As promised I am here with the second and last part on ‘Prop Use’ in Food Photography and Styling. To talk on this today we have Preeti of ‘Jopreetskitchen’…who is well known for her awesome recipes and droolicious food styling. Her pictures are always loaded with antique props and her natural way of styling them is the key element in her photography which made her win many accolades over the period of time. Today Preeti is going to share her ‘prop story of prop love’ with us…so be ready to get drool by her series of food photography and styling….
Thank you Lubna for giving me this opportunity to write a post on one of my favorite subject food photography ,props and backgrounds. I have a huge collection of food styling props and backgrounds. This is a never ending passion.
Whenever I visit any new place or go on a vacation, I do an internet search about those places and try to find out about the antique shops. Most of my antique props are sourced from Karaikudi and Madurai. Some of them were gifted to me by relatives and close friends. In my point of view, these props adds story to my food photographs.
I have been collecting brass, clay, stone, iron, copper, aluminum and enamel cookware. Props give life to the photograph. However the main subject should always be the food you are capturing. Depending on the mood, I choose the food scene. For a more traditional touch, I choose many props to go with the main dish. Sometimes, it’s only the background which add textures to the scene.
For festival special recipes or something traditional, I plan to go for a more detailed prop set up. Basically, I do not follow any specific rules in choosing the color of props. I go with whatever comes in my mind. Sometimes old still life photographs from Pinterest inspires me in choosing the prop set up.
Once you decide on what kind of set up you need, go for the next step i.e choosing props which will suit your set up. For Indian festival mood, I kind of like banana leaf, flowers, dhoop, kumkum, turmeric in my photographs. They basically give a nice traditional touch to your photograph. Even though the objective is to capture food,most of the times, these items brings life to your photograph.
For a simple day to day recipe, I go for simple background and single prop set up. For Background, it is not necessary that you have to use only wooden board. I make use of kitchen cloth, baking tray, small wood tray, banana leaf, slate board, marble, granite stones and handmade papers.
In the above images, I have not used any fancy props. The main subject here is food and I try to make sure that it doesn’t get distracted by any other props. For the background, I use different wood textures. In the bottom right image, I have used a blue mat as background.
In all the four images, kitchen cloth is used as background, whereas, for the second image, I have used a patterned cloth.
In the first photograph, light and the color of cloth makes it moody. Bowl, kitchen cloth and the background colors are all same so the color of soup pops out. These are some of the examples of simple background and prop selection.
Handmade papers are used as background in all the four images. These are the examples of how paper can be used as background.
Another set of examples for choosing simple props set up. For the bottom right two images, baking tray acts as a background. Nothing fancy, just a old rustic baking tray which you can check in any local bakery shops.
First Image : Dry Leaves are used as background and few flowers to create festive mood.
Second Image : Pallanguli board is used as a prop. Pallanguli board game is a traditional game played mostly in south India. The board can’t be used as a background for all the dishes. You need to experiment and try because for some recipes, it may distract you from the main subject.
Third Image : Background is a handmade paper bought in Broadway, Chennai. These are available in stationary shops. They are light weight. I chose clay plate and pot as props to give a village rustic feel as the main dish is beetroot jowar paratha.
Fourth Image : The wood board used as background has very rustic look. If you can see the dark patches on the board, they were created by water. After washing the board, I placed my subject and props on the board immediately. As the water dries, I waited for the correct texture and clicked it immediately. Water can be used to create textures on the board.
The examples for making a photograph more divine. In the first image, one sambrani dhoop changes the entire story of a photograph. If you remove the smoke, the photograph looks very simple, not without action. But the smoke makes it more divine and gives a feel of festival. Similarly, in the other two photographs, I have used one board and stone to draw an image of lord ganesha. Using some kumkum and turmeric takes the photograph to entirely a different level.
I shot this photograph for a client who wanted a village look and rustic feel in the photograph. I have used grass straws, dry grains and jute cloth as props. For the background, I chose a simple black painted board. I drew simple kolam (rangoli) to give village feel.
In this photograph, there are two main subjects, Tea and Bun. Few bits of old Tamil books, rustic writing pad, a strainer and woolen cloth makes the entire set up dramatic. If there was steam in tea glass or someone holding the tea glass or taking a bite of bun, it would have made the photograph in action.
This is one of my favorite photograph. The main subject is a simple vatha kuzhambu podi. Since this is a traditional recipe, I chose to go for a detailed set up by including traditional measuring jars, ladle, Muram / Winnow and few ingredients like red chilies, turmeric powder and lentils for accompanying the props. Here, the dull color props do not distract the main dish.
STORING, CLEANING & ARRANGING PROPS:
- I would suggest to keep newly bought brass and copper vessels in the open shelf so that it looses the shinny look and slowly turns to look like a vintage item. But it will not happen overnight. You need to be patient. It may take days or weeks, but its better to wait then spending thousands on antiques.
- I wash them only when there is a need for shoot. When purchasing an old and used enamelware, make sure there is no cut on the surface where food will be placed. The cuts are poisonous (this was mentioned by a shop keeper in karaikudi).
- Similarly, if you are buying a brass vessel to be used as props, keep the inner side polished. After using enamelware, wash them with warm water, wipe with tissue paper and arrange them in shelf. Whenever using iron vessels as props, after usage, wash them and grease with little olive oil or any cooking oil till next use. The same applies to stone cookware.
- Arrange props in the shelves of the room where you are going to set up the table. This way you can avoid the hustle of running here and there. I arrange iron, clay pots, copper and brass, ceramic and glass wares separately in each shelves.
Few tips for Chennaites on where to find props,
- For iron cookwares, check the local road side shops in Broadway behind Currimbhoys. You will get wide variety of options.
- For copper serve wares, look for Rathna Stores and Saravana Stores in T Nagar or you can also check in Broadway.
- For white / colored serve ware, Currimbhoys, Santhosh Stores, Poppat Jamal and Home Center are the best option available for Chennaites.
- For clay pots, shops nearby Mylapore Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Vadapalani Temple and Valluvar Kottam.
Thank you Preeti for taking out time and writing down such a wonderful post. The next post is all about the essential accessory when you are pretty serious with food photography and styling. So do stay tuned….