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Natural Food Styling

Lesson 14 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

Natural Food Styling

Lesson 14 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

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Lesson Info

14. Natural Food Styling

Next Lesson: Shoot: Styled Chili


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction






Hero Shots


Motion in Restaurant




Restaurant Details


Lesson Info

Natural Food Styling

So when we started the earlier segments, we kind of kept it focused on lighting, we kept a simple now we're going to go beyond that a little bit. We're going to get into where she is awesome about and I kind of suck about so she's going to talk about it more he's actually really good. Like, smiling. So thanks. So today's topic on this segment is gonna be natural food styling food styling is a career all in itself. You can dedicate twenty years to learning this, and there are some amazing food stylist it's out there that have been doing it for so many years. So it's really gonna be impossible to cover everything because food styling questions and challenges run all across the board from all types of foods to textures, temperatures. So how I started food styling was learning naturally and it's not and it's part of this process that I'm still always learning, but I want to give one reference book that I find to be. It was super helpful to me, and it was a book called food styling bye delo...

res custer and that is a great book because she talks about she's pretty much put her life into this one book, and she covers all the details in food styling from working with um, fake foods like ice cream, I learned how to make fake ice cream from that book and, you know, it's it's, a topic that I'm really not going to teach today because, again, it's something that you can study on your own because food styling has so many spots, big topics, and in that book she breaks it down to everything, working with meets, working with eggs, working with ice cream and a lot of challenging dishes, easy dishes, how to maintain them. She also gives great tips on how to use, uh, mother's, textures or other things to replace it and there's a lot of kind of fake food stuff in there, too. That could be really helpful for those of you who want to dive into the world of food styling that has to deal with a lot of this element, but basically today I'm gonna teach you puts dying the way I learned it, which is basically really natural, and I really want a highlight natural food styling because that's what I'm being hide for and I always emphasize natural food styling and always show my work to be very natural because that's, the work that I want to dio so food styling can run all across the board and you cute, specialize in so many different specialties and use different ingredients. But starting out in this career, I really said I don't want to work with a lot of the different chemicals or glues or motor worlds and things like that on a lot of people use those because they can be helpful, you know? I'm not gonna say anything about it in terms of opinion, I just think if that works for you and that's, the type of field or the type of detailed food styling you want to go into that's wonderful, you just get this book by delores and she can really help walk you through all the steps, but today we're gonna talk about riel food styling things that you can do every day simple tips to make the food last a little bit longer look a bit, look a little bit prettier and ingredients to use to help make the food just a little bit more fresh because again, what you put out there is what you're gonna be recognized for. And yes, I do make a living off a food styling clients hire us for the food styling alone first because when they find us, they don't think we photograph, they see the work and they want to hire me as a food stylist first and I said, if it's natural, I'm going to do it and they say yes, we love your style we want to hire you for that and that's always been super helpful and then we say, well, the photographer is actually my husband to like, well all right, well, we can hire you at the team so that's, how we've been able to really build on the food styling part of it really quickly and again I'm not afraid to tell people what I don't do because there's a lot of people have asked, can you work with fake this or this or make this look more fake? And I tell him it's not what I'm good at and I'm not gonna do it but what I do love to talk about is real food food that afterwards, you know, there's going to be some tricks to it that I've added some adjustments there's going to be some changes that I've made that you can't eat it because maybe it has too much lemon juice on it to make it not well brown but essentially everything that we worked with and essentially really all of the clients that we work with it's all real food so people always ask is the food you use fake? I'm like no, I'm never used big food other than ice cream, but that was only to show like a side dish it was a really hot day, so I needed something that really wasn't gonna melt so starting off with food styling, I always like to use real ingredients if you ask me where to buy a fake radish or fixed our berry I'm going to tell you I don't know because I don't care to know that but I'm sure there's resource is out there but for me I want to use ingredients that are super fresh super real and how we find that is sourcing at the markets or really quality grocery stores because really food that's really fresh is a hero in itself you don't really have to do much to it you really don't it's there and it's beautiful and how we do it is when we go to the store market we're really anal and people at the store hate us I have to tell you they've really hate us because when we go by strawberries or something we're opening packages and we're looking and that's part of like when I taught you about light looking for light the same thing with food style you know look for details you'd looked for all the little details and textures that really highlight that ingredient. So when we go the store I'm buying for this say there's a a something for the salad let's start with there and I'm thinking about all the different ingredients within the client's recipe or if it's our block recipe and we want to work with the salad so we know the lighting we've talked about the lighting we know we want the mood you know we want to kind of light fresh then we think about the salad, so we also when we develop recipes we develop the recipe towards delicious we wanted to eat good, but because we photograph, we want to make it look pretty too