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Shoot: Summer Tabletop Scene

Lesson 38 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

Shoot: Summer Tabletop Scene

Lesson 38 from: Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling

Todd Porter and Diane Cu

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Lesson Info

38. Shoot: Summer Tabletop Scene


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction






Hero Shots


Motion in Restaurant




Restaurant Details


Lesson Info

Shoot: Summer Tabletop Scene

So I need you to give me a starting point to who we are we're starting to build the scene now the engagement scene tabletops are going to give me table top seem to think you don't like down topped up your top down again on the fifty and then I'm gonna pull over people who has the two who have not been up here let's have everybody else come up have you come up to there you go everybody take a table they won't have the short of it is kind of have you over here curious time's gonna be right over your head everybody's taken together yes there's some people that have orange and pink fingernails but that's perfect summer I love it no french manicures right god, you are a french manicure so let's eat together so you're not gonna put your hands on the table yet and you talk to give me an exposure of now that everybody seated around so that we know what it's gonna look like with shadows and everything like that and then she read above yeah right here yeah that's right that's right? Well, you do...

have a match right there. Thanks for saying that flat please so I'm going to do around here I'm gonna give you off some food would you like some watermelon so as I'm styling this, you don't get while a melon because you like it you out of melon because just just go back a ways your props I'm looking at place because I know I have a side of watermelon right here that's super awesome um I don't want it to feel like I need every single dish to have watermelon it would be um almost to mosaic in a way I want to make sure that there's still some control in the chaos because it's going to be the chaos of eating and I just noticed already that I have to cutting boards over here so I don't have to make an adjustment over here with color maybe not you know I have another cutting board there so you know what that's okay I'll just move the handle back on center way because I have the color of peaches over there but I want to give you a piece of fried chicken I'm using my hands here did it with food and usually a scene we worked more to nurture like making sure the food's perfect but in this case I'm just going to use my hands are equipped to give that experience I'm gonna give you will salad with that how's that okay you can have silicon e I hope not because they know it's valid but I'm afraid I'm gonna give you up piece of watermelon here and I'm looking at the water mill I can tell that one the rind is up someone have put this one opposite who wants bread? Raise your hand. So I'm gonna have some bread here. I'm actually have you break this bread on the side when we're ready, okay? And when I have you, I'm going to give you a piece of fried chicken. I give you some potato chips just like look on my kids. I'm going to feed you somewhere here, so I mean, she's a vegetarian, okay? You know, vegetarian, I just made that up. Since you're the vegetarian, I'm not gonna give you chicken. Is that ok? Because I feel like I've got two chickens already here. I'm just gonna dig my hands and I always use my hands. Give you a salad. Okay, but I also have salad dressing. I'll let you have the salad dressing. Well, that's pretty good. Well hand gripping just right. That's perfect. That's pretty good. You know what I've noticed? Looking at this, the food looks better. They're so much better than visual top down. Dang. Okay, great, but you're not gonna eat like that way civilized barbarians here we're gonna be civilized friend having a fun summer. May I say, I'm talking you through the story and then afterwards we can be barbarians and just like you into it god that's, that's really that's really freaking awesome okay but I could tell the chicken is just so muted and like suffocated on that board you see that so what we're shooting here I'm just going to go really fast because this is how we work here no we don't ok I have just you know I see yeah I got something here know what we're going to get okay so this is not what I mean when you're shooting top down let's say you know license let's say it so like so it's a real meal you know you want everybody to still eat when it's warm you've got to move quick you gotta plan ahead of time we got to set this up because you want everybody to have hot pasta warm soup and all that stuff I'm gonna reach in here a little bit I'm gonna add a little bit more green here just to bring out the chicken I'm gonna lay a flat now because now is the one to mention I'm going to do that I feel it's a little empty here oh utensils you can't eat with your hands right you all need utensils of some sorts I wantto place this you get a utensil you don't need a utensil when you eat watermelon you are for terrian cherries okay you're for terrian your vegan thinks you're the carnivore and you're like oh what are you oh I'm sorry I forgot about you um what do you weigh to the table no she doesn't know she's the pie girl she gets high scare you wal sorry secretary in