It’s finally time to talk food styling and photography! The styling and shooting is easily my favorite part of the process. I love that even more than I love to cook! Not more than I love to eat though, which might be a problem if I’m too hungry when shooting a recipe… Good for me then that the workshop I attended at Sonja‘s home last weekend included both styling, photographing and eating : D For this post, I thought I’d show you some photos from the workshop, and share some loosely scattered things I started thinking about in relation to my own process. Then I’ll follow up with another post that focuses more on my own routine, from idea to styling to editing and organizing photos. Of course with demonstrative pictures. How does that sound? : )
As you might have guessed, my images are a big deal for me. It is only very recently I’ve realized how much of an artistic activity this is to me. I used to draw and paint and all that, and I’ve realized I have the exact same mindset when working with a food pic. The colors, light, composition, negative space, balance etc. I can be ridiculously satisfied over some mysterious blurry and indefinable shape in the corner, or the joining of two complementary colors in a photo. I’m such a geek when it comes to these things, and I have no problem with spending hours in front of my computer playing around with the photos.
However, I need to learn a routine in order to be more effective, and to know what effect certain styling/light/settings will produce. I’ve been meaning to attend a workshop or class like this one for some time, because I feel like I don’t have control over the styling process. Most of my good pictures “just happen”, and sometimes I don’t really know why I do things a certain way. I knew from before that Sonja held these small group workshops every once in a while, so when I saw on instagram that she was planning one about photographing colorful winter food in natural light, I signed up immediately!
The workshop was held during a Saturday at Sonja’s beautiful home near the ocean, and included styling, photographing and eating a three course lunch, plus a lot of talking, laughing and of course going through camera technique and editing.
Let’s have a look!
1. Assembling raw beets. 2. Adding vinaigrette. 3. “Sprinkle from a distance!” 4. Applying “shine” (oil & water).
First Sonja guided us through her styling routine, of which some steps you can see in the photos above. Best tip was to “sprinkle from a distance” like Jamie Oliver apparently use to say about adding topping. I always imagined food stylists applying nuts and herbs with a pair of pincers haha. Not so much. For a natural look do it the natural way. Another great tip was that the food should look edible. I mean, that might be the most obvious thing in the world, but sometimes you want to use dirty old silver forks or a dusty backdrop because it looks good in the pictures. However, my experience is that the story told by the photographs is more convincing if you go a little easy on the props and decoration, and instead set up a situation that you could actually see yourself in. Always a balance between creating vibrant, extraordinary and otherworldly pictures, and the sense of everyday situation that the viewer/reader can relate to.
After the demonstration, the turn came to us to do our own styling of the same course. We worked in groups of three on three different locations in the house, each with different kinds of light. The photo below (and the top right photo in the beginning of this post) is the final result from my group. We had all of Sonja’s props, textiles and backgrounds at our disposal – imagine that! Heaven on earth for a food stylist. We went for a rustic wood-on-wood/local produce in the center kind of feeling. Simple, a little messy but not overly chaotic. Recognize the cutting board? : ) I have the same one. It’s my favorite and I use it in practically all my photos, so naturally it had to go in this one too.
Sonja taught us that dark motives generally need to be underexposed, light ones overexposed. I’m a big fan of underexposed pictures, photographed from straight ahead with a dark backdrop. I’m looking for that eerie sense of being inside an abandoned cottage where time has been standing still for hundreds of years. But still combined with vibrant colors. I imagine the character behind my photos being a true lone wolf living all on her own in some remote place, unreachable, and nobody’s got the slightest idea she’s there. A cracking radio and rain patting on the window glass. Seasons passing. I guess Tranquility is what I try to convey. The photo above is my favorite one from the workshop : )
Some photos of the ingredients on their own. Simple trick to create that from-farm-to-table kind of feeling that we all love! Below you can see the amazing menu Sonja prepared for us, (recipes on her blog), and her picking the tuscan kale we topped the carrot soup with.
When shooting the carrot soup above, we got the chance to try out a daylight lamp. Me and that lamp were not friends I can tell you. I did not manage to make it look natural at all. But it was interesting to try it and to see what a difference it makes if the light comes from above or from the side. I find that light from one side of the picture creates more depth in the photo. As for the styling, we went with a kind of S shape for this photo. Another great challenge when shooting this soup was to snap a good pic before the topping started looking soggy and sad. You had to be really quick! And prepare all the props and composition and everything beforehand. This is probably the photo I’m least satisfied with. Anyway, the soup was delicious!
For dessert we had baked cox orange apples with almond filling and whipped cream (yum!!). This time we photographed in a room with several windows. You can see these photos are a little brighter than the first ones, with a more even light from more sources (but one dominant window to the left). In the pic to the left I wasn’t all that satisfied with the creamy white fabric we first chose. Too “dense”, and it popped out of the picture. So I changed it to a thinner, “earthy” one and snapped a couple of more pics. The background is some kind of tray that we turned upside down. What I think about the most in these photos are the balance between the elements. When the light is coming from one side, you easily end up placing everything you want to display on that side of the frame, creating an imbalance. But still you don’t want important element to be shadowed. To balance up the fabric, apple and cream in the left part of the frame, the spoon points to the right. I also usually add some crumbles or seeds or something irrelevant in the periphery so that the image doesn’t “tip over”. Do you see what I mean?
Balance does not necessarily mean symmetry.
Sonja, and a lot of the other participants, used tripods, but I always shoot with a hand held camera. Simply cause I don’t have a tripod (yet). Now of course I have to get one. I didn’t realized how blurry my photos actually were until I compared them with Sonja’s… I might also have to get that same lens she uses *cough*…
I learned so many great tips during this workshop! If you get the chance to take part in one of hers, or a similar workshop, I can really recommend it! It was so much fun! I also loved doing this otherwise rather lonely activity along with other, inspired people. Afterwards I was both exhausted and super excited at the same time. I think I emptied every single secret energy storage in my body that day, because the following week I got really sick (and still am). That’s probably the best rating any activity can get from me, because it means all my senses were 110% activated and focused : D
Now if you excuse me, me and my runny nose have to go to bed with a cup of Warming Turmeric Milk. See you soon with more geeky styling and photography talking! Yay!
All photographs are Cashew Kitchen originals. Please link back to me when sharing. Thanks!0