Tag Archives: photography

Sofia’s first birthday and a pinch of Halloween

Sofia in the Fall

This post is way overdue. After I terrified half of the blogosphere last January telling my blogger friends stories about my neurosis during the first weeks of my life with Sofia, I haven’t written another post to let you know how things have been working out in the following months (well, except Stefano’s very quick note back in April). I thought it was time for me to break the silence.

People say that puppies are like babies. They are absolutely right. After Sofia turned 6 months (about 3 years old in human terms), my domestic life got much easier and quite enjoyable.

Sofia in the Fall

Sofia is a sweet, cheerful and happy dog. She is great at playing with children and other dogs and everybody ends up liking her and petting her. Some chewing is still there, but it is getting better and better. Is she the most disciplined dog? Of course not! I find myself being less strict with Sofia than I am with Her Majesty. Every time I am about to put her in timeout, she looks at me with those begging eyes as if she wanted to ask me “are you seriously considering to put me in timeout?…” Well, that look is too adorable to resist, even for me! 😉

What I really learned and discovered during the past months can be summarized in two words: unconditional love. Unconditional love is such an unattainable feeling. It is the purest kind of love. I believe it is what Sofia feels for the members of her family. She is happy for me and with me when I’m in a good mood and she is sad when my day is not so great and I feel kind of blue. She tries to comfort me: she licks me and lays down with one of her paws on my foot as if she was telling me “don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine. I’m here for you”. Sometimes I feel that she can read my soul. All this without saying a word. Only with her body language. And most importantly, without asking anything in return.

Sofia in the Fall

When did I find out that I had fallen in love with Sofia? It happened this summer. One afternoon, I was home by myself (Stefano was on a business trip). She started feeling very sick and I had to rush her to an emergency hospital. Thank goodness my friend and neighbor was home and she was kind enough to drive me and Sofia to the hospital. I’m a very bad driver and, under the circumstances, I couldn’t think straight. When the doctor told me that she had no idea why Sofia was sick and that it would have been better to hospitalize her for the night, my heart missed a beat. I cried all my way home, I barely slept a couple of hours that night and I found some peace again only the next morning, when I got a phone call from the same doctor telling me that Sofia was much better and I could go to pick her up. You see, that night I realized that I cannot imagine my life without Sofia.

So the message that I would like to send to those who dislike dogs (like the previous version of myself) and those who are undecided whether or not to join the dog lover camp is simple. Sure, a dog is a huge commitment. Sure, a dog can be messy and the cleaning is virtually endless. Sure, life with a little puppy is a nightmare. However, if you are patient enough and willing to surround your dog with love, tenderness and care (yes, and the right amount of discipline!), it is only a question of time before this wonderful furry creature starts to fill your heart with infinite love and joy.

Banana and Nutella sandwich

Enough with this! It simply does not sound like me and people can get scared. 🙂 Only a few more words on the photographs of this post.

Her Majesty was really excited about Sofia’s first birthday. She made one of her own favorite treats – a banana and nutella sandwich – and prepared the shooting set for Stefano taking care of every single detail. The last photograph was taken by Her Majesty herself and Stefano is really proud of his pupil! 🙂

Halloween decorations

As you can see from the image below, she also decided to give you a sneak peek of her Halloween dinner menu: who could ever resist bat eyes, skeleton stake and ghost gloup? If you are wondering what ghost gloup is, Her Majesty told me that it is a new ice-cream in her fantasy world. Maybe a variant of glop?… Care to join us for dinner that night? Anyone? 😉

Francesca Xx

Halloween decorations

Sofia – An Update

Sofia

Sofia

Just in case you were all chewing your nails wondering how Sofia is doing, she is now 6 months old and I am happy to report that she is doing great, growing up just fine both physically and mentally. She is sweet, sociable, smart and occasionally hyper as only a lab puppy can be 🙂 And of course, she is cute! 😀 Most importantly, we are all very happy.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!Just a quick note to wish you all a very happy Easter.

Spring break is here and I have decided to take a break myself from everything (including blogging), go on a trip and enjoy some quality time with Her Majesty and my parents who just got here from Italy.

Happy Easter!

Enjoy the sunshine! May the Easter Bunny be good to you and good luck for your jelly bean hunt!

Happy Easter!

Talk to you all soon!

Francesca Xx

Happy Easter!

