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Food For Thought: Food Photography Props (Or The Lack Of Them!)

Posted Jul 10 2010 12:00am


What is it that attracts you most about a food blog, and takes you back there again and again? Is it the variety of recipes there, the style in which the writer puts forth his/ her posts or the pictures on the posts?
For me, its usually a combination or even just one of these reasons.

Yet, I feel that food blogs with good pictures do have an edge when it comes to attracting readers. They don’t necessarily keep every reader coming back because written content is as important, if not more.
This doesn’t mean that if your food pictures aren’t good, it is a reflection on your cooking or writing skills or vice versa.

We are just naturally attracted to all things beautiful (the definition of “beautiful” is subjective), including food. In today’s world where people have less time than ever and shorter attention spans, a well written piece just looks like more words to a casual reader. On the other hand, a beautiful food picture would easily catch the eye and induce the reader to continue reading the accompanying piece.
Think about all those gorgeous food photographs in magazines you’ve read that made you go “Oooh!” Remember the number of recipes you have bookmarked, just because they looked so good.

Just to make matters clear, this post is not about becoming a better food photographer to drive traffic to your blog, even though that could possibly help. It is about what one could do, to take good/ better food pictures.

Ideally, when one talks about taking good pictures one usually starts with the importance of light, aperture, shutterspeed and light. Many bloggers/ photographers have already done so and I won’t add to that the little I do know. Instead I’ll point you to the importance of using props in your food photography.




Ilva has a very comprehensive series on what kind of props can be used and how to use them, on her blog. I have long admired her pictures, so while you are at her blog, do check out her her amazing non-food photography too.
She recently asked us if we would like to "show her our food props" and I thought I’d add my little bit as well.

Using props aesthetically in food pictures is one way of adding character or mood, or even telling a story in one’s food photographs. Props add to the overall essence of a picture without being the focus in it. Think of a prop as makeup for your photograph; too little and there is room for improvement, whereas too much can spoil it. I would even go as far as saying its better to have a picture without props that to have a badly “propped” one!

I am still learning how to use props in mine, and prefer my food pictures to be simple and uncluttered. When I look at a picture of food, and there is too much going on it with food elements, colours and props, all I’m left with is a lot of confusion. So in my pictures, I tend to go with the thought that less is more.
To some extent, this is probably because I do not own too many props and so have to work with what little I do have.




Some thing like this would probably be the ultimate prop dream come true , for a food photographer. If not, I guess one could manage admirably with this . But what does one do when without these kind of resources at hand?
Beg, borrow or steal? Or buy!

The first three are not my thing and buying props is not a very great option for me. Thrift stores are unheard of where I live. The 2 or 3 stores where I could buy such stuff are quite expensive and do not sell anything as separate pieces. They’re not exactly bursting at the seams with variety in the stuff they sell, either.

I also have an innate aversion to clutter which is probably as a result of growing up with parents who could never bring themselves to throw anything out. Every 4 to 6 months, I even do a “spring cleaning” type of clearing out stuff we cannot use. My husband even jokes saying that one of these days, I’m likely to throw him out too, with the junk!!

The expense and clutter resulting from buying props just for use in my food photography is not something I’m comfortable with, even though I’m guilty of giving in to the impulse on more occasions than one.




Most of what I use in my pictures is my regular cookware, crockery, cutlery, mats and linen which double up as props when required.
I have a rather meager collection of small sized plates, bowls and such stuff which are not utilitarian but great for pictures. I also tend to use whatever else I have lying around the house if I can.

I do have a store not far from where I live, which is a good source for all kinds of stuff made from hand-made paper. So I have accumulated a collection of hand-made papers of different colours and textures which are great as backgrounds.

This sums up my collection of props for now. I don’t see myself accumulating a lot more in the future, but then you never know.


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