lens and ladle | food photography blog » stephanie salo photography blog

this food photographer’s journey – part one

I’ve wanted to be a professional photographer and I’ve known it for years. I’m talking since I got my first kodak instamatic camera with the pop-it-on rotating flash cube years. As a part-time photographer of youth sports, I enjoyed the kids I met and my favorite was shooting little league baseball games and season after season, my photography style grew as the children I photographed did. As digital photography became the norm, more and more parents came to the games with their own digital cameras and I soon came to the realization it was time to face facts.  No matter how much I loved it, the seasonal stuff wasn’t going to pay the bills.

I had done a few family portrait sessions and it didn’t work for me creatively nor did wedding photography. My significant other who owned a restaurant at the time suggested “Hey, why don’t you shoot food?  I have the restaurant you can practice in, there is all kinds of food and cool kitchen gadgets, so why not?” Seriously??? I thought about it for half a second and thought, “Sure, why not?”  It seemed like a logical choice to me and so it began.

I spent hours and then days flipping through food magazines for inspiration, and soon thereafter googled food photographers on the internet to find out who were considered to be the “best of the best.”  I walked through what seemed like miles and miles in the produce section of grocery stores searching for the perfect fruits and vegetables and bakery shops for enticing goodies to shoot.  And props – linens, dishes, flatware, glassware. It seemed endless. And then came the day when I actually got to put all these wonderful things together to create the images I had in my head. But the food, the perfect looking and yet uncooperative food – trying to get lemons to keep still and not roll around just as I was taking the shot, frosting melting under the hot lights, and I couldn’t figure out why the ice cubes kept bobbing up in the glass of iced tea I was trying to shoot. And working with fresh mint?  Definitely not one of my faves.  This food photography stuff is a lot more difficult than I planned on, but oh how I was determined.

I searched the internet for “food styling and stylists” and was amazed at the variety of books available and also found several informative videos on YouTube. You want to learn to style a salad? There is a video for it and a whole lot more.  I purchased the book “Food Styling for Photographers” and studied it as I had my college textbooks.  I had a new goal — to learn as much about styling and taming food as I could, and armed with my own acrylic cubes and other tools of the trade, I was on my way!


glasses of white, rose and syrah wines

White wine glasses were masked off  and sprayed with Krylon Dulling Spray to give them the appearance of being slightly chilled.


glass of lager


A mixture of water and white corn syrup was sprayed on to the surface of beer glasses and allowed to dry over night and droplets were randomly applied with a medicine dropper to give the appearance of an icy cold beer.  The beer was actually room temperature and salt was added and gently stirred with a paper-wrapped straw to prolong the bubbles and fullness of the foam.


herbed pasta with pinot grigio


Pasta al dente placed in a freezer bag and gently rolled and kneaded along with fresh/dried herbs and extra virgin olive oil. I added the extra virgin oil because I like to “keep it as real” as possible!  The pasta was then wrapped around my left hand and “slid” on to the “hero” plate in sections. Crushed red pepper flakes were applied with tweezers and for some reason the children’s game “Operation” kept coming to mind.  The final touch was grated parmesan cheese sprinkled around the pasta. The “fog” effect was applied to the glasses of Pinot Grigio.


stack of blueberry pancakes


After spending a morning with a stack of 30 blueberry pancakes hot off the griddle of which I selected 6 “heros” for the shot, I realized this is crazy!!! I’m spending more time trying to learn food styling than I’m actually shooting so back to the internet I went, this time in search of a food stylist. Fortunately I located one within an hours drive from me.  After viewing her website, I was delighted to discover she is experienced, talented and suited my photography style perfectly!  I reached out to Irene Bertolucci and during our initial phone call, we chatted very easily and committed to doing some test shots together.

Over the past year or so, I discovered I had a passion for food photography and learned as much as I could about food and prop styling, lighting, and post production. As I looked at my online portfolio for  what seemed like the bazillionth time, it just seemed to be missing something.  I “liked” the images. I “liked” the logo. I “liked” the website. But they just didn’t make me go “Aah!”   And then I found Amanda Sosa Stone.

continued in “this food photographer’s journey – part two


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