The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

Food Photography "A Perspective"~ 
Setting the Mood with Faith Gorsky Safarini

Above photo property of

Welcome to the second addition of  Food Photography "A Perspective"~ 
Today we have a wonderful guest who is going to show us how the use of color
can set the mood in your food photography. If you miissed our first addition
you can see it here Food Styling with Nancy Lopez-McHugh.

So please join us in welcoming my lovely friend Faith of  An Edible Mosaic...
Faith is not only a talented photographer, but an amazing cook and food writer.
But before we move on to the tutorial, Faith has some news to share with us,
 so we thought that a little interview might be fun :)

TAE~I know you have some exiting news that came about recently; can you share a bit about that with our readers that may be just hearing of it?

Faith~I am thrilled to say that Tuttle is publishing my first cookbook this fall! I am a food blogger so this next step into the culinary world was huge and very exciting for me.

TAE~The book is available for pre-sale now correct? And what is the anticipated publishing date?

Faith~Yes, the book is available for pre-order on Amazon; if anyone is thinking about ordering a copy this is a good time because it’s currently on sale! (Here is the link on Amazon for anyone interested). The anticipated publishing date is October 10, 2012…I’m waiting on pins and needles!

TAE~Writing a cookbook is a pretty big undertaking, what motivated you to take that big step forward?

Faith~I’ve had a passion for cooking for as long as I can remember, but I don’t have any formal culinary training; for a long time my blog was the only outlet I had for my passion. As I continued writing my blog, it blossomed into what I like to think of as a reflection of the way I eat, with an emphasis on healthy, seasonally-focused meals based on not only updated classic American fare, but also international favorites. After a while I started to realize that my approach to food was unique and I wanted to share it through another venue; once the idea of writing a cookbook entered my mind I couldn't get it out. I wrote up a proposal (check out this post on my blog for information on the process of writing a book proposal) and started submitting it to publishers; it was a slow process, but eventually I got a book contract.

I realize that it’s probably the aspiration of a lot of food bloggers to one day write their own cookbook, which is why I’m writing up a series of posts on my blog that details each step of the journey. Here is Part 1, "Finding Your Story", and  Part 2  "Writing Your Book Proposal". I am also writing Part 3, Finding a Publisher and Part 4, Writing Your Book, so please stay tuned on my blog or check the bottom of
My Book page periodically for links to these posts.

TAE~For those that are looking to pre-order or purchase the book, what type of cuisine or dishes will we be looking forward to?

Faith~The book has about 100 Middle Eastern recipes, with a focus mainly on dishes from the Levant (i.e., Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine), but also a few recipes from other areas of the Middle East. After marrying my husband (who is Middle Eastern), I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the Middle East four different times, each time learning more about the culture and falling in love with every aspect of it – especially the cuisine! Also, I am incredibly blessed to have a mother-in-law who is not only a fabulous cook, but also a patient teacher who was willing to teach me anything and everything I could ever possibly want to know about Middle Eastern cooking.

The recipes in the book are authentic Middle Eastern (most of them passed down to me from my Syrian mother-in-law), but streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and cooking techniques anyone can follow. I’ve also included a bit of culture in the book (because it’s so tightly intertwined with cuisine), including some of my own travel experiences in the Middle East.

A few of my favorite recipes from the book include: Sumac-Spiced Chicken (M’sakhkhan); Herb Salad with Tangy Dressing and Croutons (Fattoush); Spinach Turnovers (Fatayer bil Sabanekh); Eggplant Dip (Mutabbal Batinjan); Spiced Cheese Balls (Shankleesh); Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves (Waraq al Ainab or Dawali); Stuffed Marrow Squash (Kousa Mahshi); Creamy Chickpea & Yogurt Casserole (Tissiyeh or Fetteh bil Hummous); Fish Pilaf with Caramelized Onion (Sayadieh bil Samek); Spiced Rotisserie-Style Chicken Sandwiches (Shawarma Dajaj); Lamb & Bulgur Wheat, With Several Variations (Kibbeh); Cheese-Filled Pastry Cake (Knafeh bil Jiben); Sesame Fudge (Halawa); Grape Syrup Drink with Sultanas & Pine Nuts (Jallab); and Tangy Yogurt Drink (Leban Ayraan).

Hello everyone! I’m Faith and I blog at An Edible Mosaic. I want to give a huge thank-you to my sweet friend and our lovely host, Alisha, for inviting me to be part of her photography series…I am honored, Alisha!

As food bloggers/photographers, we ultimately want to inspire our readers to get into the kitchen and try our recipes (or at least get into the kitchen, for starters :). So how do we do that? It starts with good food, of course, but there’s more to it than that. I try to make my photos personally meaningful by setting a mood. 

