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Behind the Scenes of a Food Photography Shoot

This past Monday I had the pleasure of working with food stylist, Leslie Orlandini on a test shoot. Our explorations included healthy food options such as a honey vanilla roasted lemonade, a root vegetable pancake with poached egg, a panna cotta made with cashew milk and others. The shoot took place in a lovely home in Somers, NY with beautiful natural light in the kitchen and a great country/rustic vibe, set off in the woods. Prior to the shoot, we discussed and brainstormed several ideas for the meal plan and what our goals would be for the day. We decided upon a combination of recipe demos and “beauty shots,” as if we were working on a cookbook or editorial piece.

The morning started off with the demo shoot of the lemonade drink – which is made by roasting lemons and then soaking them with water, fresh vanilla and honey. For our images, we decided we’d do a still life with the ingredients, a shot to illustrate the roasting, and a final shot for the finished drink. We ended up with two varieties of “final” shots of the drink in a glass – for variety. I shot tethered to my laptop, so we could see each image at a large enough size to determine what was working and what wasn’t. We worked very collaboratively to determine which props to include (or not) and what food should be placed where, etc.

After we finished the lemonade, I worked with the panna cotta dessert – which Leslie had prepped beforehand and was all ready to go. I used a different lighting set up and location than the lemon shots – for which I had used a mix of natural/available and artificial light on the windowsill in the kitchen. For the panna cotta’s, I moved to a different window and stuck with the available light, modifying it with a reflector, to get some fill light into the shadows. Once I had the lighting and basic setup ready to go, Leslie and I worked together to come up with a good combination of composition and story – such as props, partially eaten cups, etc.

By this point, we’d been working for about 4 hours and it was time for lunch! While we ate, we talked about our own experiences and goals, while watching the snow begin to fall outside.

After lunch we worked on a demo of the root vegetable pancakes – determining which steps should be shown and which would be clear when in combination with a recipe. Ultimately this wound up including about 5 images, including a still life, the process of julienning the veggies, “blanching” the veggies to soften, using a towel to strain the water, frying the pancakes on the stove and finally, a plated version of the dish, complete with poached egg and yolk running down the front!

The day finished and, all said and done, we came out with 10-12 images. Not a bad day’s work. We packed up and set off for a snowy and dark drive home.

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