Chix & Dumplins plated@440Because of a few great tips I got from food stylist Adam Pearson at blogger camp, this photo probably looks a lot better. I’m a big fan of showing food in it’s natural state, but rich stews can look like ugly creatures in a dark lagoon.

First I paid a lot more attention to the props, thinking about shapes and textures. If this bowl rim was not etched with a hounds tooth pattern, it would look like a giant hot white collar.  Thomas Keller gave us these that he designed with Raynaud Limoges. Thanks TK. And the same with the napkin. Just the addition of texture can help the image be more interesting and less flat.

Then, instead of photographing the stew completely mixed, we first put the plain sauce in the bowl, then carefully added blanched vegetables, dumplings and the chicken pieces separately so they weren’t coated in brown, hiding their bright colors.

Lastly, I diluted the red wine with water. Before it looked completely black and no light, no matter how strong, would pass through it.

The down side to this kind of shooting is you wouldn’t eat it this way and,  in this case, I guess I’m OK with that because you wouldn’t find a real photo of this very appetizing either.


17 Wonderful responses to “Styled Chicken and Dumplings Photo”

  • Gastronomer

    Hi Donna! Are those three spoons in the background? I can’t quite tell due to the crop. If so, why did you choose to employ three spoons?

  • Josie

    Love your photos as usual Donna. I am thinking that I need to save my pennies for next year’s blogging camp to learn more about photographing food. I have bowl-envy. Those are beautiful – such a nice combo of simple white to show off food and interesting embossing/pattern.

  • Sean

    Donna, absolutely amazing as usual and I recognized the TK-ware immediately! Do you know if the FL dishes are available to the public anywhere?

  • Donna

    yes JB—that is a flame. I am a big fan of candles —will even light them for lunch during the day. Because candle sticks are too tall, I use tea lights in votives. When you place them behind any kind of glass, they add an extra sparkle. All surfaces are up fro grabs in our house because I don’t have a specific designated spot to shoot in. The surface here is our dinning room table off the kitchen.

  • Donna

    To Gastronomer—No reason in particular—I reasoned that there could be more than one person eating the stew in an informal setting.

  • Rose

    Wonderful tips! I love the idea of diluting the wine for the photo to show it’s true rich color. I have been battling with photographs of soup & stew. Thank you for your styling suggestions!

  • Natalie Sztern

    The tips are great and the picture looks divine, maybe too diving for my taste. I enjoy your photos without the added props etc…don’t you realize donna that u take the most amazing phtos..of course u do.

    the bacon strips
    the eggs
    the onions….one only has to go to ur site…simply amazing food photographs.

    I really believe in giving credit where its due…and the above photo, well show us what you would have done otherwise…we can all then vote.

  • Becci

    Thanks for the great tips, although I don’t know if I will be able to bear some of them. For me the great joy about food blogging is the eating afterwards!! Maybe that is an issue I should work through! ;o)

  • Donna

    Becci— I totally agree. We did eat the Chicken & Dumplings after, but not that bowlful. In hindsight, I should have photographed the real McCoy as well to show the difference— but I had no idea I was going to write about real vs. stylized. I think for 94% of Michael’s food, I really don’t do anything but prop it and light it, but that’s also because he’s gotten good at plating. Also, for raw vegetable photos I usually always squirt them with water.
    He’s to the real thing!

  • Louis Doench

    I figured that you used the glass balls in the bowl trick on that. Nice lighting.

  • marc

    A small piece of silver card or even foil propped at the correct angle behind the wine glass can do wonders.

  • Emily

    I love all of the food photo advice. I need all the advice I can get on my food photography. My sister does a great job but I’m tired of her food pictures looking better than mine on our site and I vow that someday no one will be able to tell the difference between her pictures and mine! Your site is beautiful by the way!