Photographing Ice Cream: How To Capture Texture in Ice Cream

Photo by Himanshu Taneja

Photo by Himanshu Taneja

Ice creams scoops are one of the hardest subjects to photograph. First you need speed, then you need to make sure your composition is right.

Ohh, make sure to get that texture. Remember to light it up so that texture is emphasized. Fast. More than a few seconds delay and the scoops will turn into a gooey blob with no texture.

Did I tell you about the framing? Make sure you get that right!

So many decisions, so little time. Today, that’s what we’ll talk about. 

In this post, we have Himanshu Taneja who will be telling us everything about capturing these ice cream scoops. Take a note of the simple tricks he uses and how he captures the textures in this ice cream scoop.

Don’t miss the bonus download – 6 Simple Tips to Photograph Ice Cream. Download and implement it. Download it here.

Himanshu has been documenting his experiments in kitchen since 2011 on his blog The White Ramekins. A computer programmer by profession, below he shares a little about himself and how he photographed the ice cream scoops.

About Himanshu

It was way back in 2011 when I started my food blog, on a hot scorching summer afternoon of north India.My friend and I were baking chocolate chip cookies that day.

We both amateur home bakers got some great tasting cookies, out of the oven. That is when, my friend suggested me to start my own food blog and share my recipes with the world, although I was really doubtful that anyone would read this ever.   

I got more and more interested in baking by following some awesome baking shows on TV, Rachel Allen, Nigella Lawson and Donna Hay, to name a few.  

At that time, I majorly cared about recipe testing and adaptation. I would take pictures from my pocket sized point and shoot camera. Soon, I realized that the importance of better looking pictures and I invested into my first DSLR camera.

I got inspired by so many wonderful food bloggers on the way of discovering my love for food photography and styling; Tartellete, La Tartine Gourmand, Gourmand In The Kitchen, 101Cookbooks to name a few.

Camera Gear

In my camera bag you’d find Nikon D610 DSLR, 50mm f1.8 standard lens, 105mm f2.8 macro lens. I always shoot on a tripod which is from Manfrotto.

I have an ever increasing collection of food photography props, which range from antique utensils, baking dishes etc. to handmade ceramics to wooden boards to glassware.

These have been collected over the years from many places around the world. I have my own sets of wooden/metallic surfaces which I have created on my own. Some have been sourced from the junk dealers and repainted.

Photography Process

I always have many recipes, for my blog to be tested, lined up. So, I generally would know a week in advance what am I going to shoot in a week and that is when I start working on the process.

It always starts from reading the recipe in detail, about it’s origin, culture, type, appearance of finally prepared dish, the accompaniments etc. it is served with. This helps me immensely in thinking about the shot/scene, I would want to picture for the recipe, keeping the final dish still as the center point.

After I have listed down these points, I would work on selection of props that would majorly be decided by the culture, origin, color of the dish.

Next thing, I would work upon is the setting of the scene, for which I would keep on noting down ideas (sometimes, in my phone too, while I am traveling to work).

I keep on visiting Pinterest and various food magazines regularly to get ideas on the different ways of composition and styling. So, I generally would have some ideas in my head going around for sometime, before I would work on them actually.

I have observed that this helps me developing my own style. Also, while I am looking at the pictures, I also study light and try to think how this would have been achieved. Because a great light and the camera angle help accentuate the texture in the food.

A light which falls flat on food, can make it look really boring (I realized this thing a little late in my course of learning). Right before the day of shoot, I would go buy the freshest of ingredients to style with and stock them up in my fridge, as I shoot quite early in the morning.

I would do most of the prep work, the night before, which might include half cooking the recipe (if that’s possible), sorting and lining up the dishes, plates, cutlery, accompaniments, garnishes, setting up the surfaces/backdrops etc.

This helps me a lot focusing on the final scene/shot on the morning of shoot and helps avoiding some misses and mistakes. As a blogger, these thing become really necessary because one person would generally do a job of prop stylist, food stylist and food photographer.

Then on the day of shoot, I setup my camera with empty dishes and I would play with light, before I take the pictures of the final dish. I would leave the garnishes etc. for the one FINAL Shot.    

Your First Photography Decisions

Given this was an ice cream recipe that I wanted to publish on my blog during summer months, I wanted to create a mood which could demonstrate the cold nature of ice cream. In addition, how it could evoke the temptations of the viewer who is experiencing 45 degree C temperature outside.

This is how, I came up with this idea of showing everything super cold. For this, I pre-freeze this ice cream scooper before the shot. Going by the base theme of everything cold, I chose this indigo surface which also helped accentuating the color of the ice cream.

While I was taking shots, I realized  that vertical shot would go better given the shape of the container. I didn’t want to clutter up the scene with more bowls/plates and props. I wanted the viewer to look straight into the ice cream container and the wonderful texture which those scooped ice cream balls have on them.

Lighting Setup For This Photo

I started shooting this early in the morning while the sunlight was very soft. I shot this with available window light, which I further diffused with a big shear curtain.

I blocked the light from one side completely and partially from the back, which kind of helped me creating the three fourth setup, causing the light to fall diagonally from one direction on the texture of ice cream in the container.

This helped gave the ice cream a freshly scooped look.

Styling The Photograph

As mentioned, I wanted the viewer to look straight into the container of the ice cream and those lovely textures on the surface of scooped ice cream balls.

So, I kept the props to minimum, which was mainly about the ice cream container and the scooper. I preferably chose these aluminum look container and scooper in order to go with the super cold theme, I had in my mind.

Although the scooper had a shine on it’s surface, so I had to keep that too in the freezer before the final shot, so that it gets some frost on it. This was shot in my living room, so I couldn’t maintain the cold temperature.

And I had to scoop the ice cream the night before and freeze it hard. This helped retain the scooped textures on the balls. Again going by the theme, I wanted something cool and something which would help accentuate the pinkish color of the ice cream, so I picked this already created indigo surface from my collection.

I had scooped more ice cream balls than you’d see in the picture and chose the ones which had the best textures on them. I used rest of them for adjusting the exposure and light direction.

And when I was finished setting up the camera, light and surface, I used the remaining best looking scooped ice cream from the freezer along with the scooper to take the final shot.

I had to wait for couple of minutes after I had arranged the scooped ice cream and the scooper into the container and before I could hit the shutter. This was needed, so that there shouldn’t be ice crystals on ice cream.    

Tell us about Post Processing decisions?

I used Adobe Lightroom for the post processing of this picture, to adjust the soft highlights on the textures of ice cream and to adjust the contrast.

Food Photography Tips for New Photographers

  • I would encourage everyone who wants to dive into this art of food photography and styling, to be patient and to keep on trying.
  • Developing ones own style takes a huge amount of patience and practice. There is no shortcut to it.
  • It is a healthy state of learning, when you see yourself criticizing your own work, which you did few months back.
  • There are multiple aspects to food photography and all of them are important; composition, styling, lighting, photographing and post-processing.
  • And each one of them needs a lot of attention to be worked upon, in order to get an amazing looking photograph.
  • All you need to do is never lose hope and practice, practice and practice!

Download The Bonus

Hey Neel here! Click the picture below to download 6 Simple Tips to Photograph Ice Cream. It’s a straight-to-the-point tips on how you can photograph ice cream. Surprise second bonus included.

  • Great tip to scoop the ice cream the night before, I’ll have to try that!

  • N K

    Wow !! Thanks for this post & the free gift !! As a newbie food blogger I’m learning !!