that's where a lot of your jobs is you're you're making food and want to make it look pretty, so I'm going to that process I'm thinking of all the different types of lettuce is that I can use to make myself look pretty, so if you're always eating with iceberg lettuce, which is really great it's really fresh and crisp think about maybe changing it up. O r um or if you really have to build a salad that's really specifically just beautiful for a hero shot thinking about all the different lettuces thatyou could use so when we go to the grocery store were like looking in and in boxes for pulling things up to see what kind of detail what kind of texture I could find, so let us doesn't always have to be remain it doesn't always have to be a green laver you could buy things like endive so again, when I'm staring through the greens I'm looking for what has texture like a rugal is a great example of a green that has wonderful texture is the wishes it's delicious, it's delicious and so how I'm looking at these things is I'm looking for choosing the best possible subjects, so if I had a choice between a really yellow looking, I'm head of let's say remain heart that really wasn't rain in any way that I want to say, well, I'm going to add some oh, and I I think I'm going to make, uh, endive or something's salad that because it has that texture or maybe I'm thinking, ok, we just have a regular salmon salad, and we hope it only have remain I'm thinking, well, how about we add some more uvula because that's gonna add great texture, so part of what we do is particularly in terms of recipe developing for other clients are not only thinking about how the food tastes good, how it could be pretty, so I'm gonna think, oh, look at this look at the irregular because we know us photographers, the camera's gonna pick up that amazing detail, so when I'm looking at something, I'm like this, I'm looking at it really closely, so when I go to the grocery store, the produce people are like, what does that check doing? I mean, literally like opening up packages on looking because sometimes when you buy herbs, they're in the plastic packages and you don't know what they look like, I open them up pull them all out, but I don't make a mess. I put it all back very, you know, politely, but I'm always looking for texture. I need the best possible subjects, which, you know, a lot of what she is doing, it's the same sort of stuff that we would do in a restaurant. You know, it's like a chef or whoever is receiving the producers like they're looking through the boxes they're looking to makes things pretty. Yeah, it's like it's, not just about the taste, is how review it. And so you, just like a chef in a restaurant is gonna be doing that to create a dish unknowing taste amazing, but looks great on the plate. So you have to think of that same way away with when you're doing the styling. So this poor back here at bullet a couple points where, when we're going into, um, styling something, these simple bullet points that we think of which is the best possible subject, we see the detail it's all the little things like radishes, I had two options for radishes. There is one with really long, leggy stems, and then I found one for in the back that had really small, tender steps you see that, so I'm just not going to grab the radish that has a long stems, I'm really gonna look for the hero. I'm gonna look for the things that make it pretty low tail and has a cute little tail. So I'm always looking for the little things next I highlight always individual ingredient, and I usually buy things on a smaller scale. So for example, there were the options for radishes that were the big ones, but this one was super tiny and super cute. So I know that this is going to look more tender, it's going to look more fresh. I'm always going for smaller scale things. Same thing with this rosemary. There was an option to get this big, leggy rosemary. Then I found the smaller tender one it's because the leaves were smaller, they looked more fresh, so allow yourself to choose don't just pull whatever's the first thing in front of you really looked through and dig the same thing like with salmon are the seafood guy hates us because if we shoot center cut, we need a beautiful center cut. It does have a certain height. They need to be a certain with some like, no, that one was like, no, that one that one he's like trying to go through, and they don't get it. Until we tell him will we photograph food and then they get really really don't then they really know that I'm getting like why would you photograph this and then they're like they try to help so be really involved with that and see all the details like when why shoot greens I love to shoot anything with great texture and I love to add a little bit at like the freeze air and that whatever that that element into it and lastly less is more now one of the things where when I started food style I used to look at magazines and be so inspired I would like put everything in the frame like it's on the magazine but at that point he never understood lighting I have never understood propping and ever really understood food styling so I felt like my frame always looked like what I called diarrhea it really did it looks so bad it was just so much stuff on the frame was bad I know it was it was just really bad it was just a hot mess you know on that frame and then I started stripping away because it's so much easier to start with less and add more than it is to add more and pull away so thinking about this just starting on a small scale and starting with less and the next thing is always thinking about work flow when you're choosing ingredients and you prepping your food, thinking about the work flow with the photographer so, at least in your case, you're the photographer, right? You're gonna be prepping and you're gonna be shooting the food. So thinking about what you're going to do to, in terms of being a photographer that's where the advantage you have is as a food stylist, because when you're propping styling and not only styling it to make it looking pretty, you know what the camera's going to see already so there's an advantage when you're styling for somebody else, like, in this case, I have to let him know what I'm seeing as well. So it needs to be that communication on that work flow. So I think that's a key thing that you need to initiate before you even start going into plating a dish number one is like, um, tight, the timing of the final hero shot is really important, so what we do is we always have a stand in, um, meaning that if let's say, I'm going to style the salad and, um, timing with the photographer is really important, so I'll tell him, will you get your