21 great food styling tips from Alastair Hendy
Hot on the heels of my sponsorship by Irish porridge oat brand Flahavan’s to attend Cybermummy, I received an exciting invitation with an Irish flavour. It was to attend a food photography and styling workshop hosted by Bord Bia, the Irish food board, led by professional food photographer and stylist Alastair Hendy and taking place at the Irish embassy.
I seem to be doing rather well at getting out of Walthamstow these days but even by recent standards, this workshop was a lot of fun and I was delighted to see lots of familar faces from Food Blogger Connect; Anne, Bron, Jeanne, Pascale, Michele and Matina. I was also delighted to finally meet the Irish food blogger in London, Niamh from Eat Like a Girl.
Hadji Bey’s Irish Turkish Delight – originally made by an Armenian immigrant!
After a talk by Alastair we were set loose on several tables of Irish produce and some of Alastair’s magnificent prop collection to put into practice what we’d heard. Despite the quality of material to play with I’m not massively delighted with my pictures as the light was awkward (very bright low direct evening sun) and I didn’t have a tripod with me.
Tripods and toddlers are not easily transported together – I had dropped Ted off with my husband on the way so the tripod had sadly been left at home. I took my mini gorilla tripod but didn’t find it very helpful. A delay on the tube also meant I arrived breathless in the nick of time and was too disorganised to take pictures of the wonderful black pudding, smoked salmon and pastry canapes we were treated too nor the wonderful displays of Irish food (which we promptly dismantled to photograph and then take home).
Therefore, these pictures are much grainier and tell a less complete story than I would like so please ignore that today if you can. Meanwhile I will share my favourite shots from the evening and the many tips I picked up from Alastair. A lot of these points were made with magazine photography in mind but they can still be interpreted for blogging.
Irish jelly beans. This is horribly grainy and I’m not sure you’d need a napkin to eat jelly beans but still…
21 Food Photography and Styling Tips from Alastair Hendy
1. Pictures of some foods sell more magazines than others. Chocolate is the most obvious one but strawberries, ice cream and figs are also very popular on the news stands.
2. Use a series of images to create a “story”. Mix close ups and long distance shots. Use a palette of common colours to link pictures together.
3. The three winning elements for great food photography are the look, the light and the lens.
4. Adding a “human element” can lift food that is difficult to photograph – have someone holding something or taking a bite.
Can a girl ever photograph too many flapjacks?!
5. When photographing ice cream, freeze the plate or dish to give yourself more time to shoot before it melts.
6. Make sure the food is the hero of the shot. Do not over style.
7. Use coloured paper as a background.
8. A picture of an empty bowl or plate can still tell a story. A “dirty” bowl of soup would still be styled so it looks like a “nice” used bowl!
9. Tie a napkin around a small pie to convey warmth!
10. If using hot drinks in glass cups, a plate rested on the top will create some condensation on the surface so the viewer knows the liquid is warm.
11. Leave space in magazine shots for copy.
12. Angled shots have more movement – an angled shot of a crowd will instantly look more like they are walking in a hurry.
Vintage metal tin, crying out to be photographed.
13. Use a blow torch to revive molten chocolate or butter which have solidified.
14. Toss salads in water to stop oil and vinegar dressings from breaking them down too quickly.
15. Keep herbs in bowls of cold water so they are fresh.
16. Does your soup ration look stingy? A small raw potato submerged in your broth will make the bowl look fuller and won’t soak up any liquid.
A scrunched up layer of baking parchment gives the effect of the tin looking fuller than it is.
17. When photographing in markets, don’t rush to take pictures. Stand around for a while and become part of the scenery. People around you will relax and forget you are there.
18. When disillusioned with scruffy backdrops in markets, remember you will be able to crop out tatty tarpaulin and unattractive pallets of rotting vegetables.
19. Photographing window displays, angle yourself so you don’t get yourself in the shot.
20. Angle cutlery so to avoid excess glare or reflections of yourself. (A further tip from me – wearing black will reduce the likelihood of your outfit being reflected in spoons!)
And last but not least…
21. Never, ever use a flash when photographing food!
Do you have a favourite food photography or food styling tip to share?
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