Ok, today I want to share a little behind the scene story. That is one thing I am always curious about, I just love to read and see how other people work. What is their favorite setting, what are their favorite tools… I learned a lot over the years, reading those shared informations and I want to give back a little. I guess it is nothing new, but everyone works a bit different and maybe you’ll take one idea out of this article – I would be happy about this!
So let’s have a look what I ALWAYS want to have close to me, while shooting food! My favorite food styling tools:
Windex and Q-tips: they can be a life saver. You want to have them around on every set, not only with food I guess (maybe not while shooting portraits…). But shooting food and interior always comes along with dishes and glasses or windows and you don’t want to see any fingerprints or any dust on them. I also always have a roll of Paper Towels right next to the set and in the kitchen – it is really handy. Q-tips can save you a lot of time. Imagine your whole set is prepared, light is fine and you fill your soup into the bowl and ups, one little drop goes the wrong way and ends up on the edge of your bowl. Instead of cleaning the whole bowl, a q-tip with some windex will let the drop easily disappear. But be aware, sometimes if there is no way to clean it this way, you have to go the long way and start over… Or you are a Photoshop lover and spend some more time editing the drop out…
A can of compressed air can also save you hours. Every time you work with dusty ingredients like flour, salt, crushed pepper, dusted sugar… you’ll have kind of a mess on your background, or sometimes it is just to much and you want to get rid of it. Instead of taking all the props away to clean the background, you can spray it away. It is a little bit like magic! Like this you don’t have the chance to rub anything into your surface, it is just a very easy way to clean up :-). Please make sure to follow the manufacture’s instructions on how to use and store it.
Good knifes are fun to work with. For me they are even essential tools, I carry them with me to every set. I don’t think you need a whole bunch (even though it is great to have special knifes for special needs), but I suggest you get two or three high quality knifes – and you are set. Just try out which knife feels good in your hand and which one you use most of the time. The more confidence you have while cutting something fragile, the easier it gets. My favorite knifes are the japanese one you can see above, the universal one in the middle (perfekt to cut tomatoes) and I like to have a bread knife with me as well… To have a clean cut can be tricky and here, a set of really sharp knives will be extremely helpful! Make sure to sharpen them once in a while. If you don’t have the equipment to do it at home, ask the butcher of your trust :-)
Tweezers are another must have while styling food. They’ll help you to get pieces of food exactly where you want them, you can nestle in different parts of food ( for example, let’s say you want to shoot a cherry cake – unfortunately my time was to limited, I would have loved to bake one to show you what I mean and to eat a little piece right now…). You cut out a piece and place it on your dish and everything looks great except that you are missing a tiny piece of these juicy cherries in the left corner of your cake piece! Well you can start and try to find a better piece ( and this is often a good option), but if you end up with nothing better you can make a tiny whole into the cake and fill it with a tiny piece of a cherry. Can you see what I mean? And for this I can promise you, a tweezer is great! There even is a great blog, called “Running with tweezers“.
Half an apple or some mashed potatoes (instant), are great fillers. You just have to decide which one you like more. For me it is a clear decision. Most of the time I go with the mashed potatoes, but this is really a personal choice. They both have advantages and disadvantages. Take a look at the images below: if you have dry food, like nuts, or granola, or even let’s say a bowl of rice and you want to get this “tower” shape, then the apple is brilliant. You can build your food around it and your food will gain interest… But if you want to shoot for example a nice bowl of soup and want to show some croutons on top, or like in the picture below maybe some yoghurt with fruits, then you need a flat base! Take the instant mashed potato flakes and add as little water as needed to get a compound. Like this it is not a messy thing at all, use your fingers to mix it together and then make a nice fundament for the pieces you want to show. Cover the mashed potatoes with a little bit of soup and decorate as you desire!
Toothpicks and Paint brushes, are great helpers. You’ll need toothpicks to hold things together. Like in a sandwich or burger you can pin the ingredients and even the bread together, so that every piece stays where it should stay. And brushes are alway handy to push this tiny little piece of pepper one mm more to the left or right… just make sure to use really high quality brushes, You don’t want them to lose a single hair on your set!!
Coarse Salt, Peppercorns, Colored Salt always travel with me, because sometimes they can make the difference. Coarsed salt or even colored salt like this is so much more interesting then normal salt (which by the way you can hardly see on food…). Often it is nice to add a tiny bowl with salt to your arrangement, it makes it more lively. I add some crushed peppercorns to almost every savory dish. Just make sure to not “over crush” it. You want to see these little pieces!
Fresh Herbs, I guess I don’t have to explain it, but sometimes I am still surprised how much of a difference they make. Fresh greens are always a winner!!! So maybe you can get some nice plants on the farmers market or in a nursery and keep them on your kitchen window bench. Again, alway check them before you use them. There a nasty little flies, who can appear overnight and leave eggs under the leaves of your herbs. Nothing you want to see in your macro!
Seperating Spray for baking is something I don’t use really often. I want to have my food as natural as possible (and my whole family wants to eat it after the shootings). But it can kick in very handy, when you are just preparing a plate of pasta, a salad or some meat and are disturbed. For me having my 1 1/2 year old little one around me most of the time (when shooting for myself at home of course :-)), this happens once in a while. The nonstick cooking spray can “re-animate” your food. It gives back a little shine so the foods instantly looks juicier and it can catch the light a little bit better.
So that’s it for today. This post was on my “want to write a post about it” list since I started this blog and today my lovely instructor Christina was saying a sentence that stuck with me right away: “I prefer action to perfection!” How great is this.