Monday , February 26 2024
It'll look great - but don't eat it!

Book Review: Food Styling For Photographers by Linda Bellingham And Jean Ann Bybee

It is said that you eat with your eyes first. That can be derived by the fact that so many menus and restaurant advertisements have professional food stylists setting up photographic shoots to wow you with their images. But while these images really want to make you desire that dish, you would probably get ill if you tried to eat it as it was shot. In fact at the start of Food Styling For Photographers, there is a disclaimer that these methods of food preparation are not meant for human consumption.

In Food Styling For Photographers you will learn the tricks of what it takes to create that look that will have people wanting to taste the delectables. The premise of this book is that not all shoots can afford to hire a professional food stylist, or there is not the time to find one to make a deadline. As a professional photographer, there may be times in which you have to take the bull by the horns and do it yourself. Food Styling For Photographers is 272 pages and is divided into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Introduction to Food Styling," begins by giving an overview of what food styling is, and to set up some rules and guidelines for the styling of food. You will see how to shop like a stylist, as well as assembling your own food styling kit. Chapter 2, "Sets and Setting," now gets in to the basics of what to consider when planning food photography; "What is the point of the shot?" In this chapter you will learn about how to properly set up the shot so as to make it pop in the image.

Chapter 3, "Chilling Facts About Cold Beverages," explains that you really have only a short window of opportunity to get the right shot when dealing with cold beverages, but with the right techniques, you can fake the effects which will let you better control the appearance and give you more latitude with that time window. Chapter 4, "Making a Salad for the Camera," begins by showing you the proper selection of ingredients so that you can build a feast for the eyes. Here you will see how to put together the proper ingredients to create a salad that has the all of the colors and textures to temp the viewer.

Chapter 5, "Pasta and Sauces," to a stylist is like a blank canvas to artist. There are a wide variety of colors and textures that can be added to the various shapes of pasta to make the viewer's mouth water. Chapter 6, "Burgers, Sandwiches and Beyond," explains that even though it may appear simple, working with burgers and hot dogs is extremely difficult to do correctly. In this chapter you will see how to locate the perfect bun, prep the patties and prepare everything just right.

Chapter 7, "Meeting Meat Head-On," begins with another warning about not eating this food, and that you should use some sort of vinyl or latex gloves when working with meat for safety reasons. Then it gets on to the various ways to cook the meat, building the layout, and even stylizing the meat when it contains bones. While the types of meats available are many, here you will work with beef, chicken and fish. Chapter 8, "Veggie Perfect," again begins with showing you how to shop for your produce, what to look for, and how to prepare it. You then will learn all of the tricks to get that fresh look just right.

Chapter 9, "Ice Cream for Hot Lights," starts off by saying that if you are selling ice cream, then you must photograph the real thing, if you are selling the topping or just using it as a prop, then you can fake the ice cream. Here the author gives a very brief talk about shooting the real thing, but this chapter focuses on creating fake ice cream. Chapter 10, "Desserts," discusses the building and shooting of whole cakes, cheese cakes, and cookies, and what it takes to get your just deserts.

Chapter 11, "Breakfast for the Camera," looks at making bacon for the camera, creating beautiful biscuits, and making eggs that pop out of the image. Chapter 12, "Garnishing Basics" finishes off by describing garnishing guidelines for making your food appeal to the viewer. Here you will see how to finish off the plate for professional look.

Food Styling For Photographers is very nicely laid out, is well written, and easy to understand. Each chapter has "Tricks of the Trade" where the authors explain little tidbits of knowledge that will help you along your path to learning how to style food. Included as well are "safety notes" to keep you safe since you are dealing with food, fire, knifes, as well as a host of other thing that can be potentially dangerous.

While I wish that there were more, and in more detail, I also like the fact that they have "Photographers Comments" on how to set up the shots that you see in Food Styling For Photographers . There are photographs of the shoot itself so that you can see the layout of the camera, lights and other things that create the photograph. You also get a list of all the supplies that were used to complete the shot.

Beyond the fact that I think that there is a need for books like Food Styling For Photographers, I think that it serves a purpose on showing what it takes to shoot for effect of sales and advertising. If you want to see what it takes to do food styling for photography then I very highly recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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