Written by Chickpea Magazine’s head of content & design, Cara Livermore
As a very visually-driven publication, our style, photography, and “feel” are all super important, and they should be for you, too. Besides the great writing and recipes by our amazing contributors, our look has gotten us far in the world of indie publishing. I’ve collected a few of my most important notes on how I go from start to finish in our photo shoots, and hopefully they help in streamlining your process to make your styled shoots look the best they possibly can. Learn how to style a food photo shoot below.
Take notes when editing features
The first thing I do is edit our contributors’ writing. While I edit, I also keep detailed notes on what I might want to stand out, what needs to be lettered, what needs to be illustrated, and what needs to be photographed. Near the end of the editing process, I’ll also note what kind of mood the issue is working toward, to help me figure out cover ideas and non-feature pages.
After seeing what it is I’ll need in an issue, I’ll get into actively seeking inspiration. I’ll specifically watch tons of old movies, go on long walks, and whatever else I need to refill my brain. (The more, the better!) Then I put those thoughts into a visual moodboard, both in real life and on Pinterest. Based on my moodboard for this issue, I knew I wanted dark tones but also not too much contrast, as well as a good juxtaposition of negative space and overstuffed pages. And even though this issue comes out in the fall, I knew I wanted it to work with all cold-weather months of the year.
Sketch out shoot thumbnails
When I have a LOT of things to shoot at once, I’ll draw out thumbnails, or at the very least, I’ll list out all the things I’ll need for a shoot, from the actual food, to the props, to the tools I’ll need for it all.
Source backgrounds, props, and ingredients
Make sure your props and backgrounds kind of all go together to make it easier to shoot later. Almost all of our covers come together at the grocery store or public market. I usually start out with a color palette and that issue mood in mind, and then just pick out the items that fit that criteria.
Items around your house can easily fit into many styled shoots. For our newest cover, I walked around the park in the pouring rain looking for the best leaves, sticks, and pinecones I could find. Think of your shoot from all angles, even when they’re outside of what you’d normally consider.
DURING THE SHOOT
Shoot as we go to get the full story
You never know what might end up being the perfect shot. I try my best to shoot from the beginning to the end of a cooking & styling session. Go from stirring a bowl of flour and spices, to decorating the cake, to styling a dessert table, to cutting the cake, to eating, and to an empty plate after you’ve eaten it all. This makes the most of my time in the kitchen and gives myself the most options for later when I’m putting the issue together.
Style & shoot
The most important elements to styling food and props, in my opinion, is considering light, color, texture, composition, and “life.” (That elusive moment of ice cream dripping, steam coming off tea, etc.) When shooting food, especially, ask yourself how you can use those elements to your advantage for what you’re working with.
Give myself room to change my mind
When shooting, I like to shoot from lots of angles and distances, as well as style a subject several ways, so that I can have options later to mess around with. Shooting from directly above lets you use a photo vertically or horizontally. Shooting from farther away lets you either crop in or use a wide shot. Play around with different setups helps me from needing to reshoot later.
From there, we add all the photos, illustrations, and lettering into the issue, decide on background textures and colors, and edit a few more times. Now on our 25th issue, our visuals are more refined than ever, and I hope my tips can help you out, too.