she gets the pie okay she's gonna dig into the pie okay well actually no I can't do that I'm sorry because if you're gonna be breaking of the bread that be two people to close so you're going to be the fruit erion and you're gonna be the pie girl gonna put that right over here next to you yeah I'm sorry I'm already deciding your diets here see waken have you like there you go so we got our vegetarian or for terrian here you have potato chips because e here I'll give you a potato chip tio okay you got to be equal opportunity eater here let's maybe a little closer and I feel like there's a lot of separation between this chicken and her focus go move closer we can narrow the frame just a little bit okay pretend we all like each other you would probably need and the utensils you probably need a utensil maybe I made fried chicken with hands right? She would need a salad ok, she gets the pie so she gets the let's um I can't right now find my pi e so let me go ahead and have a user's pretend to scoop some filthy it's uh pie server yeah I'll get it free you know what is ok? I'm gonna add a little bit of here, here there we go just want to mix it up a little bit so what else do we need hear strawberry's barry's watermelon I want to make this interesting so I'm going to give her two layers of watermelon in terms of layering here what looks good way can have so I've got all these different tools here so I think where good too so I can have a salad server okay someone could be scooping salad after could you two okay if I don't have the pie server that's fine okay, I don't need it oh my god okay let's go get a shot through wine, cheese, cheese all right, cheese gosh, but the vegetarian can't have cheese well, that's more for me. Thank you so much. So okay, so here we go your hand's gonna be here afterwards but we're gonna pretend you're when you pre cut this like that okay? Which wedge? This is like a smorgasbord, isn't it? Okay, let's do this shot this is the final feasting seen final sharing scene and this will be representative of the whole three days eating together, which we have been over the last three days we've been eating together so todd needs to give me a and angle first I wouldn't lean you back just a bit there you can actually in against here that every good relax what good got a potato chips the free to terry in the corn person oh, I just did that on purpose because you know I didn't I didn't I promise, I promise before who looked pretty good pretty good. Um okay, it is a little cramped yeah, you see that? So now we gotta work it out. I feel like that I don't even need the peaches of their to this one just like the pie back. So how about I move the salad over here in the watermelon over here to break up all the brown caleb it it's good just to break it up straight and slide that other frame well, but we don't need to see the football. Ok, great let's try that. We don't even need to see the whole pie either, you know, it doesn't have to be so literal. I just have put my hand and right when you shot that it feels really it's really low, you know, a super real I think that I feel feels good bye the fine actually, like that it's a slide by towards this alan have that separation between the two dishes. Can you shift the frame this way a little bit? So I can you see a little more this plate and her hand when she's eating her vegan salad you're the vegan, right? Yeah that's pretending to be the vegan and I feel like it's not beautiful that's just feeling really also on this on this bottom plate we need teo add something to it just sad with just a couple of pieces you write so we'll work that out I don't know why this rugal is up here I wanna give you salad I'm not giving you any fresh chicken because I'm making you cleanse so they decided to dio yeah she she's on a cleansing diet a man more chips this is awesome okay, what a summer feast okay, so let's test this so sure her your hand this guy actually gonna be in here? Yeah holding that I don't know if it's going to be in the frame but at least it shows some of some, um interaction there so just rest it towards like that okay? You're going eating your salad you're going to be holding the chicken so actually if you want the hand in it needs tio we need to move so basically that's nothing is showing supper just the tip of the okay uh server at this point no problem I can make that happen here we go even if the show's a little bit that's good, I'm starving yeah was lunch that looks good, right know what sewed button then what we're gonna do is I'm going to go grab another shot too when I need to have someone reaching across the table so we need to have hands move in more I think you'll see it I'll give you a shot so you know you just move your dishes in a little bit more now it's going choked out though huh now everything's sort of fields hooked out that's okay I mean it's just feeling like it's a feast maybe I could take out the corn you know let's just play with it okay maybe you don't need all these peaches okay let's do it again no not yet yeah just just I want these hands to be in there first and then okay that should give me a shot because I took out the peaches and then what I'm gonna have you d'oh is um reach over I'm gonna have actually let you eat chicken now when have you reached for this piece of chicken with your left hand yeah when already and then I'm gonna have you actually reach for this piece of bread just no