, one of the most influential and innovative food scenes in America.
Originally from South Carolina, Jody Horton is a self-taught photographer who has been working for 15 years. Running his own studio, Jody Horton Photography, he’s done work across the United States and Mexico as well as overseas. Focusing primarily on food, lifestyle, and agriculture photography, Jody and his team have a unique style of blending these specialties to show the process of how food is prepared. His philosophy:
We love to create authentic moments that tell a great story.
Having gone to grad school for cultural anthropology, Jody gets to know the people and heritage behind the scenes of Austin’s favorite dishes. This is perfect for a city with so many culinary traditions both old and new. This interest in the culture surrounding each kind of food greatly informs Jody’s photography. He translates this into a mood, which is a practice that many successful restaurants will resonate with as to how they set their own environment and ambiance. Smoked meats and barbecue might be shown in a more macho and darkened setting, reflecting the mindset it takes to prepare them as well as, most importantly, the mindset that often craves them. A table of served tacos might employ brighter colors and natural lighting to reflect a, literally, lighter meal. Also adept in video work as well as having photographed two published cookbooks, Jody’s award-winning work is one of the great explorations within the world of Austin food photography.
Drew Anthony Smith is an editorial and commercial photographer whose impressive portfolio covers many specialties. What pulls them together is an inherent vibrancy to his work.
Whether I’m on assignment to photograph a celebrity portrait, lead a team on a commercial project or document a slice of life, I strive to make my images bright, colorful, and energetic.
An Austin food photographer exists in a marketplace as competitive as it is rewarding, which makes standing out perhaps the most critical element of the craft. Drew achieves this in his food photography by bringing out the action in each situation. He’ll capture a kitchen crew deep in their work, but utilize lighting and colors to create a radiance that allows them to be artists, proud of their craft. He’ll create the same bright, lively feeling when focusing on the food itself, always at its point of perfection and ready to serve. With a strong talent in close-up photography, Drew evokes a richness in color and texture that makes viewers just about able to taste what they see.
Originally from Manchester England, John Davidson found himself in Austin and, going by his portfolio, fell in love with its energy. Coming from a different country as well as from a background in writing, John brings a passion for the stories within his adopted home. The same is true for his food photography.
If I have a guiding philosophy, it is that the best work invariably comes from a place of authentic connection and engagement.
John not only covers the craftsmanship behind the food Austin is famous for, but also the experience it gives to the people of the city. In a way that would appeal to fans of the late and great Anthony Bourdain, John has an exploratory nature to his work and focuses on the interactions leading up to a served plate as much as the food itself. The meals he captures are done so with a precision of lighting that always maintains the environment that it is served within. Fine dining is handled with a brightness toward the plate that keeps the dish itself clear in its detail, bringing out the visual artistry often applied to this cuisine. This balances the meal with the often soothing, darker colors found in these establishments. With the same attention, he’ll find casual enjoyment in a food truck park, seemingly allowing natural light to adorn the scene while using naturalistic light to bring out the savory elements of a plate of brisket. His awards, many recent, show that John has definitely found the right town to work in.
Born and raised in Texas, Buff Strickland developed an early love of photography, spending most of her teenage years getting shots of her friends and working in a darkroom. After earning an advertising degree and further developing her talents at UC Berkley, Buff took this combination of expertise to New York City and began a very successful career covering food, lifestyle, interiors, and child photography. Relocating back to her home state, Buff has brought her knack for capturing life at its finest to Austin. Often working outdoors or using naturalistic lighting to give the fresh feeling of being right there, Buff brings a lifestyle edge to her food photography. Centerstage is the enjoyment of food and excitement in its presentation. While very well-versed in shooting the meals that Austin is famous for, Buff also creates images that show food prepared in the home, giving her the versatility to cover experiences beyond going out to eat. As an Austin food photographer, this gives her a link to many markets that would thrive with her help.
Craig Washburn is a photographer fascinated by innovation and personal growth. As one can imagine, this can do wonders for a photographer’s portfolio, and his is living proof. Bringing diversity to how food can be photographed, Craig is always ready to take on new ideas and create art wherever he can. Sometimes he will arrange ingredients into a design over a black background, which will appeal to content creators on platforms like Instagram. Others, he will show a plate ready to serve, yet with special attention to the design of the meal itself. For more basic, casual food, like pub grub, he’ll find the perfect angle to make you feel as if it were placed in front of you. His use of naturalistic lighting brings this even closer to a palpable reality, which, let’s face it, can’t help but make you want to dig in.
From the age of 13, Texas native Jessica Attie knew it was her calling to be a photographer. After graduating in photography at the top of her class at St. Edward’s University, Jessica embarked on a career focusing on food, lifestyle, and portraiture. While other photographers excel at capturing the story and experience of a meal, Jessica gives most of her attention to the food itself. Often using overhead angles, she allows the plates to speak for themselves, using many lighting techniques to bring out the colors that translate a food’s appeal to the viewer. Additionally, she arranges everything within her image to have a harmonious relationship with each other, creating a genuinely pleasing image. Experimenting with different backgrounds and table colors, from wood tones to soothing blues, to jet black, Jessica is an Austin food photographer who always finds the art in a meal’s presentation.
Adam and Robin Voorhes have been a dream team for 13 years, bringing their knack for collaboration with one another to the relationships they have with their clients. Operating on location as well as out of their 6,000 square feet studio in Austin, Adam and Robin seek to find the magic in any subject and love to innovate wherever they have the chance.
Our process is who we are. Two brains testing and tackling a problem from creative inception, through the storytelling, and all aspects of production – the lighting, camera movements, sets & props. We pair our technical expertise with a playful, thoughtful curiosity.
Prioritizing bright, eye-catching colors, Adam and Robin also have major talent in film work and close-ups. An Austin food photographer with these aptitudes is perfect for advertising a restaurant or brand, especially larger names that feature in magazines or crowded shopping centers where an image has to compete for attention. However, they bring the same care and innovation to clients of all levels, showing the fun side of food photography while mastering the aspects that get people out of their houses and into town for their next great meal.
If everything is bigger in Texas, that philosophy also applies to our appetites, and it helps to have a hand in knowing where to find the food we want. Each of these professionals brings a different kind of excitement to Austin food photography, reflecting the many sides of this great city’s culinary scene. What they all share in common is a passion for exploring aspects of food along with an ability and readiness to collaborate with their clients that show in all of their amazing work.