angle? And you get whatever it is it that you need to do because the salads gonna die quick and it's a hot day so if it's going to take you more than ten minutes to shoot and then we need to really get everything we need on set so always do a stand in and since you're all photographers you could do that see so what we always do is I for example have a dish or two that I know I'm gonna shoot on and I'm a set it on the stage for him or the table to shoot and I'll add a stand in so in this case I know it's gonna take me about twenty minutes to build the salad so I'll just grab something with the same color and texture and I'll just throw it on there unlike stand ins done doing the senate is also kind of the key to having a hot meal yeah, so many times like when we want a photograph the same meal that we're going to eat this is sort of way that you can start to do what you're planning ahead you're getting your scene done ahead of time so for me, as the photographers like she's setting up basically how I confined my angles so I'm going to be looking around she's got the plate so I know how high or how low I want to go over the rim start finding my light I'm moving around I'm getting all that sort of self, so oh, that sort of stuff set if you're doing it all solo then you'll be doing that too it's like you're getting it ready for yourself just like a chef is gonna have everything perhaps that way they'll become service time and think you can just rock it out in an instant the same sort of thing is happened now you're getting everything done ahead of time that you can so that way when you're ready to shoot it's like boom, that happens and you're ready to rock and roll yeah, particularly when you're put styling food that is very sensitive ice cream plated like melty dishes, popsicles um anything with sauces and drips things that dry out fast things that wilt and then once he's done that, then in same situation with the client once they approve and everything, I haven't built it yet because as a food styles I can practice and get an idea, but I'm never gonna build the hero and have it sit while they still figure this out, so once they do that, then I'll do stand in props like okay, here's the spoon do you like the spoon let's work with the glass, okay, so you like bangladesh, let me just throw a glass in real quick but let's say we want to have a drink way we want to have a bowl of extra stuff in the back I can't get that separation you so I want to break it let's say I need to add an extra bowl of lettuce in the bath so all those steps so is the food stylist part of it is being patient I'm always be paige I'm not gonna fire it up right away I'm not gonna have it all set I'm gonna wait once they're done then he gives me the cue okay we're ready to shoot in ten minutes or he's gonna ask me if it's a steak we need to shoot he said he's going to say how long does it take to fire up the steak? Ah cell in ten minutes so about ten, fifteen minutes before they're ready for the hero he'll let me know so all that communication is really important where they're not you doing it yourself you have that timing and work flow down are you working with another photographer with a client? All of those things a really important sometimes people forget that they just make the beautiful food first and then they start jumping into everything and then they say god, my ice cream's melted my whipped cream's like all fallen it's because you put it all first I need to think about everything else your restaurant you're in the weeds you dying today is going to suck so we're trying to make it so it doesn't say and what I was able to identify and food styling images that I love so much were these traits because when I first started I'm nobody taught me I didn't really read books because I had didn't pick up delores is book yet, but I thought naturally what were all the pictures that I loved in natural images that I loved and identified all those points? And so by identifying all those points I'd made sure I wanted to make be able to convey that my images so some of the points that I focus on is of course always the hero beauty always find out which ones you're beautiful hero the one that you're going to focus on so if you buy a basket of strawberries there's gonna be some brews ones underneath there's gonna be some beautiful ones out so what we always do on set ways we lay everything out and we identify the hero so ladies and you can see I mean these were a beautiful batch of strawberries but this one's like all beat up what a while and then we're going to look in relation to color some are great, but some have a white top I want one with full color, so we're gonna lay everything out and identify the hero I like this one because I like the little hair sticking out he looked like has a little more hawk, so I'm looking for all the things I like this one and I might like this one, so I've got my two heroes because everything else doesn't matter as much but least I know I have my two heroes, we set it aside and we have a big sign do not eat hey do not eat because a few times have happened where somebody ate the hero, you know? They're like, oh my god shed everything looks at my fault berries so good, yeah, next thing I think about balance within a frame, so when I'm looking at a new image that is food style, so well I noticed that there's some type of balance you know the word if there is a balance of of of something on one side, there might be something on the other side there's always balance somewhere within a frame and texture. Images that I love have tons of texture, so in food styling and in part prop styling to part of it is looking for texture not only in the texture that you shoot on the texture and food. So far, I've identified three different types of lettuce that actually have texture, so am I ever going to shoot with rome? A are like iceberg in a salad? Probably not. My choice is always going to be something along this sort with color always looking for hector and then color I'm always looking for color because sometimes if everything in the salad is green, I'll think about more color. How else can I infuse that salad with more color in terms of greens and buy some radicchio? Because I know radicchio is awesome because it's got color it's got texture it's got all those things that we love, so I'll just slice it thin and adding in gives color some shredded carrots so always think on that and how can I add more color and texture to it? Lines lines are really important to interment in a frame terms of where the linens placed where um, food this place like a sprig of an herb, how it finds itself in one line versus another, and I wouldn't be explaining that in a demo