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From Plate To Film

POSTED: March 19, 2012

We devour food with our eyes, before we can even taste it. Some tips to make your food photos appear tempting – and a salad recipe!

By Kiran Srivastava

I’ve always been inspired by food magazines not only for the recipes, but also for the visual drool-factor. Yup, photos are the major culprits. Shooting food involves the time taken from brainstorming recipes, to prepping, cooking, visualizing the prop and styling ideas, styling, photographing and finally, eating!

Phew! That’s a lot of steps and a boat-load of patience indeed.

So, sit back with a cuppa tea and enjoy this visually fun food styling tips. I’ll try to minimize any photography lingo/jargons. Pinky promise.

Photography kit

The basic rule of thumb is investing in a Digital Single Lens Reflex or in short, DSLR camera. You don’t necessarily have to spend thousands of dollars. Just a basic beginner DSLR would do it.

A tripod is “always” recommended.

The best part about a DSLR camera is that it comes with lens flexibility. Choose a lens that would work best with your project. That way, you don’t end up spending too much money on something that you might not even use in the future.

The next best investment is on a good tripod. There’s nothing worse than shooting blurry images as the end result. Whether you are shooting manually, automatically, with a prime (macro) or zoom lens, using a tripod is “always” recommended.

Essential styling tools

While taking photos might seem easy to many, styling foods can get very tedious and time consuming. Some of my essential styling tools to help me elevate common plating issues such as spills, rearranging noodles, ingredient placement are: cotton swabs, chopsticks, spritzer, cotton ball and tweezers.

Food props

The essential part of food styling is the ability to select props to suit each food recipe or idea. Having a variety of food props definitely broadens a styling idea. Using interesting cutlery makes a lot of difference to the end result. Avoid similar shades of colours in one styling. Colour contrast between background and food is essential to bring focus to the food and overall styling.

Interesting cutlery makes a lot of difference.

Textures and backgrounds

Food styling is not limited to what’s on the plate, but where the plate is placed. It’s important to achieve an overall balance between the colours of foods, background and surface colours/textures. Experiment by plating with different textures/colours of fabrics, multiple surfaces, using ingredients from the recipe, floral arrangements etc.

Lighting

Colour contrast between background and food is essential.

I love shooting in natural light. I think it brings out the best of both worlds – the natural look of foods translates seamlessly in the photos. Try shooting using natural lighting as much as possible. Shoot during the day near a window where you would get plenty of natural sunlight. Most importantly, avoid using flash at any cost.

Post processing software

Whether you are photographing for leisure or as a professional, investing in image post processing software allows flexibility for image editing. My favourite post processing software is Lightroom by Adobe. There are still quite a few affordable software options out there. 

And now, for the best part – a recipe! Bon Appetit!

Pan seared baby carrots and paneer salad with orange ginger spiced dressing recipe

Ingredients:

170 gm  paneer, cubed

12 – 15 baby carrots, sliced

1 tbsp cooking oil

½  cup edamame or any whole beans such as channa (garbanzo) or rajma

Try shooting using natural lighting as much as possible.

A handful of salad greens like baby spinach, lettuce and sprouts

For orange spiced dressing

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Half an orange, zested and juiced

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp fresh ginger, grated

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium flame. Once the skillet is hot, add cooking oil.

Throw in the sliced carrots and paneer cubes. Fry until paneer is golden browned and carrots are cooked through – al dente.

Prepare dressing by adding all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix to combine.

Add pan roasted carrots and paneer with edamame in the bowl with dressing. Coat to combine.

Refrigerate for a few hours.

To plate, add salad greens, topped with marinated salad and a healthy dose of sprouts.

Grab a fork and dig in!

Once the food is prepared, styling is sketched and tripod is propped – get ready to shoot and don’t forget to have fun!

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1 Comment


  1. I’m agreed with you, food styling need a more time than cooking a food. Choosing a proper background, props could make a lots different to your dish, visually appealing dish tempt us a lot.

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About The Author: Kiran Srivastava is a lifestyle blogger, food stylist, recipe developer & photographer. For your daily dose on Lifestyle, Food & Photography, you can check out her Blog | Twitter | Facebook. She resides with her husband Tarun in Orlando, where Kiran is still trying to fathom the idea of living just a few minutes away from Disney!

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