The highlight of day 4 was the Food Styling and Photography session by Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson. We discussed styling: plating, structuring, crumbs, and magical dollops. We discussed styling tools: eye droppers, skewers, paint brushes, kitchen torches, museum wax (to hold utensils in place on plates), and Polygrip (to hold food items in place that might otherwise slide down or fall over).
We discussed how to make ugly food pretty (-ier). We talked best practices for appetizers, soups and stews, meats, and salads. And we talked about why pretty food can often look ugly. We talked about propping and over-propping. Texture and movement. And then we talked about how to shoot styled food.
Food styling is one area that I’ve really wanted to focus some serious attention. Adam is a (The?) Grand Master of food styling. After a presentation, we went over to the beachside restaurant to style and shoot food. 99.9% of what he does is edible (see Polygrip and museum wax above). There’s no lacquer, paint thinner, or motor oil – just a simple presentation of the very best ingredients to highlight the beauty of the recipe.
Before Adam begins, he thinks about from what direction the photo will be shot (straight-on, from above, or at an angle). Then he begins building the shot to make the food look its very best from that angle. Watching him build a plate of pancakes and fruit was fascinating.
He inspected every pancake, turning it to make sure the best sides were camera-facing. The prettiest pancake went on top, topped with a pat of Kerrygold Butter (one of the companies who very graciously sponsored Food Blog Camp). Each piece of fruit was placed meticulously on the plate. A beautiful breakfast shot was made with the addition of a linen napkin and an overturned, wooden serving tray from his suite. That simple.
When the food was ready for its close up, Matt took over. Matt shoots tethered. In plain english, it’s only the greatest thing EVER. I’ll frequently shoot a recipe and then feel that what I load into Lightroom isn’t exactly what I saw on my camera LCD – and it’s definitely not the picture I had in mind. It can be really frustrating when this happens after the food has already been eaten.
Tethering lets Matt manipulate everything from the laptop. He can shoot, see a preview, and change camera settings from the laptop. If they need to adjust the angle or tweak the food a bit, they can and then shoot some more.
I can’t wait to get this set up this week! I just have to go dig through some unpacked boxes (yep, going on month 3 and there are still plenty of them!) to find the CDs that came with my camera (a Canon) so I can install the utility. (If you’re using another brand DSLR, check your manual or camera website to see what you’ll need to tether.)