in a minute. Utensils and utensils also defines lines within an image that makes it so beautifully food style, the prop style um and then movement in motion when we talked about texture too. When you look at identify all the individual ingredients in a salad and we have a rubella, my final hero piece of a ruler that I'm going to choose for todd to focus on is one that has movement, so this one for example, and there's some that are just more straight like this one is like super straight so I'm just going to really analyze and look this one super straight but then look at this one I mean, this one I've um so I'm just going through identified this one as a hero because it's got so much movement I mean, look at that curve, you see? I mean, this is what we do all day on set we just like, you know, is it this one or is it this one? But you see the difference? Do you see how the camera's gonna pick that up? So let's say you have a pile of green mess and it just all looks clumpy again identifying that hero, so you know, if a client sell it is what it is, we can't change it it's suspect then I'm going to choose some of these really beautiful then they'll use probably they're bigger, rula, but I want to go the store and buy the same type of arugula, but I'm to choose that really pretty one, so I'll layer the top of the salad with all the pretty little guy, so again, I'll have a little bold water this is don't touch hero and I'll start choosing all these little pretty this is all just like sit like this all day and said and I have an assistant just all they just find me the heroes, and she'll find me the heroes and put in a bowl once we get that will lay it on top. But that's, what is what's going to pop the salad out? She's amazing. All the individual hero ingredients that you pick out a single out is really gonna make edition, particularly when we're dealing with individual single, individual plated dishes. It is it's, those little details that make the difference between dishes being man or it's like, oh, I love this shot, you know, a little bit differences in light and angle the differences and choosing a piece that krul's or that lays flat it's they give the movement the life to the image which it just without it, sometimes it just feels like it's a little bit lacking. So it kind of sometimes seems a little crazy, which it is nothing wrong with a little bit crazy, different and, you know, just comparing, but, you know, that's what? This is a very detailed type photography. When you're doing think, particularly when you're dealing with just individuals, play dishes, you know, scenes, some like that that's a different scenario, but individual playing dishes, you have a very small subject. And just like when someone's shooting a model it's like you want that makeup to be gorgeous and different swing like a mediocre makeup and the makeup that's like snaps it's like it makes a difference in the shot. This is that same sort thing. This is doing the makeup for the dish and anything that we always focus on his height because some food lights flat naturally. So we always worked to try to bring in height and bringing it haif is a couple different ways that we false bottom and food stylists. If you talk to food stylists, everybody will false bottom in a different way, and we talk about false bottom is being able to prop the bass up of the bull and prop it up tweaking add more height to a dish so ways that a lot of people with false bottom to bring haif some people use mashed potato. We use wet paper towels people used like a heavy potato or an apple or orange underneath the lift up more, and some people will use cotton cotton balls ever tell a spaghetti all types of different things, and I'm going to show you how to do that in a salad and just a minute and lastly story you know when you look at an image that's food stand while there's always story within it to story in terms of the ingredients and how rustic they are and the color they have and how they tying to the frame and the composition so when you looking these images we shot these a long time ago but these kind of all when we when I foodstuff food stylist I thought about all those things like for example, you know these it's more sauce right there just chocolate covered black so that's part of a project that we did and I wanted to make it or a block post and it looked really bad so because we had control in our block post to change the recipe we decided to add peppermint on top so they're peppermint s'mores chocolate covered marshmallow so rather than just show a chocolate covered marshmallow we wanted to put peppermint on it because that added texture because when we shot it originally for the recipe it was just like it looked like a ball of black so again, like maybe I can have peanuts on top whatever we could think of dad texture and then in styling and they're so small so I did want to bring hype so I separated them between two glasses made them a little higher from on another I added a stick on it for that height you know, movement again the same thing with the linen having the lenin fold over a little bit in the back so it's not all in front, you don't always need a straight line love like wrinkled linens I love on iron london's maybe because I don't like to iron myself, but because I just love that that feels natural to me and when I feeling like a frame is getting flattered dole, I'll add a linen in there to create some type of movement within the frame and same thing with the cookies too, you know, the hero was the chocolate cookie, but I felt so alone by itself, so we put the chocolate and it just felt like it wasn't interesting there was no sugar on top, we can't add sugar because this is a speck recipe. So how we did just get a toothpick and added a little swirl of chocolate coming out and to me that added interest and it made it more interesting and to me, the ads movement within a frame, so I'll do that with chocolate or whatever I'll always try to add see how I can add that type of movement within it and that key issues in the surface creates the lines for us so it's like that's giving a little bit of dimension a place for a little bit of interest in the frame um, sugar too strong there because, you know, the plate felt so flat still, it just didn't feel like there was enough, and I wanted that crime a little bit imperfection, so I just grabbed the bowl of the sugar that was on the cookie and sprinkled a little bit more for texture. Not that that really made a difference, like the pops of color for the peppermint ones using like the little cupcake underneath the pops, the little candy holders can you just happen to have those? And I thought that lifts the color, too, so I'm