There is one topic that I have yet to cover in my Food Photography Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials section, but is the most requested topic. I have been trying to think of a way to cover this topic and make it beneficial to you. The solution finally came to me this past weekend…
As I was working on a recipe for a magazine spread the solution came to me!
But first let me explain the problem. I have received a multitude of emails, tweets, and comments asking for me to cover the topics of styling and composition. Once you get your lighting down, the styling and composition are the most important aspects to the picture ( I am assuming that your exposure is determined when setting up your lighting). The problem is that there is no one size fits all solution to styling and composition. With food, there are millions of ways to style a compose a food photo. It is impossible to write one post that summarizes it all. So my problem was, how do a write a post that will cover all these topics?
This past weekend, I was working off a recipe with no picture for a magazine assignment. I had never made or eaten brown bag chicken, so I was going to have to figure out how to style it based on the meeting I had with the Art Director and what the recipe said. One day, I will show you the recipe, but that will have to wait. As I was carefully placing BBQ sauce covered chicken into a greased brown paper bag, it came to me. The only way to demonstrate composition and styling is one recipe at a time.
As the weekend progressed this idea developed further. My mom has hundreds of cookbooks. A lot of her favorite ones are from decades ago. Many have no pictures and just text. There are a lot of great dishes in them that have fallen out of style and are before my time. I have wanted to do something with these cook books, but couldn’t figure out a way to put them into the blog. After my brown bag chicken incident, I had my solution.
These are the recipes that I will make, style, compose and photograph.
This brings me to announcing a new project on the blog. Recipes from before I was born.
Here are the rules:
-I was born in 1985, so any cook book of my Mom’s that was written in or before 1985 is fair game.
- The recipe can’t have a picture. I have to read it and figure out how to shoot it
- I can shoot a bunch of different images, but I am only going to post one.
I have no idea where this project will take me, but I think it will be fun.
So here we go first recipe.
Pineapple Fritters. These come from the book “Charelston Receipts” It is a collection of receipts (not recipes) compiled by the Junior League of Charleston in 1950. I will go ahead and tell you up front that this recipe is good, but is slightly bland. In the 60 years since it was written, I think taste have changed and it needs a some stronger flavor, I will be revisiting it and making some changes at a later date.
Here is the recipe
1 cup milk (scant)
3 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup crushed and drained pineapple
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 1/2 cups flour to make stiff batter
Combine in order given. Add pineapple to batter last. Drop a tablespoonful at a time in hot, deep fat. Serves 6-8.
So you can probably tell that recipe writing has changed a little bit in the last 60 years. I followed the recipe and used peanut oil that I heated to around 360. I fried the fritters 2-3 at a time for about 2 minutes. I let them sit for 5 minutes. The inside continued to cook while sitting.
So on to the picture. In reading this I could tell that this was going to be a fried recipe. While there are a million different directions I could go, I wanted to have a picture of the fritters that conveyed they were right out of the fryer. This means that I needed to have props and backgrounds that made sense. When I fry, I always place my fried food on brown paper bags to drain. I also use a metal spider to take my fried food out of the oil. So for this shot, having oily paper bags and a metal spider made sense.
In reading the recipe, it calls for a tablespoonful to be fried with each fritter. Using this gave me the size for the fritters. I fried a couple and saw that they puffed up instantly when hitting the oil. I wanted them as spherical as I could, and all about the same size.
The recipe makes enough fritters for 6-8 people, so I thought I would include several in the picture to convey it made a lot of them.
I lined them up along the bag. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have just the bag as the background or another background as well, so I laid the bag on a large stone tile ( by the way if you are looking fo great stone backgrounds go to tiling stores and by the sale samples)
As far as placement of the fritters, I wanted them to be slightly staggered, but have a row feel to them. I decided to have one in sharp focus and the others could be out of focus. I knew I wanted to have part of the metal spyder in the picture. After playing around for a while and taking a bunch of different camera angles, here is the result.