Short cuts to making plates look better? Food Styling: Short cuts to making plates look better?
By George (George) on Friday, March 23, 2001 - 01:50 pm: Edit

Figure I'd get the ball rolling...

I have tried on several occasions to shoot pictures of demo plates (plates used to show dinner specials to wait staff) and plates from food competitions. Even though in real life the plates looked great they always were flat and boring on film.

Are there any general quick tricks that can help improve the appearance of these plates, that can be used in a working/non-studio environment?

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Friday, March 23, 2001 - 08:32 pm: Edit

I'm not a food stylist but I once played one on t.v.
When taking Kitchen Plate Photos, lighting is the most controllable variable. Lots and lots of lights softened by reflecting them off of white sheets or a low white ceiling.

Once when working with a food photographer he had a strobe the burned a hole in your retina if you looked directly at it.


By W.DeBord on Saturday, March 24, 2001 - 07:57 am: Edit

I used to photograph my art work for's really an art to do well.

I've found that photographing outside was the only way I could get great results with-out buying professional lights. I set up a "booth" outside and played with the color of my background. White reflects so much that you'll get a high contrast look and loose some detail if not perfectly done. Black actually worked better (for me). Indoor lighting is really only for professionals in studios! I promise you, for color that "pops" you have to go outside.

Always use a tripod!

Also, to get the detail I swear buy a tellaphoto (sound out, I can't spell it) lense. A regular lens won't EVER get you what you want with small items like plated food! It's worth the investment!

P.S. Different films shoot with different color spectrums. Either warm or want warm/reds for food photos. I wound up prefering Kodak MAX film, it really did self adjust correctly to what I was shooting.

By Laura Food Stylist on Saturday, March 24, 2001 - 02:19 pm: Edit

well george there is a reason there are food stylists and food photographers. But if your photos are not for print in a magazine or they are not gong to be enlarged for POP you can improve the photos by shooting very close. Lets say your using it for a training manual or visual for your wait staff then the quality of the photo would not be critical.
Try this: Food always looks best when you are close up. So get in very tight when you shoot. Even cut off part of the plate if you can

If you need good quality photos you will have to look for professionals. It is many little things they do all added together that a make a great food photo!

By marina sanguinetti on Monday, April 23, 2001 - 11:13 am: Edit

I have problems whit ice cream, what can I do?

By W.DeBord on Monday, April 23, 2001 - 04:20 pm: Edit

Use a colored plate or bowl to show off light colors...go for a dish with a medium tone because dark plates like black or colbalt will create too much contrast with the white ice cream.

Also try photographing in lower light (if your shooting outside wait till it's an overcast day) or creating a shadow over a part of it will help define the white item (the shadow bending over the light object helps define it's presence).

By Akhila (Akhila) on Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 04:00 pm: Edit

OK, I'm no pro at taking photos but I have had
great luck with using a camera that takes
close-ups. (Within 24 inches) I think the key to
a good food photo is shoot it outdoors, get as
close as possible and angle it either off center
or grouped with other things. Use color
instead of white plates, or white if the food is
very colorful. Take LOTS of pictures with
different settings to practice. Long distance
shots are worthless. I would be ahooy to
send a few to you for an example if it would

By David Mehall on Tuesday, October 09, 2001 - 05:32 pm: Edit

I'm not a chef (well, maybe a wannabe) but I am a photographer and can offer some simple tips.

1. Fill the frame! That means to have the presentation fill up the entire picture. The "window" you see through the viewfinder should show very little, if any, space around the plate. Don't be afraid to cut off a little bit of the plate. Remember, you are selling a MEAL...a dining EXPERIENCE...a PRESENTATION...not place settings and napkins!

2. Take a lot of pictures of each setup. Be aggressive about getting close...shoot from down low...shoot at a high angle. Turn the plate to change the view of your presentation. I suggest each plate should be photographed atleast 10 times, then pick the best ones. Remember, the film you shoot is probably the cheapest part of the whole job's expenses!

3. Watch the background! Keep it simple. A pastel tablecloth lifted up at the back of the table (like a ski jump) provides a simple and smooth background having no distracting lines. Drape it over one or two chair backs and smooth out the wrinkles. There's no need to have a fancy studio.

4. Change the lighting. This is the toughest thing to master when photographing almost anything. Make it easier by looking carefully at some truly excellent food photos as seen in cookbooks and food magazines and try to figure out where the lighting was placed. Look for the strongest shadows and you can then tell where the main light was placed.

You will find that, for the most part, the main light is a "back light." How do you do this?

A very simple way to achieve backlight is to shoot outdoors on a sunny day. Position your plate so the sun hits it from the back. Then, use a piece of white "foamcore" (available at art stores) as a reflector to "bounce" light from the sun into the shadow areas. You will need about a 4-foot square of foamcore to do this. Have a helper hold the reflector while you concentrate on taking the shots.

You will quickly see the effect of "reflecting" sunlight into your presentation. Adjust it until you like it!

5. Don't give up! Practice a bit. After shooting 3 or 4 presentations the way I explain, you WILL obtain pretty nice pictures!

Good luck!


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