thinking of all those things on that list all at once, but before, when I did it, I didn't think of it all at once. I thought of it one at a time, it took me a long time to really get to this point to where it made sense, and I was able to find balance within the frame and same thing with dark, moody things. I'm always looking for a certain textures to it, bringing color and movement like the for the pomegranate rather than starting it. I I started them a little bit, and I kept them wrinkled on purpose, and I want to make sure I had that cur because all those things I see his movement, I'm always thinking of movement within a frame. Because we're dealing with an inanimate object, we're not dealing with a cute baby where beautiful person with beautiful eyes or great smile great teeth we're just dealing with food you know, anything we can do to inject a little bit that movement and texture within the frame is super helpful, you see like with the linens like she talks about where she didn't iron it flat but allowed it to have a little bit of that bubble on the curve sweets and now it's able to catch the shadows too. So now it's a curing incorporating the movement from the styling is playing in coordination with the way the light falls on it so that's giving a little bit more dimension to the framing and in terms of food to break it up you know sometimes if you're wanting to shoot lemons and you're struggling, cut it up think about all the different ways that you can cut it up use a mandolin for certain radishes or whatever ingredients or cucumbers to make it thinner. So thinking about all the ways that you can express that vegetable a la times even like with green beans we forget let's quit it up snap peas and I think there's so gorgeous when they opened up the lice and half just pop a break him in half even eggs if you're shooting a bunch of egg white eggs and they're just glad herbal break one open crack one, you know, show the center think of not only what's on the outside, but on the inside. Well, not here inside it. So you're here to inside? I'd like that. Yeah, just crack it open. I'm always like breaking stuff even at the grocery store, waking up a little bit, you know, buy a getup, you know? And again, you know, we when we shot these, what are these colored chokes the smaller ones, you know, we need to do a still life foreign artichokes rather buying the really big ones I thinking's mom thinking smaller scale because it's so much prettier is we went to market the hannam smaller so you don't have to shoot whatever you think is right. They're available in the store. Think about your other options for sourcing to get the better subject and after that kind them in half, you know, when I want to do a top down to show the center of it and again that texture the linen in this case, which is a piece of cut burlap I buy from the fabric store, I'll tell you where everything abide it's a dollar I tell you, it's a dollar if it's a hundred, I'll tell you what's hundred but I mean, I'm really big on texture and in fighting those things inexpensively so this one is just from if you go to the fabric store, they sell burlap in yards, you know? But the burlap has that free and the left side I could have cut it, but I didn't want to I feel like it was really natural and I feel like it just feels authentic, you know? And that's part of how we approach an image to is making it feel so real and authentic that make you feel like you know us already from the picture, you get an idea of who we are in that frame, so a lot of texture and that one it's one of my favorite shots because that little linen cost me like, fifty cents and I loved cheap stuff I think I found one of those boards in a trash can, which I love more digging in trash cans or not everybody's trash cans but sometimes in dumpsters people throw away old wood, I'm there like I'm looking, I'm searching and making sure there's no termites title bring it home and brush it off for me so any opportunity I have to get to find texture I should get a t shirt just called texture because I'm all about texture and working with cold subjects we talked about that in terms of timing um maybe we have time we can shoot cold stuff too I mean there's so much that we can shoot when it comes the coal thing same thing these are cherry bomb coconut milk popsicles they're actually on our block right now there's a bunch of different pictures you could look on there but in shooting this one I had everything set I had the plate I had the cherry bask in the back and then I had my cherry stand it so these popsicles were sitting in the freezer if I were to put that there on that hot afternoon and finally allowing us to get the light this thes things would have been melted although it would've been a cool shot though too but I want to make sure it wasn't dead and same thing for even just for the ice itself to sew the ice we want a little bit more of a crushed ice but the ice has living more cubes so we you know through thousand blender put a nice crush mode but then put it back in the freezer that wasn't gonna go straight from the blender too on the plate we want to give it a chance to basically read it it's too and then after the ice is like solid again which we're not really even waiting on the ice were doing all the other stuffs all this stuff is really taking the same amount of time but just the timing that it happens becomes a little bit better for getting the final shot we're looking for, so we're taking care of her isa have time I'm pulling the pops out of their molds just enough of a little bit that they're separated, so we're not kind of struggling with them morgan raid to put them on the set so pops already but there's still chilling in the freezer isis ready, still telling the freezer while those air going, then she's setting up to plate setting up the cherries and then we get a test shot. Wait just a very, very, very way like the angle we like the light from throwing your heroes and rock and roll and, you know, again the extra because we've had we've shot a lot of pop, so there was big pop, so towns like hey let's, crush it and thinking of all those things, let's make it different and it doesn't even lay on top. We thought we call just a lace. Um, it isn't it's, not just the popsicle laying on top of the ice. We thought to be cool, just a sprinkle some on top of the popsicles because it gives that frosty be refreshing ice field. Um, these, um slushies were kind of the same thing shooting them, they melt back, that was a warmer afternoon it was for a kitchenaid shoot for a bunch of challenge recipes that we shot for them and this one it was the same thing we had everything set because they knew the slushy really