Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is it only spring?

So I will start of by apologizing for bombarding everyone with hints of Summer but I just can't help myself:) Many of our shoots of late have been products that one would find at a delicious Summer barbecue and it's just making me long for  those warm months. So for the sole purpose of torture here are a couple 'behind the scenes' photos from a recent shoot.

{Urszula found this perfect picnic table top}

{styling a masterpiece}

{mayo paint?}

{quick shot before the final touches}

Monday, March 28, 2011

prop heaven

I LOVE props. I believe it's an important aspect in what makes the photography "world" go round. Yes there are many different aspects that contribute to this but I feel like sometimes the most perfect prop can take a photograph from average to above. One might not think of props immediately when they think food photography, but to the contrary it can give the product an overall mood. Specific plates, their colors, and shapes are picked in order to create a consistency of brand and a comprehensive "look". Not only plates, but sometimes place settings or a faux room setting is necessary as well. For example, we have a client that wants to create a Summer inspired set for their product. So our studio manager, Urszula, searched high and low for the perfect plates, bowls, place mats, and glasses in the specific hues and shades the art director requested. The end result was an impressive display {if I do say so myself} that we have organized by color and shape for the client to pick and choose from. I get excited by just looking at all the summery goodness...Enjoy:)

{we'll call this lemonade yellow} 

 {I think these might be my favorite...all the colors of summer in one glass}

Friday, March 25, 2011

details details details

Once again, the details of this job amaze me. When I heard we were shooting granola bars, I immediately thought "Oooh this will be an easy shoot." One would think such a tiny little snack would be a "tiny little" shoot. Definitely not the case, who would've ever thought photographing a granola bar could be so complex {now that I look back...how silly of me to assume...granola bars probably have about 8-10 ingredients....ingredients are everything because you need to highlight them all}.

First off, one needs to "perk up" the product with some superb ingredients. For example, we receive product and have to pick the BEST granola bar from the lot. From there you take apart a couple additional bars and use those pieces to create a masterpiece {a raisin here, an almond there}. These "pieces" need to be applied with the tiniest of tools and, as I'm sure the food stylist could attest, the steadiest of hands {sometimes I think the food stylists could be surgeons!}. Maybe food styling is where creative individuals that could've been surgeons end up? Anyways, I'm here to go back on my original assumption...granola bars are far from being the definition of an easy shoot. No matter the difficulty at least we always have fun:)

{additional product for the "perking up"}

{yummy granola bars}

{precision tools}

{...lots of tools}

{the stylist getting the granola bar ready for it's close-up}

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food & Style

While scouring the internet the other day, I stumbled across this great blog post on food styling at a blog called "La Tartine Gourmande." This particular quote really caught my attention, 

     "In my food pictures, I typically want to create a story and produce an emotion." 

Immediately I thought "emotional eating" {ha} but obviously that is not what is being discussed. Like all photography, one wants someone to feel something when viewing their work, whether it be happiness or sadness {is hunger an emotion??} and the same goes for food photography. 

Beatrice Peltre is the stylist/photographer who owns this blog and she shoots a lot of her own creations! I love the clean and crisp feel to all the photographs {not to mention all her food looks delicious}. After starting at Sierra and seeing stylists work, I've became really interested in learning more about everything that goes into the food styling so naturally I was drawn to this! It dates back from 2007 but there are a lot of helpful and really inspired tips that I thought would be fun to share. Not to mention this is a great site for just about everything from cooking, styling, and photography:)

An excerpt from "La Tartine Gourmande"

Tips on Food Styling
  • Always ask yourself, what the food you are shooting means to you. Is it rusticelegant, does it need to be eaten in the dish, on a plate, outside or inside?
  • Look for colors that enhance the food. Perhaps the same color for the food and background, or matching colors.
  • Use repetitive shapesgeometry and symmetry to make pictures interesting.
  • Pay attention to balancing space between the food and props. Move objects around to play with different settings.
  • Use textured backgrounds that give more life, and vary angles to shoot and frame the picture.
  • Do not always shoot from the same angle. Overhead shots, front or side.
  • Always shoot larger than the end result. Remember you can always crop the pictures like you prefer in post.
  • Be playful with the food and showcase the beauty found in raw ingredients. Observe the natural shapes and forms in food.
  • You do not need to show everything either. Suggestive cropping can really have a more powerful effect.

