September ALREADY? WTF? Where on earth did this summer go? Good luck to all the mini humans going back to school!
I thought I’d share a little info about a food photo shoot that some of you may not know. It’s actually quite amazing at how many people this industry employs — so next time you see a food commercial, ad or packaging with a food photo, consider this (I’ve really simplified this complex process):
A designer designs the packaging or advertising prior to the photo shoot. There are many layers in the design phase and several people involved but it boils down to the art director and client who dictates the look and feel of the photo. The Food Stylist is involved in the design phase if there needs to be special ‘recipes’ or plating requirements (like I was involved in coming up with 8-10 ideas for the products we were shooting last week).
Once a design is established, the Art Director creates a “Pre-Pro” which details the props and “recipes” that will be photographed. The “Pre-Pro” is approved by the client and distributed to:
- The Prop Stylist (this person is an expert in props, where to find them, rent them or buy them). A prop is anything that may be used in the photo, such as fabric, plates, noise (background items that are out of focus) and cutlery. Props are generally reserved for the photograph and not used in the preparation of the food. Depending on the photo shoot complexity, the Prop Stylist may be required to stay on set to select the exact props to be used in each shot. If they don’t stay, the Art Director makes that decision.
- The Food Stylist (this person is an expert in food, how to get the best out of food so that the consumer recognizes instantly the message the Art Director and client wishes to convey). The food stylist buys the components to make the ‘recipe’ happen. Contrasting colours and textures are paramount. The Food Stylist may have an assistant depending on the complexity and budget of the shoot.
- The Photographer (this person is the expert in photography, understands light whether natural or man-made and even how to make man-made light look natural because they have more control over it). The photographer will prepare the lighting set up required to execute the art director’s wishes. The Photographer may have an assistant depending on the complexity and budget of the shoot. And sometimes the Photographer brings a tasty breakfast.
- The Client: The Boss. The client knows the intricacies of the product and what they feel is important to convey in the photo. The client approves the shot before we move on to the next one. Sometimes the client is off site, but that adds a layer of time to the shoot and we all know that food generally doesn’t last long on set. Things dry out, melt and don’t look appealing. We always prefer the client to be on set.
Shoot day starts early and is busy from the get-go. Photographer, Prop Stylist and Food Stylist are usually the first to arrive. There is a lot of shlepping, but it’s generally a very generous group and everyone helps get everything organized. Of course, the behind the scenes studio team sets everything in motion the day before, food, snacks, coffee/tea, water are all provided generally — the one thing for sure, there is ALWAYS A LOT of food!
Once everything and everyone is set up, we begin to work getting things ready for the first shot (as a Food Stylist, I also keep in mind all of the shots for that day to see if I can consolidate any tasks that will save a bit of time in the long run). The Art Director I recently worked with enjoys shooting with natural light, but that can be challenging since natural light changes all the time so the photographer is constantly tweaking the settings and extra lighting to make the shot perfect.
In terms of food styling, there are many tricks of the trade and the stylists I’ve worked with have been incredibly generous with their advice, but as with anything else, I still have a lot to learn. Apparently, wearing comfortable shoes is something I haven’t learned…but I am trying ;-). I have a couple of pairs of stylish yet comfortable shoes but I still gravitate to stylish over comfort. One of these days, I’ll learn, it’s generally a very long day where the only time I sit is for about 30 minutes at lunch!
So I hope you’ve gained a little appreciation for the energy, people and time involved for food photography; after all, that strawberry on the front of the cereal package was carefully chosen over hundreds of strawberries, deliberated over (with such phrases as “it’s not doing it for me”, or “is it just me..,?”, and “do you see a face in that?”) intentionally placed and oiled for shine and to catch a little sparkle! Who knew?
A delicious combination of flavours.
Recently we had my GF BFF and her hubby for brunch and I wanted to serve something that just screamed SUMMER! And for me, there is nothing that screams summer than a Caprese Salad. We searched for a local farmers market but sadly missed the boat because we were too late getting there so I was stuck with grocery store tomatoes. I bought the best, vine ripened variety but was still disappointed. They lacked that great, summer tomato flavour. So I decided to oven roast them to concentrate the flavours and we were not disappointed!
Caprese Salad with a Twist
- Alternately layer the sliced Bufala Mozzarella with the tomatoes on a plate.
- Combine the home made pesto with the white balsamic until a drizzle-able consistency is achieved. Drizzle over the tomatoes and mozzarella. Serve at room temperature.
A nice, summer salad.
- I would not substitute sun-dried tomatoes for oven dried tomatoes because they are much stronger in flavour and will over power the subtle flavour of the bufala mozzarella.
- Bocconcini may be substituted for the Bufala Mozzarella but it is a harder cheese with a slightly stronger flavour.
- Burrata cheese is a beautiful substitute but you wouldn’t want to cut it because all that delicious cream will pour out. Serve a small Burrata and surround it with the tomato slices and drizzle the pesto over everything.
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