The Greatest Job in the World

by Shawnda on January 9, 2011

in Food Blog Camp,Photography & Props,Travel

Adam Pearson, Food Stylist

The highlight of day 4 was the Food Styling and Photography session by Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson. We discussed styling: plating, structuring, crumbs, and magical dollops. We discussed styling tools: eye droppers, skewers, paint brushes, kitchen torches, museum wax (to hold utensils in place on plates), and Polygrip (to hold food items in place that might otherwise slide down or fall over).

We discussed how to make ugly food pretty (-ier). We talked best practices for appetizers, soups and stews, meats, and salads. And we talked about why pretty food can often look ugly. We talked about propping and over-propping. Texture and movement. And then we talked about how to shoot styled food.

Food Styling and Photography

Food styling is one area that I’ve really wanted to focus some serious attention. Adam is a (The?) Grand Master of food styling. After a presentation, we went over to the beachside restaurant to style and shoot food. 99.9% of what he does is edible (see Polygrip and museum wax above). There’s no lacquer, paint thinner, or motor oil – just a simple presentation of the very best ingredients to highlight the beauty of the recipe.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop

Before Adam begins, he thinks about from what direction the photo will be shot (straight-on, from above, or at an angle). Then he begins building the shot to make the food look its very best from that angle. Watching him build a plate of pancakes and fruit was fascinating.

He inspected every pancake, turning it to make sure the best sides were camera-facing. The prettiest pancake went on top, topped with a pat of Kerrygold Butter (one of the companies who very graciously sponsored Food Blog Camp). Each piece of fruit was placed meticulously on the plate. A beautiful breakfast shot was made with the addition of a linen napkin and an overturned, wooden serving tray from his suite. That simple.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop

When the food was ready for its close up, Matt took over. Matt shoots tethered. In plain english, it’s only the greatest thing EVER. I’ll frequently shoot a recipe and then feel that what I load into Lightroom isn’t exactly what I saw on my camera LCD – and it’s definitely not the picture I had in mind. It can be really frustrating when this happens after the food has already been eaten.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop

Tethering lets Matt manipulate everything from the laptop. He can shoot, see a preview, and change camera settings from the laptop. If they need to adjust the angle or tweak the food a bit, they can and then shoot some more.

I can’t wait to get this set up this week! I just have to go dig through some unpacked boxes (yep, going on month 3 and there are still plenty of them!) to find the CDs that came with my camera (a Canon) so I can install the utility. (If you’re using another brand DSLR, check your manual or camera website to see what you’ll need to tether.)

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Davidd January 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Great shots! Glad you enjoyed the camp and the session with Adam : )

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2 Stephanie January 10, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Great meeting you two, and thanks for this terrific post!

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3 Helene January 11, 2011 at 10:52 am

Great recap! Love those 2! I shoot tethered for work and carried that over to when I shoot for the blog (unless at an event). Love it! Since you have Light Room, just plug your camera to your computer with a USB cable, let the computer recognize the added tool. Then go into LR, go into “file”, select “tethered capture” then “Start capture”, name your new folder and you’re ready!…easy peasy :)

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4 foodiebride January 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

@Helene, Oh my gosh, it was so easy to get setup! This is going to take away some big headaches, for sure! And bonus – I took some super sexy test shots of a Diet Coke can last night while getting it up and running :)

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5 Paula {Salad in a Jar} January 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Couldn’t agree more about shooting tethered. I once heard somebody say it was a crutch. I guess I need a crutch because it really improved my photography.

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6 foodiebride January 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm

@Paula {Salad in a Jar}, Well this is one “crutch” I’ll gladly use, too :)

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7 Nancy@acommunaltable January 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm

This is so much fun reading about everyone’s experiences!! I think you captured it perfectly… or would that be tethered??? LOL!!

I am not nearly as technologically savvy as you guys but I am definitely going to see if I can figure this out – encouraging to see that us mere mortals can do this!!

Great to meet you both at camp and hope to cross paths soon!!

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8 Kate January 12, 2011 at 7:14 pm

It was great to read such a detailed summary of Matt & Adam’s workshop. I look forward to seeing the results of your tethered photos. Maybe you could do a post showing your best experiments?

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9 Kristen January 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Looks like a most wonderful and inspiring trip!

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10 matt January 13, 2011 at 7:28 am

LOVED this post, thank you and it was so great meeting you both!

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11 Toni Scott January 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Thanks so much for sharing what you learned at Food Blogger Camp. I’m going for sure next year!

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12 Robin Cherry January 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I love the recap. I’ve been trying to impress upon my friends the coolness of food styling, but their eyes just glaze over. (not the frozen maple syrup again, they seem to say).

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13 Lizzette Rivera November 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I just saw him today in Paula Deen’s Cooking Show.

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