Food & Drink Magazine

~competitive Cooking & Food Styling II~

By Ally @allykitchen

I know that a lot of my foodie friends are entering the prestigious DOLE Cook-Off~~and, it was about this time last year when I was furiously creating recipes to enter, too, and one of my big concerns was, will my submitted photograph reflect the boholicious of this creation!

In my first blog post on this topic I talked about food styling and gave three tips on mood making, less is more, and simple equals powerful—if you didn’t read that post, be sure to because it’s got some groovy ideas for ramping up the looks of your food! ~~click here~~

Regardless of whether I’m taking photos of what I’ve cooked or not, I keep in mind all of these food styling tips when just putting grub on a plate, the dining room table or even my midday lunch that I might throw together—challenge yourself to make most everything you touch in regards to food—stylish, chic, appealing and worth of activating the salivary glands.  Essentially, this is ‘practice’ and we know that practice makes perfect.

If you’re a serious cooking contest competitor then you know that photography is a skill set you have to have—many contests require submission of a photo that displays your creative recipe—the more you can convey the boholiciousness through the photo, the better!  Now, let’s dig in to the next three thoughts—keeping in mind that I’m a self-taught food photographer, so there’s a disclaimer here from the get go!

~your equipment~

~competitive cooking & food styling II~
I look at the evolution of my food photography over the past nearly 3 years, and it’s like those evolutionary charts of ‘humans’—you know going from slumped over and almost walking on all four limbs to upright!  Well, my photos are like that!  My early photos like the ‘cave man’ version!

Like any competitive sport, the better your equipment, the better you can compete.  Technology for sporting equipment is always changing and improving so athletes can run, pedal, drive or swim faster, jump higher, hit the golf ball further—you get it, don’t you!  If you’re going to be serious about competing and winning, you must have the best camera/photography equipment that you can afford.  From the camera to lenses to lighting equipment, it’s basic to your craft.

Which brand of equipment you choose is your choice—I started with a simple Canon digital camera back in the day and have progressed over the years through several cameras.  Today I use a Nikon D5100—my contest winnings have paid for these investments several times over—so try not to throw the baby out with the bath water—you could have a drop dead great recipe, but your photo just doesn’t do it justice.

~lighting & angles~

Oh, this is a tricky one.  Lighting is just essential to good food photos.  And, I’ve found that the more I can use natural lighting, the better. My kitchen

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has large windows, so I try to do most of my shoots during the midday when lighting is best.  I avoid direct sunlight—just doesn’t work.  Sometimes I turn on the vent light and the under counter lights to get better reflections.  Sometimes I put a lamp nearby, and this casts some mood lighting.  It’s all trial and error, which means I take quite a few photos knowing that a few will be good enough to post.

Angles and positions of the food are also important features.  I like shots that are kind of ‘quirky’ slightly off center—capturing the rippling effect of several slices of deli meat rolled up, fanned slices of meat or stacked cookies.  Overhead shots are interesting.  I usually put the dish on a small child’s chair to achieve this.  I have nearby in my kitchen a ladder and step stool, and, yes, sometimes I’m known to perch myself on the seat of a chair and get a shot.

~colors & textures & backgrounds~

For me food is most beautiful in several ways—arrays of color as in a multi-bean salad with lots of other diced veggies, monochromatic with a pop of color as in a white bowl with cream of potato soup  and a small sprig of rosemary, or in dual/tri colors as in Sunnyside up eggs perched on salad greens

~competitive cooking & food styling II~
with the hint of yolks running.  In my humble opinion, some foods, like people, are more photogenic than others—for instance, eggplant is more beautiful uncooked than cooked to me, unless, of course, I have a recipe that camouflages the cooked eggplant and features something prettier.

And, as in any artistry, the combination of the colors must be compatible in order to achieve a most stunning picture.  When I photograph leg of lamb or beef, I want it to be medium rare or rare for the photos—to me medium well and well done just looks very unappetizing on the other side of the lens {well, in my tummy, too!}.  If I’m taking glamour shots of my vegetable soup, I’ll put the veggies in, let them cook just a few minutes, then take pictures—I don’t want those veggies turning colors and losing their hue appeal!

Textures abound in food—from the dimples in oranges or fuzz on peaches to some of the more exotic

~competitive cooking & food styling II~
fruits.  Take advantage of these wonderful Mother Nature designs—nothing’s more photogenic than raspberries—if you can capture those tiny ‘hairs’ then that’s a big wowzee!  Contrasting background textures also create immense interest in your food photos.  I’ve done shots even on an ironing board because there was an interesting pattern.  Then another time, I trotted over to my neighbor’s house and asked if I could have the old outdoor weathered teak chair they were about to toss. I love grocery story brown paper bags, onion bags, old crumpled wrapping paper, stacks of books, porch planks—whatever my eye sees that says, ‘hummmm, that would be a fascinating background!’

I sure hope you’ve gotten a few tips in these two blogs I’ve written—let me know how it helps you, and I’d love to hear your tips, too—I’m always learning and know I’ve got a long way to go on improvement with food porn!  Here’s to your winning and being able to buy a better camera!!  ~~peace & namesete~~ ally

This page is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods~~all of the opinions are mine. For a full disclosure just CLICK HERE~~

©alice d’antoni phillips

~caribbean seasoning mix~
~caribbean salmon with mango cucumber salsa~
~eggo southern hushpuffies~
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~boston sour cream cake~
~eggo cherry bomb~
~competitive cooking & food styling 2~
~kitchen artistry & beauty~
~competitive cooking & food styling 2~

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