How I Shot Ice Cream Pops

How to Photograph Ice Cream Pops

Photo by Soma Rathore

How would you photograph ice cream pops?

Ice cream is another challenging food. It’s can be shot only when its cold. Photographing ice cream is time sensitive. The photo above was shot by Soma Rathore. In this post, Soma teaches us how she photographed ice cream pops.

About the Photographer

Hello! I am Soma and I am the author of eCurry. I am a stay-at-home mom and live with my husband and 2 girls in Texas. We moved from India to the United States about 20 years back.

While I always was curious about food and loved to cook and experiment from a very young age, never did I think that my life would revolve around food in the way it does now. I have a degree in English Literature and Computer Science. I was pursuing my education until our first little girl was born and then I stayed home with my kids.

I started my blog about five years back with the only intention to keep a record of all the family recipes and a journal of my own experiments. My grandma and my mom sparked the fire and love of cooking in me, but they left no trace of recipes other than in my memories.

Being away from home, I would often call them if I wanted my “comfort food”. Now that none of them are in this world anymore, I have to rely on my memory of taste and the visuals of the cooking process that were steadily embedded in me while growing up. So the blog was born to chronicle my journey, with one basic photograph per post and the recipes.

Starting Food Photography for Food Blog

However once I entered the food blogging community I realized how elaborate and exquisite the world of food photography is! I plunged into it and devoted a good part of my time and energy soaking in as much as I could; reading and “inspecting” every photograph of the food photography blogs I admired. (I am still discovering so many more).

I understood how an audience would savor the photographs visually first before they scroll to the recipe. My blog is mostly about home-cooked, traditional Indian food; a lot of which have not crossed the walls of the homes and reached the world yet.

So I feel it is essential to present these dishes in a way that will make it delectable enough for those who have never encountered them. They would need to have the desire to want to give it a try.

It is the first appeal – that instant feeling that a photograph arouses to the finer senses that finally will make the audience scroll down to the recipe. But more than for the blog, I fell in love with the entire process of styling and photographing food.

I am still learning…Every photograph I see, every shoot teaches me something new. Along with the recipes, now the photographs are an integral part of my blog.

I do it not just for the audience, but also for my own fulfillment. Better photos drew more audience and increased the number of readers. The blog has definitely reached out to many and it is very gratifying when I find out that someone got drawn to an entirely new recipe and dared to give it a try and loved it!

Her Food Photography Process

Planning ahead is essential for me. While most of the shoot is on intuition, I do have a comprehensive idea on what I want to do on that particular shoot long before I start cooking.

That might change during the process, but a plan gives me a starting point. The initial step is to decide on the recipe I am going to blog about.

The decision on composition, style and mood of the shoot depends on what kind of food it is, what it looks like and also what I want to convey to the audience. Food photography like any other form of art is a means to communicate and share.

The photos need to talk and tell you a story, to give words to what it means to me, where it comes from and the spirit of it. Whenever I get free time, I am looking through the magazines or food blogs for inspirations.

The idea for mood, style and composition for a particular shoot evolves instinctively, often drawing from some impressions I have already absorbed. The rest depend on what I am shooting; the color palette, texture and form of food, my mood at that time and my creativity.

Sometimes I make a few notes, or draw a couple of pictures, but not always. The days I have to cook and photograph on the same day, I definitely need to plan ahead. The cooking is followed by the shoot quite quickly.

Every shoot does not behave in the exact same way but these are a few things I like to do before I start to shoot; decide on the style, composition and then the props. I lay everything out, and if possible arrange them and keep them ready.

Sometimes I will take a few shots, without the food, to see if the setting, color or the angles of the shots work. If it does not, I change and rearrange all of it. Then when the food is cooked, I plate it and shoot immediately if I can.

A lot of food might collapse, wilt and change the color and luster if it is allowed to sit for too long. Cakes, cookies and ice cream can wait until the next day, but food that tends to go limp is best photographed when fresh.

For most of the posts, I try to style food in variety of ways, which means the composition and the angle are changed, but I do try to keep the same background and props for consistency of the particular post.

If I have to photograph ingredients that are a part of the same post, I try not to do it on the same day. I either do it before the actual shoot or save some raw ingredients to do it later at a more convenient time.

Light is an important aspect. I usually decide on the kind/direction of light I want – if I want the frame to be back lit, or want the light from a particular direction. Here the use of reflectors and flags are determined.

There are situations where shadows might need to be filled, or if I need to block light (especially for moody shots) in certain areas. Each aspect, bits and pieces come together to create one perfect shoot.

Even after a “plan ahead”, a lot of the elements change while I am actually photographing. Some days, during the shoot, I have to change the entire style and composition (and the props) if I feel that I do not like the way they look. So

there are no rules. A lot of it depends on what feels and looks good in my eyes and is guided by my intuition.

Her Camera Gear, Props and other food photography related gear

I started off with a “bridge” camera. It was Konica Minolta Dimage. It was not a point and shoot, but it did not have all the features of a dSLR either.

But for someone like me who knew nothing about a camera, it worked just fine. It is only last year that I started using a dSLR camera. Now I use Sony SLT A55. I started with 18-55mm lens but switched to a 50mm lens later. That is all I use.

Technically, I own nothing more than the camera, a remote, a tripod and the lens. I am the probably the least technical when it comes to food photography. I shoot in the Aperture Priority mode most of the times and have not started using a tripod yet.

Along with the camera, I do use homemade reflectors. I have a couple of foil wrapped boards and some foam core boards. I also use some dark board/cards for “flags” when required.

I do own 2 Ego Lowell Lights, but have never used them in more than a couple of occasions. Natural light works best for me and I am fortunate enough to have the “set-up” for the shoot in a very well lit room.

