Saturday, October 5, 2013

Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin

I bought and read Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling a few years ago when it first came out. I had received a digital SLR (my "big camera") for Christmas a little before and food photography had fast become my second favourite part of blogging. (Nothing competes with cooking.) Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin is the just the kind of book a "big camera" beginner needs to get everything figured out.

Except that when I started reading Plate to Pixel I wasn't a beginner anymore. I had previously attended a four day workshop with Craig Norris, a Hong Kong photographer. The workshop and this book provide the same kind of information, except that in a workshop you can ask questions. I also did directed practice and got immediate feedback.

Regardless, I really value Plate to Pixel on my bookshelf. The book covers all the basics of digital photography, including ISO, aperture, and so on, but also covers food styling and composition. (My workshop only had a food component when I brought in cream scones for everyone and asked Craig if we could photograph them first!)

Dujardin is a beautiful food stylist; see her blog, Tartelette, for evidence. Her tips about how to place props and organize food are so helpful. That is why I return to her book often. The most memorable spread is one in which she states, "Styling meat can be intimidating." The pictures go on to show steak and potatoes going from boring to appetizing. When I first read it I was amazed at how a single sprig of rosemary changed the look of the photo completely.

One thing that stands out from Plate to Pixel is how essential light is. Making a light box several years ago revolutionized my photography. The photo at the top of this picture shows the calm, diffuse light from my living room standing lamp. I used a white box lid on the front right to act as a bounce reflector. This corner next to the TV has been my "studio" recently.

So, here are my tips for improving my food photography: Sign up for a workshop. Read Plate to Pixel or another book. And practice a lot!

Plate to Pixel was our September book for The Kitchen Reader. See what everyone else thought of the book by visiting our round-up.

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