that's okay just keep it really were you stereo okay okay just get a shot like that and this peach looks funny to me because it's a lonely half peach now that piece of fresh fruit here how's that feeling and that looking cool okay so let's do this let's have let's have you reached for a watermelon I want to see what it looks like within hand going to keep here crossing you frame for the for the bread okay so see what we're making tea a tabletop adjustments was a lot of these little adjustments but if it's for real which we're going to do in a minute there's a chip that's by the chicken bored with it all right? Okay awesome it's grace okay should be hand model crumb is good but you know that crumb is good that looks good. Ok that's another variation so we're going to do right here real quick is to keep it real and go natural I want you to break this I want you to re break it for you pretend you're going through that motion right here okay? And then I want you to break this bread can I have you grab the fried chicken again a little bit there isn't a wriggly right there really? Can I grab you have you grab the pie again and then after this what we're going to dio is um this is just to get placement on food yes, so probably breaking the bread wanna move her hands in so no biscuit I'm seeing just your fingertips at this point they're just moving it closer towards the center of the table. Yeah, just like reaching for years if you breaking the bread there you go cool they haven't fallen that far e manages super pretty there you ok? So we're going to do here now before we move anymore which africa and get a couple friend where we keep staging everything I started to feel really fake to me so we're going to do is pretend just to reach in pretend you're going to eat for real okay let what you were just going to be natural so let's just pretend you're grabbing something but if you grab something going at least pretend to put it back and then you grab it again you know but just like reach in like I wanted some bread I want chips whatever you want and if the vegan wants to grab a fried chicken that's okay I'm all cool with that breaking diets okay let's heat and todd's gonna fire away real quick just keep with somebody reach across there you'll keep firing away and then if mike and show us after he's gotten all the frames one we can kind of shuffle through any hands no more no more no more keep going keep going shoot about six frames bottom all around all the same size and in a row yeah we could make an adjustment contrived yeah there would make it if we could make adjustments is to keep moving I mean there's there's so much that we get real good win but if this were like on a real table if you're eating really move around go back and forth ticket to your plate and then put it back so you have like that motion of you're grabbing and things are moving in things are moving out there you're always awesome awesome see that's what you really really like somebody's reaching in okay let's stop for a second let's let my gather these pictures and see just kind of let us filter through in that but I kind of like would like to have one um hero where somebody's actually reaching for the watermelon wow thanks mike that's so cool can you will see wow so wow so let's stop let's like number from the top left it would be one two three going across to the right and this would be for five six so gosh which one do we like you know what I relive it kind of love this hand right this one right here where someone's reaching for the chips so was going for a salad someone's got the watermelon going on someone's got the dressing and I also like this one too so ones like shea I love this part where someone's passing something can you call out which number that isthe how are the folks at home oh sure so um I love what did I say a little word with number one ok so that's number one I really I really love about that is just that national feel of somebody reaching for the watermelon and that little blur in the bowl potato chips that's very cool so it's looking number two number two feels great too phil's natural looks like the person holding corn is ready to dive into that that feels good you know and then you know there's so many there's so much imperfection in here that makes it so wonderful and really I think in deciding you just have to decide which one feels the best for you let's move on to the next one that one feels awesome to and the vegetation you grab the chicken which is awesome and I like the blue of her her sure shirt there yeah there's color in there yeah and that's a great point cause adds a hill mental settlement any type of cuff or sleeve that goes into it there another one mike that one's good that one's okay I feel like you're getting a little too greedy with just ask someone passing these manners were not wearing here okay I love this path and cherry one so I want to do one last time what's the ones like pass excepting over and sharing okay? Because doesn't that really convey sharing more too? Is there another one that once I think that was it, huh? This is a real good we don't have enough hands yeah so so let's do this again let's have someone passed the cherry over wasn't that awesome so you passed it between you two right? And it wasn't enough so let's have it go diagonal for you over this way to the viet let's have other hands in the air say the other one's at the same time so basically we're