Of Puppies, Peppers and Potatoes

I want to thank all of you for your words of encouragement about my first steps into puppyhood. I think Chef Mimi is the one that best described what I was about to go through. She said “You are about to experience the worst times in your life, as well as the best times in your life“. She was absolutely right! Only, in my opinion, the worst times outnumber the best times by far!!! 

Let’s not talk about Sofia’s bathroom accidents or the every hour or so that we have to walk her out in this freezing cold weather or the sleep deprivation because she doesn’t sleep through the night. Let’s talk about the chewing and the nipping instead. Just a few descriptive adjectives: constant, unstoppable, devastating. My once lovely and perfect kitchen is a total mess and my once beautiful and spotless hardwood floors are always dirty. Sofia is a bundle of energy that needs constant supervision and training. Every evening, after a seemingly endless day, when she finally falls asleep and I use my last drops of strength to vaguely tidy up my once perfectly organized house, I can’t help but notice a new “gift” left by Sofia’s sharp baby teeth on a piece of furniture. Needless to say, most of the times, it is a piece of furniture that I am particularly attached to because either it is fairly expensive or it took me forever to find. So I go to bed every night with this physical pain in my chest, in a kind of mourning for my cabinet or a chair’s leg, as the case may be, repeating to myself “try not to think about it because Sofia will be up in the blink of an eye”. 

Potato and Pepper Side

When I got pregnant with Her Majesty, I did not read any books about babies and/or motherhood nor did I attend any preparatory class. I entered that hospital labor room thoughtless and clueless. Same thing with Sofia. That sneaky husband of mine did all the puppy reading and disclosed to me only 10% of what he had learned, knowing that, had I been well informed, I would most likely have changed my mind again.

So if I may, let me give a word of advice to anyone of you that is considering getting a puppy: make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. Beside the workload that is required of you which, believe me, is humongous, I have come to the conclusion that your heart must have a special disposition to sacrifice yourself, your time and your things for the sake of the happiness of your puppy. Does my heart have it? The jury is still out on that! 😉

Potato and Pepper SideI guess by now and with the above being said, you have started realizing that cooking has not been one of my priorities lately. I simply cannot afford to devote more than 30 minutes to make a dish. Like this peppers and potatoes side dish. As you may notice, it is a pretty basic one, with only few ingredients. When I want to spice it up, I add some tomatoes and harissa, but I cannot do it when my mom is around because my family recipe does not call for them and my mom does not like when I… “tamper” with her recipes. Once again, the quality of the ingredients is paramount in this dish as there is no seasoning other than salt. 

Ingredients:

1 cup, extravirgin olive oil
5 potatoes
5 peppers
8/9 cherry tomatoes (optional)
1 Tsp, harissa (optional)
Salt 

Directions:

Peel the potatoes and slice them (about 1/4 thick). Cut the peppers into halves and slice them as you would with an apple.

In a large skillet, pour the olive oil, add the potato slices, the pepper slices and some salt (to taste). Cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10/15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the harissa and keep cooking for another 10/15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Et voila! Ready by the time of one of Sofia’s naps! 

I wish you all a super fun and relaxing Super Bowl weekend! 

A little furry addition to Flora’s Table Home

Hello Everyone!

I decided to barge into your houses on this lazy Sunday late afternoon to share some… news (I don’t even know which adjective I should be using here! I guess for lots of you, it would be “great”).

As you may know, I’m not a people person. I love to spend time with myself, I like to keep to myself and I’m very, seriously – very bad at small talk. To make you like me even more 😉 let me add that I’m not an animal person either. I have never wanted a pet when I was a child and I have never dreamed of taking care of any living being who is unable to go to the restroom and flush the toilet.

Needless to say, the idea of having a dog never even crossed my mind until… did you notice that kids almost invariably so to speak reshuffle the cards in their parents’ lives? 😉

When I got pregnant with her majesty, Stefano came up with the “brilliant idea” to get a puppy so her majesty and the puppy could grow up together. Only a man could come up with such a cute and, at the same time, dumb idea!!! So of course I ruled that out right away…

Since then, I have been dodging the “puppy bullet” for seven years! Seven wonderful pet-free years! I could always come up with a different reason not to have a dog: her majesty was too little, we didn’t have a yard, we were about to change home and city and it wasn’t the right moment. I was pretty sure that sooner or later they would get tired of asking and forget all about this idea and I would be saved forever. I couldn’t be more wrong! Those two just kept conspiring, regrouping and changing their battle strategy.

