How else would you style this Flan? Would you put a flower or will you use cream? What kind of plate will you use? Circular like this? or a Rectangular plate? What about Penne Pasta? How would you style Penne Pasta? Would you make a giant heap in a plate? What type of plate will choose? Square? or Circular plate?
These are some tough questions. And a food stylist has to answer these before a food photographer can grab his camera and make perfect food shots. A well done food styling job makes it easier for a food photographer to make food look appetizing. So if you want to learn this art of food styling and photography, how would you do it? Let us share with you how understanding what is art will help you become a better food stylist and photographer.
Art is an expression. One person’s art may be another person’s chaos. Don’t you think? However, there are certain things about art that translates to beauty in most people’s mind. If these few things are kept in mind while styling and photographing food, your photographs will turn out exceptionally well.
Here we are focused on two art forms – photography and food styling. So everything explained below is written from a food photographer and food stylist’s perspective. But, this post and elements of art listed below can be applied to any art.
Elements of Art can be described as ingredients in the recipe of art that makes any art form delicious. There are 6 of these elements and they are listed below:
Not all of these 6 elements are present in any art form at one time. Only few of these 6 make to an art piece. It is the juxtaposition of these elements that makes a masterpiece. Lets understand these 6 elements one by one to improve our food styling and food photography skills.
I don’t think we need to define what line is and how it is made (by joining multiple dots or points). Lines are used in most of the photographs. Sometimes these are so obvious that we can miss them easily. Lines can be horizontal, vertical and diagonal. Oh and curves are lines too. I am sure you have seen the Penne Pasta photo below in the 8 inspirational pasta shots. Can you see how the food stylist has used lines?
This food stylist has used straight vertical lines of the pasta and then added horizontal line of sauce to prepare this plate. Now did you notice how the photographer has changed the horizontal line to diagonal line by tilting the plate?
(click the photograph to enlarge)
What a wonderful use of lines! Don’t you think? I get so very excited when I start to disintegrate photos and when it seems like things are getting little more clear and I am learning something. Are you getting excited yet? Comments below are very much appreciated.
Shape has is two dimensional and it has only width and height but no depth and I am sure I don’t have to explain that shaped are generated when lines are joined together. More than one curved lines make a circle, triangle is born when three lines are joined and four lines make a square. No, I am not going to tell you how a myriagon is born, because this is not a geometry class.
Back to food photography now. Famous food photographers recommend trying to see shapes in food rather than food itself is a great way to improve photography skills. Understanding and visualizing shapes and using them in food styling is a critical part of food presentation. Lets look at the following photograph of Cake with Ice Cream and Meringue. This was one of the 11 Mouth Watering Dessert Shots to Make You Hungry.
What shapes do you see? Do you see a circle, a rectangle and a square? Any other shape? How about that small circle? Well almost a circle. Got it? Well lets try to recreate it. So here’s what I believe the arrangement should have been.
Circular plate at the back, the rectangular cake and almost circular cherry at the top makes it a very unique presentation. I don’t think this is how food is presented customers, but then I may be wrong too. The sketch above just shows how the set up would have been. Now let’s see how the photographer used square shape.
The red box in the sketch above shows just the frame of the photograph. This being an approximate sketch, it varies a little bit from the actual photograph, but you get the idea.The square frame makes everything so appeal. Can you imagine how this photograph would have looked with a rectangular frame? Not as appealing as it is now. I think.
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Shape and Form are like the not-so-identical twins. In colloquial English language, often shape and form are used together. These two have a bond and there is only one difference – form has a third dimension. Shape has only two measurements, while form has the third one – depth. Example forms are cube, cuboids, cylinders and cones.
In art, form plays a huge role. Form is almost in every art form. Sculpture itself is a complex form. Understanding form is important for painting and sketching. In photography, shape and form play a big role in achieving perfect composition. In food photography, form is seen in the food and props supporting the shot. For this example, I am again using one of the old photographs. This Sponge cake was also one of the 11 Mouth Watering Dessert Shots to Make You Hungry. Any forms that you can see in the photograph above? Anything at all. Hey don’t look at the image below before you answer that question. So, here’s what I see in the image above:
Two pink cylinders one above the white cream and another below that. Do you see the form in the photograph above? Study how a simple cylinder has been place above another one to get that shape. What if the cylinder 1 was smaller than cylinder 2? Can you think of what would have been the result? Can you visualize how different this photograph would have turned out?
It is important to understand these elements of art and how they function when styling the food. Once you start to observe and study the usage of elements of art in food photographs, you will be more comfortable with using them yourself, when you are styling the food.
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Update – Second part of this post is here – Understanding Element of Arts to Improve Food Styling and Photography – Part 2: Color, Space and Texture
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- What are your questions about food styling?