There are many different ways to set a mood through props; even the choice not to use props can be used to imply a certain mood (clean, crisp, simplistic, minimalistic, organized, etc.). However, I’m going to focus on the use of color since it’s one of my favorite elements of a photograph to play with when I’m trying to tell a story or convey a mood. For instance, think about a simple bowl of cherries. A white bowl of dark red cherries on a white linen background can set a light, summery mood, while a dark dish of dark red cherries set on a dark-stained, weathered-looking wooden table can suggest a feeling of indulgence. The color of the cherries remains constant, but the other colors in the photo evoke different feelings and depict a story.

To fully be able use color to our advantage, we first have to understand a little bit about it. I sometimes revisit the color wheel, which is a helpful tool for any photographer.

The Color Wheel

Opposite colors on the color wheel (complimentary colors) can make a photo pop, which is why the combinations red + green, blue + orange, and yellow + violet are all so pleasing to the eye. However, it can be just as impactful to use different hues of the same color to keep a photo monochromatic (for example, one of my favorite images is of a piece of dark chocolate sitting on a smooth, surface that’s just a shade or two different from the color of the chocolate, amid a few curls of chocolate). Also, using colors next to each other on the color wheel (analogous colors) is a good way to expand your photo’s palette.

For this tutorial, I put together color palettes using a few of my photos so you can see how color can be used to create a mood or tell a story; the colors in the palette next to each photo were pulled directly out of the photograph. (I got the idea from Pinterest, which is full of all kinds of useful ideas; you can check out
my “Color Inspiration” board on Pinterest to see what I mean by color palettes.) Here are a couple examples using complementary colors…

Rustic Cooking:  Complimentary colors like red + green are lovely together.

In the photo above I was trying to convey a rustic scene: you’re on vacation in a secluded area, maybe a quaint cabin in the woods. The dark brown wooden bowls, the lighter wooden slab that the bowls are on, and the pine-y rosemary mimic the view out your kitchen window. It’s dinnertime and you’re about to start cooking. Looking at this photo, you just know a cozy meal isn’t far away.

Beet-Citrus Salad

Beautiful yellow beets and oranges look elegant against an icy blue-hued fabric. Red onion and a few purple beets interspersed add an additional splash of color to the photo, as well as flavor to the dish. In the next photo I used a broad color spectrum to portray an idea…

Healthy Lunch

In the photo above I wanted to convey the idea of a healthy, well-balanced meal. When I think of eating healthy, I think of eating a full spectrum of colors…bright fruits and veggies and soft beige-colored grains. Notice the blue lid on my salad dressing container; it’s not edible, but it adds the little punch of color that was exactly what I was aiming for in this photo. Without that bright blue lid, I wouldn’t have the shade I needed to give the viewer the impression of a full color spectrum.

Another thing to bear in mind when thinking about color, is that certain colors evoke certain feelings, and in turn memories. In general, warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are mentally stimulating – and they stimulate the appetite as well. Cool colors like blue are calming and actually suppress the appetite. (For more information on the psychology behind how color affects appetite and mood, check out the following websites: Astro Nutrition, eHow Health, and Color Wheel Pro.)

In the photo below, red makes me think of spice, green makes me think of something fresh, and shades of blue and gray remind me of water and make me feel refreshed…

Spicy Fresh

As someone looks at the photo above, I wanted them to imagine eating the soup…how it would taste spicy at first, but have a nice balance and a hint of sweetness from cream; then a pop of flavor from the fresh cilantro garnish. A glass of water would be the perfect cooling end.

When you’re making seasonal foods, it’s a lot of fun to play with seasonal colors in your pictures to evoke a sense of the season…

Autumnal Hues

Where I live (Upstate New York), autumn is adorned with mostly two colors as the leaves change and fall off the trees: brown (a little blah, I know) and brilliant shades of orange (ok, there’s also a lot of crimson and yellow…which help make up for the brown :). The picture above is autumn in a nutshell to me; the little pumpkin in particular makes the photo and brings in the orange hues I needed to tie it all together.

Color-wise, spring is similar to autumn in that there’s a lot of brown, but with green replacing the orange…

Spring Tones

I see the picture above and think of budding trees in spring…still mostly brown, but green signs of life can be seen everywhere.

Don’t forget, you can take your audience anywhere you want through your photos…

Morning in the Middle East

Whether or not my audience has been to the Middle East, I wanted them to feel like they’re there the moment they look at this photo. The various shades of beige sand, the blazing hot orange sun against the brilliant blue sky, and the luxurious, richly-pigmented fabrics. Not only its color, but even the placement of the apricot jam – in the center of this photo – echoes the sun. (This photo is from my upcoming book; I had a lot of fun shooting it, and it’s one of my favorites. :)

So when you’re setting up to shoot a dish, first think about the mood you’re trying to portray or the story you’re trying to tell, and then you can choose colors to help paint that picture. The beauty of it is, the story you capture through your lens will be perceived and interpreted slightly differently by every viewer, which makes it meaningful to them in different ways.

I hope this tutorial inspires you to play around with color when taking your food photos. Thanks for reading, everyone, and Alisha, thanks again for inviting me! Happy photographing!

Thank you so much Faith for joining us here today with this beautiful
 addition to our photography series!

Alisha~Magic of Spice

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