should have this I see kind of texture but to maintain that really great texture we've gotta work quick so we had froze it I'm not frozen but blended it a little bit and then put in the freezer to get it set already so that it would not melt any more and in that time was that the glasses the straw the client approved everything we had the strong position they had to change the straw a couple times but by the time you put that drink on set without even doing the stand ins and you make all these adjustments that things melted so plan ahead all the time this is a turkey shot two that we shot for a client. One of the things that I want to bring up in this shot is back to lighting a mood and styling too. Some people feel like, well, it's all about the plates in order for you to get a mood different mood I have to buy a whole new set of place and in food styling this is where it's helpful because you're a photographer you know lighting now you know moves you can change it without busting the bank you know busting that bank to buy a second set of dishes so this was a thanksgiving campaign for a client and they wanted it in the brighton area mood they want the fresh feel but the art direction for the agency wanted to push a little bit to do something a little bit different so the client was a little bit of you know let's let's keep it light but there are directors like what can you do to show a different mood without changing those dishes? Because those dishes are very representative of them like no problem we love light were all about mood so we just changed the table we changed the lighting completely we blocked it off you can see is your three o'clock light you know let's break it down you know that's what we're here for you we're breaking down tto learn and see how we can understand it but that's all the same plating that doesn't change the branding for the client but it's just a different mood and different texture on the board can't you go back to the last one and you're going back all same dishes all same dishes so again people think, well, you know if I want to shoot moody I need a whole new set of dishes for moody I need to buy dark and heated by rustic I needed by dark wood no you don't you can easily shoot moody on white plates to modern place. So the only thing that changed really between those two shots physically was just the table in the background. So the background just aboard. So just lying that board behind, we could've actually got in a way. It was shooting the first table and still have gotten more or less this look, because they go back to the first one. You go back. I mean, this this table still like a great rustic table. But with that lighter light and the lighter background behind it, you know, it gives you this nice, bright tone. We want to push it even further. So to the dark one to one, then, you know, we have second table that we just walked out. It was easy enough to swap out. But if you didn't have the second table, you could still almost get this biscuit. Same sort of shot. The same feel the same mood, even off the first table. Yes. Oh, yes. I'm sorry. Did you shoot this at your studio? In her home or on location? Some in your studio. We had to cook all of everything. Yes, yes. What is the backdrop? What did you use for the backdrop, it's, actually, a piece of of wood that's cut out along that size of the blackboard that we were shooting with their pre cut pieces of panel that are really thin and light from home depot. And I'll talk about later as I go, but that texture is actually a fake concrete texture. It's by martha stewart it's, this gritty uhm texture that they sell in a little tub and it's called like I don't even one of its called, but I found it like I found it for two dollars. I haven't found it ever again, so martha bring it back, but I just pasted that on and give me that great texture. Yes, it's kind like a thicker paint that has a lot of texture to it, so it you know, we're combining it with the co that you want. It gives you a nice little, almost like a step code wall type look and you could actually do the same something you could actually just do stucco, get aboard and then throw a stuck a layer on it to create that sort of texture for yourself as well. You know, that's all we have to have this perfect stuccoed wallet just needs to be big enough fills your frame. Forget a client said what else can we do to push it a little more let's go more editorial let's go more moody do we need to change the dishes like no, I don't want to change the thing itself set how about we change angle and that's still? Now you start bringing out the mood because the mood in the light shows so much more on this because it's so visual it's so, um so again it's so visual share so much story you see so much of the table you feel like it's arrested thanksgiving and again did I change food styling? No, so again don't feel like because you want a different mood. You need to change the food styling you need to go shopping again on the big shopper, but I want to try to make it to where you can understand how you don't need to break the bank so again change angle and perspective and all and a lot of times when we are, unless they were working for a particular angle for a client like you working an angle, it takes half an hour to get it all set everything's just an hour. Yeah, everything is worked on dialed in and you know this is shifted here shift to there and it was a very elongated process you get that angle and then boom, okay, shots done, it's approved then you move from where you're at and then he's moving shoot just find different and even everything is set as exactly as is, but you're just moving on and finding different angle different perspective a lot times you'll find you like that second set of pictures better than the one that you took forever getting for your first original one I don't know if it's because it's fussed over more or what but there's just something about, like assumes you start to move around and find different angles it just changes everything so there's not much you know feel free to even like when you get the shot that you want that maybe just look around, see if you could find something else that it's like, oh, I like that too and again, you know, finding your voice and mood and food styling, looking for textures and stuff when you're styling food, it doesn't always have to be on wood and white, you know, be bold if your color first colorful person used color don't be afraid of that uh, don't be defined by what you see in magazines all the time and what you see in logs and when you see your peers do just because it's popular now to do wood and everything like that or trendy if you like