going to set this up for intentionally your emotion here is going to be like this sharing like this it's actually like this and keep going back and forth like this we'll talk wait don't go too high though just go as low as you can because the higher you go it's gonna blow out so much is going to be too close to the frame so going low like this you're going to be here with the chicken you khun b I love it when you when you went to the salad that was super awesome and then can you pull the cuff of your shirt down more yeah I think that added a great touch to that that was awesome pulling down cuffs or anything that's perfect and then you can just dive into that chicken like you did again remember when you just held that and you just go back and forth and I think we've got it here of this is summer sharing looking here thing looks great okay hey go there we go back and forth back and lower lower okay that was a real table scene everybody would actually be eating look at that blur oh that's awesome that's also I love that okay you still shooting okay let's see what we have here, huh? Yeah let's see what we got mike it's awesome might need teo we might need to reshoot it one more time could be technical difficulty okay, so let's do one more time real quick passing over it going lo let's give us just a couple minutes we need to restart okay sure no problem but in the meantime I'm living your position on the sally can you go a little lower there we go that's awesome that's perfect right? Any idea really out like this that's perfect but keeping the hands low you've got your chicken motion you've got your your your your corn and then you've got your cherries okay and you go passing low like this okay let me move the peaches out of the way a little bit so this is your your your road right here that's great and then when you when you pass that's perfect let's fill it with a little bit more cherry here can I take the cherries off your plate? Sorry let's just fill that up a little bit more that's awesome so fun that's great okay let's, try it again let's do this hold on. Wait till time gives you the prompt okay let's just get framing before we bother moving to see if we like we were at and can you drop half a stop to actually know don't decide that looks the color looks great like you think we're right salad motion there let's do that or even a little darker now so it's a mad just it in you okay I love that shot okay ready go keep moving the cherries get moving get moving cool awesome okay I think we've got it if it goes we'll see let's grow through real quick I might be isn't can you see if this is tight uh separate but that's good we got it didn't go through yeah I think we've got some shots did any go through there might yeah I think the cords got okay caught in the ladder a little bit okay so let me try this I've just read you have to do that again can you put the salad back in the ball though know this you go way give it a shot thiss happens often you know so it's one of those things on set if you've got a client there just you know talk him through it let no this stuff happens all the time okay cool so it was probably that I needed that some tomatoes to this don't touch the tomatoes here those that stays with the color here but the salad out of the bowl okay you know I'm just kidding I'm just kidding I'm just like I'm just being you being a little busy bossy mom and stuff like that oh my god was that one of them yeah that's awesome okay just two more ready hold on how we're working guys how we looking? You like in that can you talk again about is there a hero in this shot does there need to be what the scenarios other scenario maybe the story itself is a hero that's what we said originally when we set it up yeah, the story is essentially the hero's experience and I think sharing is here right here I can just use one word it's just sharing awesome although there is for the photographer you still need to choose a point where you're basing your framing off so in that sense there is a hero just that I need somewhere that I'm centralizing around and so in this case is gonna be the watermelon it's the center of the table it has great color and everything else starts to flow out around it all those great so you've got it so my can you just show us very quick on a grid that we can choose our hero shot has that so again starting from the top left corner was saying it's one going across to the right I really too um gosh, I am loving I am loving three but yet the cherries up in the top right hand corner the cherry the hands are not making contact yet it's coming there but it's pretty good so I like number three and I really love number six so can you show us number three and number six yeah, I like the fact that the cherries have not made contact yet, and the one where that has, they're all they're all great, blurred of the cherries, so I do. I love it because everything else is in focus, because it shows that motion for me. Another client might not go, but for me, I'm totally cool with that. I actually I slowed down the shutter speed so we could get that because it's, like you, want to get that feeling where it's, like, you know, it's, a lively party, it's, like, you know, people are passing, you know, and so that's, what that motion blur helps give you that sense. That looks more emotion. Yeah, yeah, so, yeah, so that's, how we do it.

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