Earlier this year I had the fantastic opportunity to go behind the scenes on the set of the Green Lifestyle Magazine recipe photo shoot. Food stylist and foodie extraordinaire Tracy Rutherford gave me great tips on how to plate up and style dishes, and photographer Steve Brown passed on some handy hints about using the manual setting s on a camera. You can check out the story, which first appeared on Green Lifestyle.
Crackled, glazed plates, square-sided bowls, metal pepper mills and navy tie-died handkerchiefs are sprawled across Tracy Rutherford’s six-seater wooden dining table. Standing at the stove she stirred a fragrant yellow broth, while morsels of pumpkin, broccoli and cauliflower baked in the oven.
Tracy spent many years working as a food stylist and cook for Murdoch books. Currently works freelance for Green Lifestyleand other magazines, choosing to work mainly from home these days.
Professional chef-turned-photographer, Steve Brown was there to capture the food for the day. His Canon camera, perched on a black tripod, focused on the crockery. He darted from his Macbook to the camera and back. He explained that they prefer to take a series of test shots before plating-up the dishes; this way they can ensure the setup works, rather than leaving the food for too long on the plate.
Tracy and Steve harnessed the natural light that entered through a large bay window. On a rectangular table with a metallic surface sat blue plates, grey bowls and blue hessian tea-towels. Steve borrowed it from his studio for the shoot because he loved the textures of the rustic silver surface. It was stained with wine and buffed-up for the photo shoot.
I asked the duo what main tips they suggest for great food photography. Steve said that dark-coloured props and backdrops help the food to stand out in the image – to which Tracy emphasised the importance of “keeping it simple”. They explained to me that food should be the main focus, so props should be kept to a minimum. Regarding photography, Steve recommends shooting in manual for the best results, and to enroll in a photography course. It’s best to keep the focus and exposure as low as possible and to use a tripod to avoid any accidental blurring due to movement.
Along with the Editor Caitlin, I helped Tracy to prepare the wholesome buckwheat crepes for the next shot. Every step of the process affects the final outcome. Tracy checked back with her recipe from a clipboard at every stage, making note of the exact quantities of mixture used, and making adjustments, where needed. We stuffed the crepes with one-quarter cupfuls of a mushroom and ricotta mixture and arranged them in a glass dish. Tracy spooned tomato passata over the centre of the rolls, and avoided getting any sauce onto the edges. She scattered grated cheese over the top before transferring the dish to the oven.
At 2pm that afternoon the final shot was taken. “Exactly four hours!” exclaimed Tracy. She invited us to a delicious lunch of all the dishes from that day. As Steve says, “it’s one of the many perks of the job”.
I was very grateful for the experience and many tips I gathered that day. I returned home to test out the techniques with a series of grain-based recipes that I submitting to the student publication at my university. You can view the images from ‘Brainy grains and pulses’ here.
Visit Green Lifestyle Magazine for great tips on simple, sustainable living.
Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,