color, go for color, be yourself. Make sure that styling voice comes out because food still looks great on color, food still looks refreshing on color. It can still be exciting and stimulating to the viewer. Not everything needs to be on would you know, and this is one where it's all pink, you know, an example of sometimes we contradict ourselves. Now this one's girlie well, this one's got has nothing but everything to do with, like, like, like not doing something like bringing another color to make it pop to me. That cake pops itself so I don't have to work to hide to prop him at all these different things in development. I feel that with that bundt cake and the frosting, it just adds so much movement already. And in this frame, that movement alone is done for me. So in my check off list, I don't have to have everything within their I don't have to have texture, there's not a lot of texture, there's no problems and hear anything like that, but just the movement of the frosting is done. I heard only get the frosting. On we could think in frosting too so a lot of times were you working with frosting or maple syrup and um and if you're doing pancakes, what we do naturally is we always freeze it I will always by real maple syrup and they will always freeze it first and then I will have a different with small bottles that I'll transfer it to and then when it's ready to shoot um we're ready to be sauced is what we call it everything suddenly need to be solved we call sauce ings ready and if it's too firm, I just kind of warming up in my hands a little bit so I always have little bottles and transfer it, but some people you know will use different things on the fake stuff for pancakes, which is fine I've seen those pictures and they're still beautiful, but for me I'd rather use the real stuff because if somebody accidentally put in their mouth at least it's the real stuff so like for this one like when going back to yeah it's like when doing like this icing is basically, you know, getting to the point word run just enough so the icing is still said it's not really in motion anymore, so but choosing that like when you're going to make a cake and you're going to ice and you want the troops sometimes it's like you're playing with just a little bit like how much is this running is this gonna be a very thin icing that's going to be left on the top or is it gonna be thick enough that it can give just a nice beautiful drip so sometimes you're just maybe tweaking the recipe a little bit changing sometimes just timing the rest we maybe have this great thick icing but it doesn't quite get you that run that you want a little bit so you warm it up just a touch more just enough that I'll get a nice running and leaves its thickness so just some of those things you think about as you're creating your final hero too this is and this is a great man cake recipe it's actually on the kitchen a block it's by blogger picky power kenny but this is her recipe and it's a great pink but cake um and this one to color again you don't always have to have would you don't have to dig in the trash like ideo you know vintage stores the fine would you like a raccoon? Records are cute okay quick question if you don't mind this is from pixel berg who wants to know do you have any tips for shooting from straight up above? I'm pretty short and I tend not to get the food straight or find myself shaking from balancing on stools and it ruins the focus shooting from above, shooting straight above you, shooting straight about putting on floor we should, you know, species on the floor unless you've got a little bit more stability, stability and, you know, I think I'm kind of on five four, but I can still pretty much get a great shot from from the floor if you're really sure, like maybe my mom for feet, something, then still put it on the floor and then you can step on your stool. But I would suggest if you can try to put stuff on the floor, that gives you a lot more stability, not having to stand on the ladder using anything like that body structure helps teo so you can try to have your elbows dropped a little bit more. If you're going to have chicken wing, you're going to be a little less stable and that's for pretty much any shot, too, even when you're shooting, even angle's having this is like you can see how the arm getting pressed against your body of it stabilizes a bit, so even top down this arm could help stabilize if I'm out here, I'm really, really just on my arm strength alone to control the camera, which then it becomes a little bit harder to stabilize here. Bending from the waist makes you keep straight back. Teo, always your background will kill you, and then you can get over the top of an image and your body structure is gonna help stabilize. You better make it a little less shaking. Great. Thank you. Yeah. So we get back to color. I mean, this is a fun thing. I mean, this is another great recipe it's, a bahamas great bahamas from catherine from we licious. This is getting a kitchenaid campaign, and I brought these up not because they're kitchenaid just but because they had a great series of recipes that that shot with a lot of color, and it allowed us to kind of go outside of what we normally do. But this was great. I mean, the color in the rainbow inn it's so fun, you know, being able to add color. So if there's an opportunity, if you have a dip whatever to add a side of vegetables to style it as a crew today, you know, then bring out as many colors and textures as you can. So for the radishes, I am always choosing radishes with leaves. Sometimes when you're ready to cut radishes or I'm sorry, eat radishes, you typically always cut the tail or the top off right away I'm going to save it I'm going to say the little bits of green on there, so don't clean it off all the way on dh, then I'm going to cut it different angles. I love the little tail because I'm always going to keep that all the time. I never cut the tail off my radishes if its overall radish dish and actually leaving the head on top, the rash was, like kind of a fun way to give a little handle. What are the three tops you'll handle? So, so think about that the texture, how you know how it really adds value to the photo, even with cutting like these cucumbers, rather than cutting them like like a coin, cut it on a diagonal, same thing with the green beans, cutting him at a diagonal and keeping that tail, you know, that adds that movement in a frame and color I mean it's, just so fun to be able to shoot with things with color. So give yourself that exercise to folks, because it's not always about, um, leave the tips and tails leaves the tips of kayla t shirt for you. You could have that one texture and tails.

