Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Food photography: how to make a meal look dishy

I’d set up a spot in a spare bedroom where you can rely on a good source of

northern daylight, out of direct sun with the light coming from the right,

and try to work in the early morning or late afternoon – a piece of white

card makes a good reflector. Compile a selection of props: for surfaces, a

pile of linens, boards and trays in different materials (I love old Formica

patterns, wallpapers and maps); for backgrounds, choose an old door, screen

or fabric; and keep a well-stocked cupboard full of dishes, cutlery and

glassware sourced from car boot sales, friends’ kitchens, antique shops and


Perhaps the dish might dictate the style of props, but don’t let them dominate

the food. Classic understatement won’t date, but it’ll never be exciting

either, and recording your kitchen efforts should be fun. Avoid primary

colours as backgrounds, and you’ll soon find chocolate goes well with spicy

colours and meat looks best on greys and neutrals. Plate your dish to look

appetising, either on a serving dish, still in its cooking utensil or on a

preparation surface – cakes look great on cooling trays, and decide at which

angle it looks best: overhead, side-on or three quarters.

William showed us how, once plated, we should try to shoot while the food was

still fresh, replacing or teasing out elements, and ruffling up the food

with forks or tweezers. To slice food, a knife dipped in hot water gives a

clean cut. He also used water sprays and spritzers to add glisten to food,

and occasionally a light brushing of oil to catch the light, though “greasy”

is not a good look.

We had a fascinating day, a chance to immerse ourselves in food, plus a

delicious lunch from Leiths with lots of support with food and props. The

tuition was relaxed and to the point, with bags of tips, giving us

inspiration to go home and get snapping.

Top tips

Tell a story with your composition

Choose props to reflect your style

Don’t be tricksy, just keep it simple

Use natural daylight if possible

Odd multiples work better than evens

Work speedily; food is at its best straight from the kitchen

A spritz of water or oil will lift and refresh food

Food photograpy courses

Food Styling with Sarah Cook and Jennifer Joyce, January 21 (seven weeks).

Food Photography course with William Reavell, three Saturdays of hands-on

advice, March 22. For both courses, see Leiths
or telephone 020 8749 6400

Food and Product Photography course, intermediate level, four days or two

weekends, London School of Photography; see LSP


Food Photography Workshop, The Kitchen Garden School, Northamptonshire. May 9;

see Juniper and Rose

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