FOOD MATTERS

Fork Spoon Knife is the personal blog of Asha where she chronicles her journeys in food through stories, recipes and photographs. She can also be found doodling and sharing her experiences as below.

 
                        

Camera ... Lights ... Action! Wait! Where are the PROPs?!


PROP - one innocent four letter word that sends shivers down mine and Mr. FSK's spines for completely different reasons! I look forward to the thrill of hunting, owning and using them. He looks on with dread as our tiny apartment slowly gets overrun by my various mismatched acquisitions! :)

To a food blogger, styling is integral to the presentation. While, one may argue that the dish should sell on it's own merit, I am firmly of the belief that subtle accessories are but an expected part of the process of making food look better! Towards that end, I have recently started hoarding stuff as also putting what I already own to more than utilitarian uses.

When Ilva of Lucullian Delights asked us to share our prop stories for the Show Us Your Food Prop event, I jumped on the opportunity. If you haven't been by her blog yet, I would say head there as soon you finish this post. She has been running a fabulous series, Food Props on Sunday, of guest posts from awesome food bloggers around.

Cherry Clafoutis on table

One thing that is important to me in my various prop hunts is to keep the expense to a minimum. I see no point in shelling out $$ for stuff that is used occasionally even if it is the finest bone china. It took me a while to figure out places where I could buy props without emptying my bank account.

Eventually, I found very good resources for cutlery, dinnerware and other odds and ends. Fortunately, I live just a stone's throw away from those bred in affluence. So, my neighborhood is dotted to congestion with thrift stores dedicated to various causes. I make it a monthly routine to do a round of all of them. Month ends are good times to visit because these stores usually have sales going on to clear inventory. Other places include the usual list of high end and middle end home stores; I keep a look out for any sale going on in these stores as also flea markets.


I also raid fabric and paper stores for backdrops. While a piece of cloth such as a napkin may look innocent, it can add much color, aesthetic and perspective to the photograph. Some of my best finds have been back in India and stores here, selling quilting fabric. I do buy material by the yard and then use them as table cloths or as makeshift napkins.

Now, when it comes to the actual styling, I typically start thinking about how to present and photograph as soon as I decide to make a particular item. As I cook or bake, I mull the colors of the product and try to marry it with the cutlery and backgrounds I have and imagine in my mind the picture I want to put out on the blog. It doesn't always turn out how I imagined it to be. Then, I start improvising; playing with colors, arrangements etc.

While, food looks pristine and fanciful in white, sometimes a bold background can make things pop. I especially like to layer my colors, so the eye can wander around and take in the colors and textures.

Croquembouche start

One of the key things to having an alluring photo is to get the lighting right. I always shoot in day light for two reasons. One, it is natural light and is the best one to show off the colors of the food as artificial light can alter the colors adding an unwanted yellow tone. Two, I don't have a proper studio set up and my camera (Nikon D5000) does not really take good photos in artificial light. Find a spot in your house/apartment that lets in the most amount of sun light. I take most of my shots in the living room by one of the windows. Since, I don't have much room, my "studio" is really a makeshift space.

The intensity of light varies throughout the day and you'll need to find the best shooting time or adjust the light flowing through. You can use rice paper or light curtains to control the light or if you have blinds, adjust the shafts. Also, you can use simple foam boards to use as reflectors to light up the subject evenly.

Chocolate Olive oil cake with mallow frosting 2

I also use flowers to accessorize. They add a touch of color, bring the different elements photo together and also set the mood for the photo. It is so easy to send a message of romance or seasonal notes with tactical placement of flowers, fruits and other such items.

In the end, styling is all about using what you have in the best way to make the subject most appealing. Everyday things around your house can make excellent props if you just stop and think about they would fit in.

Potato Onion & Goat Cheese tarts

And, that wraps my two cents on the topic of Food Styling and Lighting. I hope you enjoyed this post and do head over to Ilva's. She will be posting a round up of all of our "Prop" posts on July 11, 2010.

20 comments:

  1. Great post Asha. I'll have to check out her blog. I had to laugh when you talked about your husbands reaction. Seems like storage space is an issue everywhere!

