I had a bit of a gloomy afternoon yesterday, but – as so often happens – an unexpected delivery lifted my spirits. I was appointed Food Blogger of the Month by Arniston Bay Wines; an unsolicited award, a campaign I didn’t know they were running and a nice consolation for my not winning the Pick n Pay ‘Eat Pray Love’ competition.
Food photography is a newish hobby of mine and I spend a lot of time searching the internet for tips from the professionals. There are some techniques that I will never use; they strike me as being plain dishonest to the reader who will attempt to create the dish, only to get an end result that looks nothing like what they had seen in the cookbook. (I won’t touch on the issue of wastage; so much food that has been tricked up with hairspray to look good and just ends up in the waste bin? Get’s my goat, it does.)
I have lifted this list from the excellent and entertaining http://photocritic.org/
Blowtorch, for browning the edges of raw hamburger patties, the goose-bumpy skins of nearly raw poultry, and hot dogs. (Caution: simmer hot dogs for a while before torching, unless your goal is an action shot of a pink-meat food explosion.)
Motor oil, as a stand-in for unphotogenic syrups.
Glycerin, along with various sizes of artist’s paintbrushes (to make seafood look like it was just caught that morning) and a misting bottle (to spritz lettuce salads, giving them that just-picked-and-rinsed look).
Cotton balls, which, when soaked and microwaved, perform quite nicely in creating the illusion of steaming-hot foods.
Spray deodorant, which gives grapes that desirable frosty veneer.
Hairspray, which can give (the appearance of) new life to a drying-out slab of cake.
Spray fabric protector, to prevent the motor-oil syrup from soaking into the pancake, which has bursting blueberries artfully pinned to it in an aesthetically pleasing, yet random, scattering (still hungry?).
Toothpicks, to hold unruly sandwiches together and tease out perfect crumbs from hot (wink wink) muffins.
Tweezers, for looping noodles in the stir fry and rearranging miniscule yet crucial crumbs.
Large syringe, to emulate the effect of a padded bra by squirting mashed potatoes under the skin of poultry before it is torch-cooked to give it a deliciously voluptuous appearance.
Brown shoe polish, so raw meat appears to be just-out-of-the-roaster succulent.
Smoke pellets or incense sticks, which can stand in for steam as long as they are lightly fanned so their smoke disperses, avoiding the appearance of a lit cigarette laying behind the pot pie.
White glue, used instead of milk for cereal photos and for pie repair (that would be the pie actually filled with mashed potatoes, where a serving-sized piece is cut out, with the resulting opening’s edges slathered with lemon custard or rhubarb-strawberry filling).
Paper towels, which, when artistically torn into blob shapes, can make gooey syrups stick to the top of ice cream, which may really be a concoction of powdered sugar and shortening.
Sturdy cardboard squares, used to make little raw (except for the blow-torched edges) ground beef-patty-platforms (with the help of the toothpicks) to keep the fatty patties from mooshing the frilly lettuce. A few strategically placed hat pins and voila! The world’s perfect hamburger. (Note: Bun selection is a critical part of the set-up process; photographers have been known to glue sesame seeds in too-bare spaces.)
And so I end this post a little more knowledgeable, but resolute: my photographs may continue to be mediocre, but they sure will be of real food that gets eaten by my family and friends. With love, Cindy.