I am on the final straight of this freelance food photography job that has consumed my life over the past month. You can see some of the preview shots in this web page. (The small boxed photos halfway down the page) I have seven recipes to go out of the 55 in total that I had to shoot. I can't believe I have photographed that many recipes in such a short period of time. I don't think I will know what to do with myself when it is all over. Oh that's right I have a 9 month old boy... silly me! I will always be on my toes with him.
I thought I would do a little bit of a behind the scenes post to show you what goes into a photo shoot and the final product. It won't be as in depth as I would like it to be because I have a rascal pulling on the computer cord and running rampant in the office. Namely this little fellow below.
Mornings have been HECTIC with a certain someone holding onto my leg half the time whinging to be picked up. He is a nosy-parker and wants to be in on the action all of the time. He is most content to be hitched up on my hip watching me fluff around with ingredients (with one hand). Mornings are generally spent like this picture below and I generally stay clothed in my pajamas until lunch time if I don't find a chance to change in the morning. Who can boast they work in their ugg boots and pajamas. I guess most stay at home mums can.
Yes I even photographed myself in my PJ's - just keeping it real!
I have found that I have developed a process for cooking, styling and photographing each dish, which has helped speed things up a little bit. I have tried to aim for two photos a day but there has been some days that I have done five and that is just madness. I generally defrost the protein over night in the fridge so that it will be ready for cooking in the morning. That morning I prep all my ingredients, sauces. dressings and garnishes and set them aside for each dish. Organisation is the key to efficiency here especially when the clock is ticking during sleep time. If I have time I will cook the protein to be used in the dish and let it cool down before putting the little boy to bed. That goes for any vegetables as well. I generally blanch most of the vegetables and plunge them in cold water to retain a vibrant colour and so they won't be over cooked. Most of the vegetables you probably see in food photography is undercooked and cold. That's how I do it anyway.
Once I have prepped and cooked all the necessary ingredients for my dishes I go to my collection of crockery and find the appropriate bowl, plate or dish to serve the food in. When choosing a piece of crockery I think of the style I am going for - modern chic, rustic vintage etc. I also need to keep in mind what I am placing on the dish and how I need to plate it to be best shown off. So with the stir fries and salads I have be opting for shallow bowls or plates and for the meat and veg style recipes I keep it to a flat plate. Most of the crockery I own is in muted colours although I have a few stand out pieces but mostly are whites, pale blues, greens, yellows and latte colours.
After choosing the right crockery it's time to plate up. I could write a whole post on doing this so I won't really go in depth here. I try to maintain balance in colour, texture, food placement and finishing touches with garnishes and dressings. I sometimes make some finishing touches such as brushing meat with a little soy sauce to give it a darker more "cooked" look followed by a brush with olive oil to maintain a moist and succulent look to the meat. Leave any type of dressing or squeeze of lemon or lime juice to the final moment you have everything perfect including the settings on your camera. Once you have added the dressing to any dish it starts to "cook" the food and cause it to wilt so if you want perky looking salads leave it to last.
Once the plate is ready I go into my studio (aka the spare bedroom) and set up the background which will compliment the style that I am going for. For example I generally use the wooden backgrounds below when I am going for more of a rustic and vintage look where as I have a number of other backgrounds that are more plain and can be used in a number of different styles.
With the kebab dish that I photographed above you can see the set up below. I used a bead board background that was painted white with simple layers of white cheesecloth and Hessian and a white napkin underneath the plate to create different textures. A blue glass and cutlery finish the styling off. The layers that go on top of the background are extremely important to think about as well. You want them to compliment the dish, add texture and colour and create interest in the photograph but not detract from the food. I find Hessian's, cheesecloth, napkins, bamboo place mats and wooden cutting boards all make excellent textural additions. On some photographs I go all out with the accessories with another plate in the background, garnishes fluttered around etc but on others I like to keep in simple and let the food do the talking (or I am just too tired to go to the extra fuss)
I set another piece of core flute board on the opposite side of the board to reflect the light before starting to photograph. I generally take between 10 - 30 shots of one dish sometimes more if it is not doing what it should do! The first couple of shots are for getting the right exposure and the right amount of blur etc. Sometimes I play around with the camera height and different angles if I don't feel like the photo is looking right. This photograph below is not the final take but one of the many that I took to get the perfect final shot!
Today I photographed a stirfry and a vietnamese salad. You can see the set up below for the salad with me putting the final dressing on top of the food ready to photograph. I even got out of my PJ's for the occasion. So there you go that's is what I have been up to over the past 3 weeks.
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