Behind the Photos
While interning at Lake Isle Press, I’ve discovered how dangerous it is to think about food all day. It’s barely three hours after breakfast, and my stomach’s already growling. Abnormal hunger is a side effect of working with cookbooks (I’m not kidding – one flip through a Lake Isle cookbook, and I guarantee you’ll wish it was time for your next meal).
Recipes are bad, but photographs are even worse. I see eggplant caponata, like the one I wrote about two weeks ago, and mmmm I can almost taste it. The photos in Lake Isle’s cookbooks are masterpieces that make you want to reach down and spoon them right off the page.
What's behind such beautiful photography? Turns out, the photographer is only partly responsible. A lot of what makes photos literally mouthwatering has to do with the food stylist’s and prop stylaist's skill. That’s right, folks – there exist people called food stylists and prop stylists and they work magic at photo shoots.
Let’s take a look at what prop stylists do:
- They provide potential props like fabrics, plates, napkins, silverware, flowers, and so on. They buy different props depending on the type of food and style the cookbook wants to convey.
And food stylists:
- They cook all the recipes. The food will taste delicious no matter what, but it might be difficult to make it look delicious, too!
- They arrange the food on plates, wiping off any unwanted drips or drops.
- They place the plates on different surfaces like wood, stone, tablecloths, and picnic tables, keeping in mind colors, textures, and what each surface conveys.
- They pick props and arrange them in just the right way around the food.
Each cookbook requires its own unique style. How unique? Time to feast our eyes!
From Party Like a Culintista. These photos are summery, bright, and sophisticated.
I love the painterly feel of the image above, and the contrast between the orange and blue.
The elegant props makes those bean burgers look extra lip-smacking delicious.
The aforementioned eggplant caponata. Summery colors and a glass of white wine...I can taste summer and feel sun on my shoulders.
From Return to the Rivers. Like the food they depict, these photographs feel exotic and authentic to the small villages of the Himalayas.
Orange plate and orange fish create a surprisingly delicious effect, while that cold drink in the background quenches my thirst.
Dull background colors make the green pop.
The textured bowl goes with the textured grain.
From The Cook-Zen Cookbook. Minimal and muted, these elegant photos mirror the simplicity of the Japanese miracle microwave pot, the Cook-Zen.
Don't you wish you could have this photo hanging in your kitchen? It's as beautiful as a flower.
Dark, soothing tones come together with the homely bread and napkin to create a moment of peace.
White is the most appetizing shade for colorful foods.
From Easy Gluten-Free Baking. These treats are featured in a cozy but stylish kitchen, exactly where you want to nibble your baked goods.
Freshly baked raisin bread with butter and hot coffee - that's how I want to start my day.
That confectionar's sugar is so powdery that I can already feel it on my lips (recipe here).
Possibly my favorite dessert image on the planet. Words aren't needed. Recipe is.
Now you see what I mean about looking at photos of food, don't you? Go cook or bake something!
Meagan Goldman is a food-lover and aspiring writer. You can follow her at www.meaganbakerwriting.blogspot.com.