Make sure your sub­ject looks good enough to eat

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

Build­ing an in­ter­est­ing com­po­si­tion lies in a spec­trum of ap­proaches, with food styling at one end and pho­to­jour­nal­ism at the other. You can ei­ther cre­ate the ex­act scene you want from scratch us­ing props and styling, or you can look for mo­ments within a scene that al­ready ex­ists in the real world. The best re­sults of­ten come from some­where in be­tween the two.

Styling is a ded­i­cated skill. On a com­mer­cial shoot the stylist can ac­tu­ally earn more than the pho­tog­ra­pher. Stylists sup­ply their props and ideas, and typ­i­cally the con­cept of the over­all shoot rests most heav­ily in their hands. The pho­tog­ra­pher will have to take their lead, ma­nip­u­late the light to their ad­van­tage, and en­sure that the fi­nal scene is tech­ni­cally com­pe­tent.

As a pho­tog­ra­pher it is a joy to work with a good stylist, be­cause they carry so much of the cre­ative load. With the stylist pre­par­ing the scene, this will then en­able you to de­vote your at­ten­tion to the task of find­ing the ideal com­po­si­tion. For one per­son to achieve both pho­tog­ra­phy and styling can be de­mand­ing, as your brain is jump­ing be­tween two tasks and

you may not be able to suc­cess­fully com­plete ei­ther to sat­is­fac­tion.

When shoot­ing on lo­ca­tion it’s im­por­tant to con­sider how much of the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter from the restau­rant or kitchen you want to pull through into the im­ages. Pho­to­jour­nal­ism style dic­tates that you re­veal the na­ture of your sub­ject, while styling is an at­tempt to cre­ate it through art. In prac­tice there is al­ways a de­gree of both.

I like to ‘shoot around the scene’ when I visit a lo­ca­tion. I ask the staff to set ta­bles as they would for guests, and to present dishes with wines poured. I want to see how they present their work. With a fully dressed ta­ble I then start to look for mo­ments within the scene. I seek out a hero and dig out com­po­si­tions that pull through mul­ti­ple el­e­ments. And then I might start styling the ta­ble a lit­tle. Not a lot, but a lit­tle. I make ad­just­ments, I re­move dis­trac­tions, and I add lay­ers to the back­ground.

I do this with lo­ca­tion shoots, and when work­ing with a stylist in the stu­dio. Bring­ing these two ap­proaches to­gether yields di­ver­sity in the im­ages you col­lect, and opens the door to in­no­va­tive com­po­si­tions that are un­ex­pect­edly re­ward­ing.

“Con­sider how much of the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter from the restau­rant or kitchen you want to pull through into

the im­ages”

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