The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Food Photography "A Perspective"~ 
Food Styling with Nancy Lopez-McHugh

Above photo property of theardentepicure.com

Perspective~ The classical definition is to Look Through or Look At. Or we
 could say The way one Perceives an Object or maybe the Visual Scope of
 something. The Artistic definition is defined a bit differently~

In Art the "Perspective" generally means a technique to capture the visual
aspects and draw attention to what we want to show, or a visual of what
we are trying to say. Typically with most mediums in art this begins on a
dimensional level. But we will get more into this a bit later.

For now, we are going to see just how we can arrange our subject(s) to
get across the feeling and/or message we are trying to portray.

My wonderful and amazingly talented friend Nancy has graciously offered
to show us some tips on how to get a wonderful subject to end
up being an extraordinary subject.

Nancy is the author of Spicie Foodie, as well as the cookbook
author of An Epiphany of the Senses. So please join me in welcoming
her once again to share her talents with us here...


Hi everyone, I'm Nancy. Before we begin I'd like to thank my lovely friend Alisha for inviting to participate in her new photography series. I hope you enjoy this tutorial and, if I do my job well, that you pick up a few new tips to improve your food photography.

Those of you familiar with my photography know that I use props minimally. I do not have a dedicated studio space nor storage area needed for excess amounts of props. Everything you see on Spicie Foodie is real food that I eat moments after the shot. I don't use oil to make foods shiny, no mashed potatoes disguised as ice cream, my salads and pastas are not "fluffed up" with styrofoam. The styling on my photos is all natural and I try to keep it simple.

Food styling is an integral part of being a food photographer. It doesn't matter if you are a pro or someone just looking to improve your blog's photography, styling is something you need to know. I promise it's much easier than you think and you don't need to have loads of props or equipment.

Learning a few styling basics can transform your photos from boring snapshots to interesting photographs that make the viewer want to reach in and grab a bite. There are literally hundreds of ways you can style food. Much has to do with personal tastes and individual perspectives. Some may focus heavily on props, others like myself, less so. There is no right or wrong way only your way and your style.

These photos were all shot using indirect window light and a small reflector to tone done the harsh shadows. The camera was propped up on a tripod, if your light source is minimal I suggest you also use a tripod. Let's begin with some biscuits on a table with no additional props and see how we can make them interesting.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

This is a bad photo. The problem is that I am zoomed in too close to the subject, so you can't really tell what it is. It is uninteresting and too busy with the viewers eye not really knowing what to focus on.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

In these two photos you can see that by rearranging the biscuits now the viewer has something more interesting to look at. Though much better than the first photo, both can be improved.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

When I'm photographing several items I've found that stacking can be quite interesting. Compare this to the photos above, better right? Did you notice how your eye follows the curvy path? Rather than perfectly aligning the biscuits and instead arranging them in this off pattern it made the image more interesting. Little details like this can mean so much, pay attention to them. The photo isn't bad but let's play with the styling a little more.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

Here you can see that adding an additional biscuit and moving it around gives the image a little extra something. Don't be afraid to shoot many photos, in fact shoot many photos. Keep playing with the arrangement until you find one that is interesting to you.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

Don't be afraid of showing a messy space. Sometimes a little mess can accentuate the feeling of wanting to grab a bite of the food. Think to yourself, what would this food look like if I was actually eating it right now? Eating biscuits is messy show those crumbs and bits and pieces.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

The previous shot was good, but we can add a little extra oomph with some color. Herbs, salad greens, flowers or plants can all add an interesting tone to your photographs. Here I've used a dried leaf to give the photo some color. You can experiment by moving the decorative prop around the subject. It is amazing how a simple extra ingredient or props can change an image from okay to a great photo.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

The green leaf above gave the image some oomph and extra pop with a complementing yet contrasting color. In this image I am showing you that even something of the same tonal range can add just as much oomph to an image. Additionally the wheat plant creates a curved pattern that draws the viewers eye from the left side, over the biscuit pile, and down to the crumbs. This is a good shot because it gives the viewer a couple of things to look at without overstimulating the eye.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

Another way of styling the biscuits is by simply adding a napkin or a piece of fabric under the stack. Again there is extra color and pattern to keep the viewers attention. Fabrics can be used in countless ways, practice and experiment to find what works for you.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

As I stated above, shoot many photos. Add, remove, and rearrange both subject and enhancing props. Also make sure you move yourself and the camera around to yield different results.

styling; food photography; food styling; tutorial; Spicie Foodie; guest post; The Ardent Epicure

In this last photo you can compare the results. You can clearly see that while there is nothing wrong with the photo on the left adding a little styling creates a more interesting photograph.

This tutorial is but one of the countless ways these biscuits could have been styled. They could have been placed inside a box, bowl, or in a bag. They could have a glass of milk alongside them. Extra color could have been added with some fruit. They could have been shot on a different surface, from a different angle and with different lighting. The possibilities are truly endless. While you can use this tutorial as a guide it is also important to develop your own style. All you need is practice and before you know styling will become second nature to you. Thank you and I hope you enjoyed the tutorial.

Thank you so much Nancy for joining us here and kick starting this series
off so beautifully! For more photography tutorials you can check out
Nancy's site here, or purchase some of here lovely photos here.  

Enjoy~
Alisha~Magic of Spice

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