The prop collection however is a flourishing adventure. I paint the boards and backgrounds myself and am always on the look out for props. As any food blogger would relate to, a lot of trash has become my treasure.

I will mention one thing here. Food photography is not entirely dependent on how big of everything you have. It is the photographer’s vision, the styling, the choice of colors and props and so much more.

Personally I have gone through the years of not having a good camera and lens and not having a lot of props and gear, and I have still managed to take some reasonably good photos during those years.

It is more important to understand the basics along the nature of light in food photography. It is also the photographer’s intuition and how the thought/mood/intention of the photographer finally transfers to the audience.

How This Ice Creams Pops Photograph Was Made

Concept of the Photograph and First Decisions

From the time I had conceived the recipe in my mind, I had some idea about how I wanted this series of photographs to look. The crucial part was a breezy, cool mood with nothing to weigh them down.

It was peak summer. I wanted that clean, fresh, soft, calming effect in the photos and at the same time have the sensual appeal of color, taste and flavor shining through. So I knew it would be framed in a lighter background.

I wanted the subject to be in close focus. The plan was on not using too many props or any prop that would take the attention away from the details of the subject.

Another aspect was the unusual color of the ice cream, which needed to be highlighted without diversion. The other details developed slowly as I got closer to actually shooting the ice cream.

I did prepare the sticks for the pop for a more personal and homey feel.

Styling for Ice cream Pops

Shooting this series of photographs was much simpler than a lot of others I have done. The mood and the color palette to some extent were already decided on.

I knew I had to work fast, so there was not much time to play with the props. That restriction to some extent was a good thing. Working with ice cream, one needs to work quickly.

But, during the process of the shoot, for me there is always the temptation to want try something new. I had to be determined to kind of not go overboard with experimenting too much in this shoot. There had to be some photographs before the subject turned into soup. The shoot had to be quick and precise.

For the airy, clean feel and mood, I decided on a white background. For the constraint of time, I also planned on using minimal props. I knew I would not have much time to arrange and rearrange the props, frame and angle during the shoot.

Since I had decided on a shoot with minimal props, I wanted to add a personal touch by writing on the sticks. That was already done. For props, I used only white tiles, ice, and white board for the background.

For this particular photograph, I chose to place the pops and the ice cubes on a white tile with very subtle pattern. The ice served a dual purpose. Besides imparting the sense of cool/frozen, they also kept the ice cream from melting.

The ice cream already had some texture to them – the blackberries which showed and also the frosty look and I wanted to focus on those aspects instead of introducing a deviation with props and background. So the background chosen was quite plain.

The props and the mood were planned, but I was ready to make a few changes if things did not work out as expected. The angle of the shoot evolved organically and so did the arrangement of the pops as they lay on the tile.

I dumped out the pops on the tile along with the ice. Not much effort was put in to arrange them. I let them be as natural as possible. With this particular setting I took a few shots at different angles guided by my intuition.

How the Set was Lit – Lighting Decisions

I wanted full bright light for a lighter, cheerful feel. The set up was quite effortless. It was natural light at about 11 in the morning. The room is very well lit room with lights coming from large windows in almost all directions.

The major source of light was on the right hand side. The table was set a few feet away from the window to prevent the direct bright light from over exposing the photograph. The sheer curtains kept the light soft.

I do not exactly remember if I used a white board to remove shadows on the lower left corner. I might have. Usually if there is a shadow (and with the main source of the light on my right, the lower left corner is not as well lit), I use a white board or a reflector to diminish the shadow if needed.

Advice for New Food Bloggers and Photographers

  • Observe, read, practice and let your creativity and intuition guide you. Like I said before, it is not always the best camera or the ideal props that make beautiful photographs.
  • It is good to know some basic rules of photography. But it is finally you who decide how and what you want to convey.
  • Food magazines, Cookbooks and blogs that you admire are great sources to study food photography – styling, angle, composition, and mood; keep your eyes and mind open when you are browsing through the pages.
  • Find your own style. It does help to get inspired with beautiful photographs and there are so many wonderful photographs out there, but finally one will have to find a style of her own which will define their own personality and style.
  • Practice, practice, practice. There is no short cut to that.
  • Do not be afraid to take help. The food blogging and Flickr community are full of nice people ready to help.
  • Ask the experts for criticism and try to improve on those lines.
  • After everything is tried out and read and studied, follow your heart. Rules and techniques are good to know, but do not bind yourself with them. Be ready to break the rules.
  • Finally love what you do.

One Question for You

I hope you learned about how to create a photo of Blackberry Ice Cream from this post. In the comments below, in one line (or more), tell us what was the inspiring thing that you learned from the post.

  • Maya

    I would like to see “behind the scenes” photos on articles “How I shot this”, to see exactly how they shoot this…

    • Thanks Maya!! That’s a great comment. We will find a way to make this work.

  • Pretty well explained. I enjoy her pics quite a lot. But I do agree with Maya, It would be nice to see those pics. Visual understanding of how it’s taken would be more helpful.

  • Great picture ‘n nicely explained. Keep up the good work.

  • Great work here! Would it be possible that such lessons also have the photo EXIF?

  • John

    Thank you for explaining your thought process and techniques for this shoot. Very insightful, especially for a beginner like me.

    Post again soon!

  • IzabelBK

    As I have an assignment to shoot ice cream for Sweetens at Febraury’14 I was looking for some useful tips and I am very happy I found that one. I should deferentially use everything described here, however I have a little concerns about what background should I use.

    I have read this guy post:

    He use some premade white background for shooting the icecreams. Do you think it is a good idea, or it depends?

    • I would say it depends on what and how you want to have them photographed. Color, mood and so many other factors would matter to make that decision!

  • I would love the recipe for the icy pops, they look wonderful and the photograph is superb. Thanks