After this, she went on to show a few photographs of the muffins that she had made and photographed, then explained her reasoning for why she styled everything the way she did it {photographs accompanying this particular section can be found in the post here}. 

  • Why did I show the molds in which the muffins had been cooked? 
    To create the story from beginning to end. I did not clean the molds on purpose. I spent time arranging the pile in the background until I was happy with its looks.
  • Why did I use a narrow depth of field?
    Because the most important thing is the muffins, and so using a selective focus is what I was after.
  • Why did I show a muffin half-eaten?
    To make the reader and viewer participate. It could be as if you were eating the muffin too. Showing from top with an overhead shot also helped with the story I wanted to convey. Notice that I cropped to show only parts of the muffins. And I organized them in a horizontal line.
  • Why the basil and tomato on top of the muffin? To suggest the flavors of the muffin (you would not use a fresh herb that is not used in the recipe).
  • Why a geometrical pattern for the background? 
    To repeat the round shape of the muffins.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


"The look of modern food photography is certainly becoming more natural and believable..."

This is definitely a trend that food photography is starting to take. Personally, I feel that it makes for fun and incidental looking photographs. Maybe incidental looking but, it is also what one would expect out of their meals. Crumbs here...spills there. It instills the popular Marilyn quote that "Imperfection is beauty..." or maybe a new Sierra quote "imperfect looking food makes for delicious looking photography:)" 

However "disheveled" or imperfect, doesn't necessarily mean the photographs are not styled or do not require a stylist {But lets be honest, our disheveled is not in the classical sense, it's more of a controlled disheveling!}.

The casual look of these photographs take just as much styling, as say a very neat & clean shot. When shooting for national clients, rarely is anything casual. There is always an art director or creative director that knows exactly what they want and how they want the shot to look prior to the actual shoot.  It takes a lot of work on both food stylist and photographers ends to create these visions. 

{At Sierra we tend to test the greatness of a shot with whether 
or not it looks like we'd want to eat it!}

Friday, March 11, 2011

On Location?

Who wouldn't want to be shooting here?! The fresh air, beautiful landscape, and I guess having a beautiful model to work with doesn't hurt either. I know...everyone is jealous right about now. However, after I tell you this next bit of information the jealousy might fade because this photograph is not actually on location {What?!!}. Sometimes budget doesn't allow for on location shoots, so, at times, Sierra needs to get creative.
We actually combined a model, who we shot for a jewelry company, and a stock image {hello beautiful irish farmland!} Doesn't this remind you of the scene in P.S. I love you where Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler first meet?? Love that movie! Anyways, as I was saying, sometimes the use of stock photography is necessary and to be honest, who can tell the difference? Definitely not me:) Although it might not be ideal {mostly because I would really like to be here!}, it is a great substitute to the real thing and definitely creates diversity within the studio's capabilities.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's all about the....

Instant Mashed Potatoes!

As a struggling college student I once thought of instant mashed potatoes as a well balanced meal. I'm not joking when I say this, I liked them. Now that I am no longer in college and probably ate them for one too many meals, I cringe when I think about eating them. Which is just exemplified by the information I have recently learned. Instant mashed potatoes are used for food styling! Pretty much as the concrete to the creation {concrete is a perfect description of my once delicious meal's texture}. I can't give away all our food stylist's secrets, but lets just say once someone sees how they're used {like a white play doh!} they would definitely not want to put them anywhere near their mouth. There are many interesting 'tricks of the trade' that one would never guess {i.e. garment steamer} but this one definitely stuck out as rather quirky. So lets just say Sierra has a rather sizable amount of instant mashed potatoes in stock...just in case anyone's hungry:)

{So beautiful and bright! And who can spot the instant mashed potatoes?!}

{It's all about the little tricks!}