With the Dole California CookOff 2014 launching soon, as well as other cooking contests currently running, these tips might just come in handy as you’re completing your entry(ies) ~~as the 2013 winner of the Dole CookOff, I can assure you that the stakes are high and probably higher this year! I’m really happy to be on the other side of the competition as a spectator this year because I know some outstanding and stunning recipes are going to be submitted.
Like any other competition, contest cooking is no different—to be good, to win, to compete with the best you have to develop your skill set, invest hours of practice, have the best equipment and tools, spend money making yourself and your performance better and better, and you have to have be willing to dig, research and learn on your own. Many cooking contest entries require not only a recipe, but a photograph (maybe more than one) of your finished dish. This feature of the contest is not be overlooked as inconsequential—more than ever the saying that a ‘picture’s worth a thousand words’ is so true of food photography.
Mouth-watering food photography takes years of practice. Some folks have a knack for ‘style’ in everything they do—you can see it in their dress, the way they carry themselves, how they put together say an outfit, set a dining room table, or design a room in their home. An ‘eye’ and talent for what you’re seeing through the lens helps tremendously, but even if you don’t have that, you can learn some critical things about great food glamour shots.
Over my nearly 3 years of becoming a competitive cook, I’ve seen myself evolve as an ‘athlete’ in this arena. I look back at some of the things I’ve photographed and cringe at how lame and bush league the photography was—no wonder I didn’t win! However, with time, patience, practice and investment in better equipment and tools, I’ve been able to put my ‘food porn’ up against some of the best, and I’m proud of it. Probably the best validation of this are two big contests I won simply because of my food photography—Fiji Water’s Best Foodie Photography 2013 and American Lamb Board ‘Lamb Lover Contest’ 2013. Both, which had amazing prizes, were simply because of a stunning drool-worthy photograph of food I had prepared.
So here are some of my first thoughts on food photography—while I’m not a professionally trained food photographer, I do have a natural eye for great shots. I’m starting with ‘food styling’~~I’ll be doing several more installments on food photography in upcoming blog posts~~it’s important to know that taking a fabulous photograph is much more than snapping a button. Thought, consideration, preparation and planning go into that one picture that could mean you might win that contest! Look for the next three tips in another post~~for now, you can digest these things, practice, and watch your photos morph into crazy gorgeous works of art~ xoxo ~~ally
Think of your food as setting a mood…it’s all about priming the viewer and making their salivary glands activate. We all know that candles can set a romantic mood; however, things like dripping butter on pancakes or fresh bread, melting ice cream on cobbler, steaming soup scooped in a ladle, or a glowing flame on a grill tell a story about the food. Another thing about seeting the mood is to leave the mess…this gives food life. And, don’t forget to think about your ‘surface’—a wooden board, an old farm table, a shiny stainless steel surface—while they can’t compete with the food, they are integral. Finally, another mood feature is the background, oftentimes blurred it helps paint the story of what’s happening in your photo.
~less is more~
Like so many things in life, less is truly more. And, this is certainly the case in food photography. Nothing’s more distracting in food pictures than clutter and trying to gussy up the food—it’s overkill and takes away rather than adds. Remember to keep it real. Don’t stage too much—sometimes just seeing those tomatoes freshly sliced on a wooden board with the juice drops on the knife, some flicks of sea salt and a piece of mozzarella to the side is enough to know that a spectacular caprese salad is about to burst forth!
~simple = powerful~
With your plating keep it simple. Don’t let the plates, bowls, dishes, silverware compete with the food. If you’ve got a ‘gypsy’ like food with lots of textures, colors, and more, like a beef stew, use a simple white bowl rather than a patterned dish. Let the food be the star and not the dishes, placemats, napkins and more. The same goes for garnish—use something that’s already incorporated in the dish as a garnish—a sprig of fresh thyme, a sliced radish with the root intact—natural expressions of food always intrigues the eye!
I’ll be posting another blog on part II of food styling, so keep an eye out for it~~in the meantime, here are some photos that reflect these three tips~~
This page is sponsored by Dole Packaged Foods~~all of the opinions are mine. For a full disclosure just CLICK HERE~~
©alice d’antoni phillips www.allyskitchen.com