Class Materials

bonus materials with purchase

Gear Guide
Places to shop for Food Styling Props

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

First, thank you to Diane, Todd and the CreativeLIVE team for a wonderful exploration of "shooting" food with artistry. This course offers the beginner and professional photographer many incites into the world of natural food photography. With some business and lifestyle tips the majority of this course showcases an effective natural shoot style that allows anyone to deliver wonderful images. The strongest point I found useful is to “find a voice” for the story, your images or your client. While I understand “finding the voice” when writing copy it is the realisation that any activity can have its own voice. Your voice can be the style of image you like, the shoes you wear, the books you read, etc. it is not limited to how loud you (or anyone else) shouts. Using general principles and building good habits through practise will allow you (and me) to achieve, not just find, success. The “lighting clock” is a useful shorthand helping communication with clients, producers and peers. The strong emphasis on practise, speed and taking advantage of any appropriate situation both improves productivity and reduces the impact on a client. Last but not the only other gem in this course is the bald (not a joke Todd) fact that any photography business was, is and will always be based on the relationship between the photographer and the client. Building a relationship is the best marketing device any photographer, food stylist, entrepreneur or creative mind can develop. Other courses offered by CreativeLIVE also stress the relationship aspect of good businesses as their best marketing asset. I highly recommend this particular course for lovers of (in no preferred order) food, photography and life. Thank you for reading and I hope you find your voice in all things. FJH...


Diane and Todd are amazing! They've held nothing back when giving the rest of us an honest, detailed look into what it means to be a food photographer. I've seen many seminars on the topic from different companies and photographers and this one is my favourite. I love their no fuss approach to food photography. It leaves me feeling like food photography is manageable without having to fuss with cameras and lighting gear that are outside of my budget. I love that Diane often mentions how there's more to food photography than the plated dish. And Todd is just adorable and has the cutest laugh! They're a fantastic team that are engaging and make it easy to learn from them. Highly recommend purchasing this course!

MAlisa NIcolau

I loved this class and how Todd and Diane taught it. It was very personal and inspiring, with lots of insight and tips. This is not a camera technical class, but more an artistic, motivational and visual food photography learning environment. Their examples on how to set up scenes and stories behind the food and people involved are very enlightening. They gave me a lot of great ideas and hope that I, one day, will become as good of a photographer as they both are. Great team!!!!

Student Work