While you will find me whipping up some new recipes most days, I am also busy staging food for photo shoots from time to time. I love making a spread look appetizing in a blog or for a commercial ad. It takes a keen eye for composition, just as it does for making a painting. You take into consideration color, texture, shape, size, balance of forms, and contrasts of light and dark. If you are working with a theme, it is more challenging but always great fun. When you get good results, your self-esteem goes up a notch. When I do a shoot for a client, I cook it myself or buy appropriate products at the store. The goal is different than when you are trying to sell a cookbook or new pots and pans. You tailor each shoot to specifications.
Recently, I had a ball doing a date-night shoot of food in a romantic setting. Think Valentine’s day on steroids. Hearts are trite but you will probably include one or two if just a folded napkin. Candles are expected and a lace place mat. Romance means many things to different people, but I sometimes go with the tried and true so everyone gets it. My idea of such a setting is not outdoors by the campfire or in a chalet high up in the mountains. I like something formal where you have to dress up. Where do people go to celebrate an anniversary or engagement—to a restaurant. I picture two glasses of champagne with a single rose in a crystal vase as the centerpiece. I must put a spin on it for my client so I start with this traditional image. Then my mind goes to a hot tub like this with a couple immersed in warm, swirling water. It is night time. The candles are there, just as in the first concept and the glasses of champagne are not on a table, but in the couple’s hands. There is a tray attached to the hot tub upon which sits a small bowl of fresh strawberries. You imagine the woman plopping one into her glass. Now we are getting symbolic. I think the client will like this approach and I avidly set up the scene in my backyard. I hire two models that must look like they are in love. I borrow the most beautiful champagne glasses I can find. Strawberries come easy. The whole thing will reek romance.
I have my challenges as a food stylist, but romance is a no-brainer. I ran a few thoughts by my client and we discussed options. Were the strawberries enough? Usually, I create an entire meal; but he liked the simplicity of it. The rich, red fruit would be an eye catcher. The stylist’s job is to make the strawberries look extraordinary. The champagne must be bubbly and appealing. The couple will be almost in the background with only a portion of the hot tub showing. I think this job will bring me success.