Hats off to the first photographers and stylists. I think we take for granted that we, in the digital age, have immediate access to photos of our work. As a tutorialist (yes, I just made that up in my head) I style the shot and then take a picture, immediately looking at it on the camera screen. I can see if my whole shot is great or if something needs to be fixed. Usually, it means something needs to be tweaked just so. Once I have my shot, I can move along to the next in the series. If I were doing this a few decades ago, I wouldn't have the luxury.
One look at vintage cookbooks and I am stunned when I think about how the food stylists did it. How on earth did they set everything up and hope for the best? I am constantly going back and tweaking things after I take the shot. Were they so skilled that they didn't need to see how it would look? These trailblazers have given me inspiration and I have a new goal, to gain the confidence to style and know exactly how it will look on camera. I am old enough that I took FILM photography in high school. Although the smells would bring back some of the nostalgia, I certainly don't miss the not knowing part of the photos. I like experimenting and the best shots usually come from changing out this or that. This requires lots of photos and using film made that cost prohibitive. For tabletop photography, you would have to get really good, really fast. I'm getting better at taking less shots, but to achieve minimal shots and the confidence that goes with it, just not there yet...but on my way.
What do I do to help improve my styling? Ok, you will be convinced I am kooky at the end of this paragraph, sorry in advance. I read lots of books and magazines. Ok, I don't read, I look at the pretty pictures. I pick them apart, the colors, the props, the styling. Vintage is my thing, but it certainly helps me not feel as bad as doing this to a fellow stylist. With vintage books, I can make it my own style and I have no idea who the stylist or photographer is so I don't feel as bad critiquing it in my mind. I change it in my head, sometimes out loud, what I like what isn't working and I think about how I would have done it. Seriously. I don't have the time to shoot more than I do already. I have to pretend. Since I shoot tabletop, I use home decor, craft, and cookbooks. I try to think why they might have done it that way.
Like this roast? It looks a little weird on its end and not on its side like how it would be sliced for those slices there. Was this a lighting issue? Was it a spacial issue? Was it to get the full effect of the crispy yumminess on the side? We can only guess, but we just thought about three reasons why something was styled a certain way and learned from that.
Since we are on the topic of the roast, see how the handle of the knife complements the color and carmelization of the side of the roast? Nice. See how the knife isn't clean, it looks like it cut the meat? If it was spotless it would look weird. Oh and thank heavens for digital white balance! I tweaked my photo of this picture a bit because it was just too yellow. It makes me thankful for all of the glorious food photography we have now.
I NEED those gold S&P shakers STAT.
SOURCE:Betty Crocker's New Outdoor Cookbook (1967)
Think I am crazy? Sorry, I kind of am. If you want me to shush and just take pretty pictures just let me know, if you wan more of this let me know that, too.