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  2. Haha... O the hunt for props... I have the luxury of having the studio where I can stash all my props so I can always say that to Tom if he starts complaining. However... since I do most of my shooting at home, since that is where I cook, slowly but surely half of the stock in the studio gets moved over to our house and at the moment our kitchen is sort of overflowing with fabricpieces, pots, plates and well, you know how it works.... I can never have enough props! I am not that good in using them though... I absolutely love how you use your props!

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  3. Great post! I share the same headache about storage; my props used to be 'self-contained' in a kitchen cart at our old place, but now that we're in a bigger apartment....that means space for more props *oops*

    Totally agree with you about hunting around thrift stores for bargains. Garage/estate sales are a good bet too!

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  4. Nice post. I have been seeing the prop posts everywhere. Great collection of china and glassware.

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  5. I have just started collecting props and it is so addictive! I have a few bowls and plates now and so next it will be fabric. How much is enough--half a meter of each nice one, say?

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  6. Hi Sarah, Agree with you that it is an addiction :)). Here the minimum I can get is 1/2 a yard which is approximately 1/2 meter. So I would say that works. Some fabrics you may want more of if you plan to use them as table cloths.

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  7. Great post Asha! This makes me realize how much work you put into each one of your posts. I'll have to go prop shopping with you one of these days. It would be so much fun! I hope you're staying cool! My trip here has been extended to the 19th, so I won't be back to NY until after. I hope to hang out with you soon.

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  8. Nice post Asha...exactly the way I feel too...am kind of addicted to props these days esp bowls and spoons. Napkins yes only now have started thinking abt getting more....I luv ur napkins esp the white based ones it gives a nice bright feeling to ur clicks....I just luv ur presentation the creativity shown in each one of them....Way to go!!

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  9. I do the same thing Asha.. I am always in hunt for props.. I love the fabric collections in Joann and Walmart.. they have got some real cool stuff.. I love Michaels too..

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  10. I'm with you. I have so many props, they filled up several boxes when I moved around cities.

    Now I tend to keep my styling really simple. Still, I cannot stop looking for pretty little things to buy!

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  11. Thanks for this - props is definitely one place where I need to focus my efforts. My husband, too, hates clutter and will not be best pleased, so I'll have to find a hiding spot to squirrel away my thrift store finds! ;-)

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  12. what a great post! I am always envious of the wonderful pictures people are able to do!

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  13. this is great! thank you for sharing. the food styling and photography has to be one of my favorite things about blogging...besides the cooking, oh, and eating:) anyways, loved your ideas and so very inspiring!

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  14. I love the thrift shop routine...and I love picking up odds and ends of china at little estate sales. I feel like it good and appropriate to put the little lovelies into a pretty photo. Thanks for the post...food for thought, so to speak.

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  15. Love this post...your presentation and photos are always perfect. We have been trying to get out allot the billions of things we already have on hand to take note. And you have excellent ideas here:)

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  16. Funny! I'm a thrift store freak, and my family is always on the lookout for bits and pieces for me for my photographs. I am facing a major challenge right now as I have to remove all my fabrics, plates, etc. from the 'spare room' which is in the process of becoming a nursery. Have deliberately stopped bring so many new things into the house, and as a consequence have paid less attention to my photographs. But you are so right, it makes such a difference. Okay, need to figure out this storage issue!

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  17. Great tips & your photographs really are amazing. I also like to use flowers as props - they really do add something special to a photo don't they?

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  18. this was wonderful. asha what is the lens size that u use. m trying to resize the width and height of the photographs that i take.. but i think with urs and many other blogs its the size of the lens that gets a bigger picture.my lens size is 18-55. pls bust my myths if any. any tips of how to increase the picture size??

    Shruti
    http://loveetocook.blogspot.com

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  19. Hello dear.You have written a great post. Going to share with my followers on twitter. Thanks for sharing.
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  20. Haha that is awesome that you have all these props lined up for the photo shoot. It makes it that much more interesting.

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