Shirley Harring

edible press

Food Styling and Photography

July 3, 2013

I’ve always loved taking photos.

When I was a wee tacker, I had little Kodak and spent all my pocket money getting film developed.

For that, I have a nice collection of the backs of people’s heads, accidental foot shots and some great eyes wide shut portraits.

IMG_0093I’ve been lucky and managed to jag a few over the years, that were not half bad.

I’ve sold a couple (literally. Two. For a tiny amount) and a few have been reprinted for commercial use, including the wall of a restaurant and some web pages.


But for the most part, it’s just something I enjoy doing – point, adjust, click, instant memory.


Those of you who have been here a while might remember the fateful trip – the one that started in a tropic port aboard a tiny ship.

That would be the one where my husband tipped me out of the boat and into the Pacific ocean.

While I had the Canon DSLR camera around my neck.

IMG_0112It did get replaced, but with a newer model.

I never really ‘connected’ with the newer camera.

I just couldn’t get the same results, the same detail, the same light.


A few weeks ago, I signed up for a short course called ‘Food Styling and Photography’.

After all, what could suit me better – food, photography, cooking and eating?

Sign me up, I’m in.


Chris Bell from Christopher Klaas photography ran a one day session that comprised sessions about food descriptives, food styling, shooting the images, styling for professional shoots and a short in-action photography cooking class.


This explains why the shots are all so beautifully choreographed.

It was up to us to find angles we liked, look for focus points,  and snap, snap, snap.


Chris was there every minute of the way, instructing on aperture, ISO, colour techniques.

He spent a lot of his time talking us through our viewfinder, helping us to ‘see’ what sings, pops and catches the eye.


As well as what does not.

English born chef Peter Brettell, from Wild Rocket @ Misty’s, was on hand to whip up a gorgeous dish for imaging purposes.


His dish de jour was a beautifully fresh oven baked snapper with a hazelnut crust, snow pea salad with a pea and mint veloute.

As he talked us through the recipe (and we drooled into our camera lenses), Chris explained that the way a chef plates up for the table is complete different to how a stylist plates up for food images.


This dish, although it looks good, is plated for the diner. The diner looks at the dish from above. The eyes are drawn to the top of the plate, which should showcase the generosity of any specialty ingredient and highlight the main feature of the dish.  The quantities of sauce will differ, the diner needs to think they are getting ‘the best bang for their buck’, so generosity is perceived by the way the dish is ‘spread’.


For a food styling shoot, the dish is plated quite differently. The size and depth of the flatware is altered. The ingredients are arranged to encourage the colours to complement across the plate.

The protein, or  main feature, is angled slightly and tilted to show the degree of colour, depth of cooking and any firmness or marbling in the focus point.

There is a lot of ‘hands-on’ as each element is handled, moved and placed strategically. This has to be done quickly and with delicate touch, as to keep the heat, the glaze, the  freshness apparent.

Any sauce is used to work through against the salad, again to compliment colour.

Finally, a texture is added. A utensil, a cloth – something to add interest and excite the eye. IMG_0187

Finally, with a light screen and reflector, the shot is ready.

How different the two fish dishes look. In reality – this is the same slice of fish, and the same salad. It’s just been styled.

Both shots were taken with my camera, same lens.


We did have a chance to play.  There were lots of little tables set around  where we could style and shoot and learn.


If you want to see more photos, the album is on my facebook page here.
Do you think you’d benefit from this type of class?


  1. so my picture of a pot of curry needs some work then.

  2. Holy cow, Rhu, these photos are wonderful! Each one would win a prize from me. :)

  3. I wish there was a place you could rent kitchen props from for doing a shoot. I live what I call a “minimalist” lifestyle, where I try not to own or buy anything I don’t need (my home is very spartan), so the big table full of bits and pieces at the workshop with all of those adorable props for photos both terrified me and made me jealous!

  4. Would love to do a workshop like this. Do you know if there are plans for anymore?

  5. This is a great idea! Would love one on iPhone photography, too.

  6. gorgeous pics – wish I could have been there too. I’d love to go to the next one.

  7. Oh those pictures are beautiful! I had a camera I loved, too. It was an Olympus and my very first digital. I took some gorgeous shots with it, then it died. Apparently the motherboard quit, or something. I would LOVE to take that class? Have you see the pictures on Rootie’s Kitchen? I know for a solid fact most of them are terrible.

  8. I would so love to do a class like this. Lovely photos!

  9. I know my photography limitations – I shall merely enjoy the riches of others.

  10. Would I benefit….yes. absolupositively. I stink at pictures in the most awful sort of way.

  11. Aw, I would love to have been able to attend something like this, Shirley. Your photos are beaut!

  12. WOW those photos are so beautiful!

    I particularly like (love) the one above the writing “We did have a chance to play. There were lots of little tables set around where we could style and shoot and learn.” The colours and focus in that photo really appeals to my eye.

    Very interesting about the way they style food for the diner and the photos. I never looked at it that way.

    Well done you.

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