Tag Archives: International Food Styling & Photography Conference


I know in my last post I said I’d write next about food photo tips mentioned during the conference I recently attended, but I decided first to talk about trends, which is somewhat more fun and interesting. First I have a question though. Once a trend is identified does that mean it starts to no longer be a trend? Is it passé already at that point? Because if you think about it, it must have been seen all over the place for it to be identified as a trend and then maybe it’s not so cool any more. In any case, here are some of the trends in food photography identified by presenters at the conference, especially by Delores Custer, a food stylist, consultant and teacher who was a wonderfully informative presenter. She humorously referred to certain time periods as “the year of the edible flower” or “the year of the black plate.”

1. Casual, less controlled, not too perfect, more fun, doable. This theme was brought up again and again over the course of the weekend. Natural light is all the rage (yay!), less precise images (with crumbs, etc.) are favored over stuffy, pristine or ornately decorated scenes (yay, again!).

2. Inferred food. This is related to the first trend and was mentioned by the warm and witty Clare Ferguson. Have you noticed you frequently see photos where half a casserole is missing, a sandwich has a bite out of it, or a pie has some slices missing and the insides dripping out? The idea is that the food is irresistible and someone has already delved into it. It shows that this is real, edible food that people are enjoying, not something shellacked and unappetizing. Makes sense, no? Here’s my extreme take on that trend…can you tell what I had for lunch yesterday based on the remnants of the plate? Ok, so maybe that’s a little TOO inferred!

inferred food

3. Organic, sustainable food and styling. Mette Neilsen and Steph Culberson gave a passionate presentation on this very topic. They talked about ways to reduce waste, which is rampant in food photography. They emphasized that the way to get clients on board in doing things more sustainably is to show them how it will save them time and money. Suggestions included things like buying just the amount of food you need to shoot from your local grocery store if it’s available there instead of having your client send you those 100 boxes of frozen pizza. Or how about suggesting to your client that they garnish that chicken breast with local sage instead of strawberries in April when the only strawberries available are from thousands of miles away and are barely red on the inside?

4. Tight shots. Food that is shot just showing the subject matter. Again, makes sense to me. Shouldn’t we really be focusing on the food? (Not that I don’t enjoy lovely props now and then…)

5. Graphic shots. Often food is shot with primary regard for its shape and form. As I mentioned earlier, Pornchai Mittongtare does this beautifully. Here’s one of my more graphic shots.


6. No backgrounds or white backgrounds. White is big. Maybe this will be “the year of the white plate” or was that last year? Anyway, here’s a recent image of mine employing this trend (unintentionally!).

tuna nicoise

7. Stacking. Delores Custer says stacking is back in vogue. I definitely recall seeing lots of images of stacked cookies over the holidays last year. A stack of pancakes certainly makes sense. What other food stacks well I wonder? They’re can’t be that many, can there? Let me know if you think of some.

8. Salts and peppers. Fat and chocolate. Yum, yum. I know from my own ridiculous salt collection that this is a fact. Maybe I’ll take a photo of all the different salts currently in my cupboard as my next project. And I hereby make a note to myself to investigate fun pepper options. The new cookbook Fat was mentioned several times. It’s filled with wonderful photos by Leigh Beisch. And chocolate. What need I say about that?

And I should mention a trend that Christopher Hersheimer pointed out is over with, done ad nauseam…please, please just stop it already with the tight shots of hands holding food! Ok, we’ve all done it. It can be handy (har, har) when you have no other background to work with and hey, hands are interesting, but IT’S BEEN DONE. Get a new schtick, people. May I suggest one of the above items? Or better yet, come up with the NEXT big trend. Quick, before it’s called a trend.

“We are at heart cooks…”

Boston skyline

I’m sorry to just have a photo of the Boston skyline to share with you (the view from my sweet suite at a Boston University dorm) after having recently returned from the International Food Styling and Photography Conference, but no doubt I will have numerous food photos of my own (other people’s are below) to come that will demonstrate a few of the many things I learned during this jam-packed (so to speak) weekend. Wow! My mind is a bit overloaded what with all the socializing, networking and fascinating information imparted. This will require more than one post as my head is swimming with so many interesting tidbits. I’ll start out by mentioning the presenters that most inspired me.

canal house coverFirst inspiring talk: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, a food photographer and chef/stylist team who were both instrumental in the early days of Saveur magazine. I’ve long admired Hirsheimer’s work and was thrilled to listen to her (Christopher is female for those of you who don’t know) and Melissa talk about how they came to own their own studio together where they self-publish the new publication Canal House Cooking and collaborate on cookbooks, as well as, from the sounds of it, create and eat amazing food in a beautiful setting every day. What a life! The main reason I was excited after listening to their presentation was that I felt validated and hopeful as a result of learning how they work. Here are two amazingly successful women, doing what they love and doing it the way they want to do it. Christopher, echoing a theme running throughout the weekend, said during her talk, “We are at heart cooks; it is why we are able to please ourselves.” Christopher uses natural light, loves gritty, authentic shots (with fun things like paper towels and plastic bags), and said that their clients might be slightly alarmed were they to witness them at work because of their haphazard approach. That just made me feel so good! I’m definitely a trial and error type shooter and sometimes worry if a client were to see me at work they would think “this person doesn’t know what the #^^&$*(! they’re doing!” But I’ve learned recently that a lot of photographers operate this way. It’s really the end result that matters. Hersheimer said it’s all about emotion and creating images that resonate, so as long as your resulting image does that, that’s what’s important. It does not matter how you got there. And I love that she gets there shooting non-tethered (without the computer attached to the camera), with natural light and simple props because those are all things I do. So, thank you, Christopher and Melissa for validating my work approach and style!

Secondly, I was intrigued by the story of Beatrice Peltre, a Boston-residing, French freelance food writer, stylist and photographer whose fame came about as a result of her lovely food blog, La Tartine Gourmande. Beatrice started her blog as a way to do things that she loved: cooking, photographing and writing. She was doing it for her own amusement, but she quickly amassed quite a following because of her great recipes, lovely photos and entertaining stories about her life. Soon people were contacting her about paying work. It did not matter to them that she was just creating these dishes in her home and shooting them in her living room. What mattered was the level of authenticity in her work. This message really resonated with me as well. If you are authentic in your work, it creates a level of trust with clients. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Just be yourself. As a result of the blog, Bea was approached about writing and taking the photos for a cookbook, which she will be completing soon. Quite an inspirational success story!

Lastly, the beautiful compositions and tones of James Tse’s and Pornchai Mittongtare’s (he’s Thai in case you’re wondering) food photos have filled me with endless inspiration for future food shoots. Both of these guys are soft-spoken, unassuming, but very funny and talented food shooters. I love James’ use of cool tones and textures, and his simple, but elegant sense of composition.

He shoots mostly on location and yet in every photo of his, the food is absolutely mouth-watering. Pornchai’s work is mostly done in the studio and has a very graphic sensibility, but it’s every bit as eye-pleasing and appetizing as James’ work. Many thanks to these two, as well, and all the other presenters, for sharing their work and tips with all of the eager attendees. And, of course, a very big thank you to Lisa Golden Schroeder and John Carafoli who organized this amazing conference for the second time.

Speaking of tips, I’ll devote the next post to some food photo tips I learned at the conference. I will also do a post on the trends in food photography that were discussed. But for now I’m off to shoot some food!