With the holidays upon us, we wanted to provide some insights on how professional food photographers + stylists prepare their holiday tables.
We reached out to food photographers + stylists on Dripbook with one simple question:
Does your eye for food photography/styling affect the way you set your holiday table? If so, how so?
Here's what they had to say:
When setting a holiday table & cooking for friends & family, yes, I do consider the visual aesthetics, however, I am more focused on if this table and this meal will bring people together, communicate to them that they are loved and precious, and hopefully, make them smile!
I believe I speak for most photographers when I say that styling for photos is a part of us that we cannot easily separate from normal life. I absolutely look at the world through a lens and find myself nitpicking over details whether it is for a shot or not. The true challenge is balancing that need to style every moment while not making others around me insane over the attention to detail I give something as mundane as the placement of the turkey on the table.
Having worked the Thanksgiving theme multiple times back in July I’m quite ready to let the table set itself. It’s my only real day off all year and the Thanksgiving table for me is one loaded with happy culinary chaos. But if you’re talking leftovers, that’s where I perk up and get creative again.
Food is paramount in my life. I am an ex chef whose passion for food turned from cooking to photographing food. My eye for food photography influences the way I use color in my place settings for my Thanksgiving table. It also affects the way I place the dishes of food on the table. I shoot many of my food shots from a top down perspective and that always influences the way that I arrange my table.
I am always looking at food as palettes of color when it comes to big holidays like Thanksgiving. Generally there is a lot of food at the table and sometimes to make sense of it all it's easier to just see colors instead of food, so I arrange accordingly.
I’m drawn to objects that are shaped by human touch and show the passage of time, so there is always a mix of patinas and textures at my table —the rough hewn boards of Hudson Valley woods, a piece of chinked ironstone, an imperfectly shaped hand thrown bowl. I prefer propping with shades of color rather than pure hues. That’s why setting the Thanksgiving table is such a joy.
I stick to shades of deep pumpkin, the dimmed gold of butternut squash soup and shades of green that I can only describe as silvered pistachio and olive. I take a walk through the flower market for centerpiece inspiration. This year I’ve zeroed in on seeded eucalyptus - I love how their powdery, flat, dulled green leaves anchor their brighter, sprightly cluster of seeds — and the shape of eucalyptus pods. They look like little pots. I’ll mix them with nuts that are still in their shells and place them in a low wooden trough.
Shooting food is my forte and specialty as a professional photographer for 20 years. Over the years I have collected an extensive prop and dish collection. I have the opportunity to work with many food clients and food stylists and know the importance of making food and its setting attractive and enticing. On Thanksgiving and all holidays, it's important to have style and presentation and we utilize our extensive prop collection and dishes to make our presentation look incredible as well as delicious.
Thanksgiving is all over the place for me. I’m based in Belgium, a country that does not celebrate Thanksgiving, but my heart is in the USA, so we do have Thanksgiving dinner at our house, and since my family lives in Canada we do it twice: one in October, and another one in November.
I tend to go all out for every season, so naturally also for Thanksgiving. My visual style is more pop and very colourful and that reflects in everything I do. The food is usually classic, but presented in a fun way. No autumn leaves and pumpkins for me. I collect china and tableware in the shape of cabbages, cauliflowers, and all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Somehow that really fits the bill for fall-like table settings, and it’s fun.
Because I am extremely involved with creating the look for a food photograph I pay way more attention to how I set my own table now. When I shoot food photography quite often I prop style the shots myself. I collect all types of unique serveware, antique serving utensils, decanters, and anything that might add texture to the shots from my favorite antique & thrift stores. When Thanksgiving rolls around I use all of my "props" to serve Thanksgiving Dinner, because why not! In return, I am able to impress my guests with a super cute and stylishly set table. (Add greenery around the dishes and voila!)
Absolutely. Food styling is all about making food the most beautiful it can be - in its presentation and visual appeal to entice viewers to want to dive right in to the plated dish. By playing with color, texture, composition, and design to make food look delectable and delicious.
Plating and props are also important when setting the table - choosing contrasting colors and materials of your serving dishes, linens, glasses, and serving ware that will help make the plated food pop and look its best. I usually pick a theme or visual style when setting the table too - is it rustic, warm and casual or upscale, streamlined and clean looking? These things are important to keep in mind when creating a mood for your Thanksgiving dinner.
All the little details matter too especially when it comes to styling the food..a bright pop of color, a drizzle of sauce, fresh flowers, fruits, herbs and garnishes help the dishes look more beautiful and appetizing.
We hope you enjoyed these insights on how professionals prepare their holiday tables.
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