Stefano is well aware that sleeping is – by far – my favorite activity. My bed is my reign and my heaven and, for me, there is no other place like that. One late morning this past fall, I was still sleeping (of course!) when my daughter, pushed by my sneaky husband, asked me for the countless time if she could have a dog.

In that specific moment, I made an unforgivable mistake. I said “maybe”! The battle was over and lost for good because they hung on that maybe which eventually turned into a “yes” in the next couple of weeks. Next thing I know I was in the car with the two conspirators to go check a few breeders out across New York State and Connecticut.

To make a long story short, our “English type” chocolate labrador puppy, that her majesty decided to name Sofia, set her paws in our house on December 16, turning our house and our lives into complete chaos.

To sum it up, Stefano and her majesty are over the moon, my dad (who is a dog lover) is very happy, my mother is complaining and driving everybody crazy every time Sofia has a “bathroom” accident in the house and… as for me? I have never been big in the feelings department and it takes me a very long time and quite some effort to express them so, for now, I only feel like conceding that she is one of the cutest thing I have ever seen, isn’t she?

Well, please wish me luck and stay tuned! 😉

Francesca Xx

PS: Thank you very much for all those who checked in to make sure we were alright as a result of winter storm Hercules: we definitely are and honestly it has not been that bad where we live – we got about one foot of snow (much to Sofia’s delight!) and the temperatures dropped to 1 F (or -18 C!) but we have been coping just fine! 🙂

Saint Emilion Chronicles #4: His French Heaven

FRANCE, Montagne: Château Saint Jacques Calon, Stephane Gabart's wonderful B&B

After presenting a little bit of Saint Emilion in general, one of its magnificent churches and Saint Emilion’s sweet treats on previous posts, time has come to unveil the little “secret” about where we stayed during our visit: but of course, we had no hesitation to email fellow food blogger, cook, photographer and aesthete Stephane Gabbart, who authors the sleek and elegant blog “My French Heaven” and operates a wonderful B&B in the vicinities of Saint Emilion!

FRANCE, Montagne: The common areas at Château Saint Jacques Calon

Stephane’s family have been Bordeaux wine merchants for generations, but he decided to follow his own call and study cooking and Hotel Management in Lyon under uber-famous French Chef Paul Bocuse. After completing his studies, Stephane worked for 10 years for Ritz-Carlton at several of their locations in the US. Then in 2005 he headed back to France, where he started operating a B&B in his beautiful family property near Saint Emilion and later on he founded his wonderful blog, My French Heaven.

FRANCE, Montagne: Details of the common areas at Château Saint Jacques Calon

In case you are not following Stephane’s blog yet, do yourself a favor and check it out as it really is exceptional, in terms of both learning authentic, delicious French recipes and soothing your eye with Stephane’s outstanding food photography.

FRANCE, Montagne: The pool area at Château Saint Jacques Calon

FRANCE, Montagne: Details of the common areas at Château Saint Jacques CalonBut back to Stephane’s B&B and our stay: the property is called Château Saint-Jacques Calon and is located in the town of Montagne, a short 5 minute drive from Saint Emilion (for driving directions or reservations, check out the B&B’s Website). Montagne is a beautiful small town in its own right, as I will show you on a future post. The B&B is nothing short of phenomenal, inside and out, as you can tell from my photographs that illustrate this post. The chateau is a large family house with a beautiful front yard and a neatly manicured inner yard with a large swimming pool, right by which the most delicious continental breakfast is served in the mornings of the warmer months of the year.

FRANCE, Montagne: The common areas at Château Saint Jacques Calon

FRANCE, Montagne: Details of the common areas at Château Saint Jacques CalonStephane is the most gracious host and goes out of his way to personally ensure that your stay is as satisfactory and pleasant as possible. He even takes care of selecting the freshest ingredients for breakfast himself: that baguette… those fruit preserves… that fresh seasonal fruit… hmmmm… Everything was so wonderfully exquisite!

Beside that, Stephane is more than willing to help as necessary, including by recommending great restaurants and the best wine store in Saint Emilion (more on that on later posts) and getting to the point of escorting us on a mini-trip to visit the nearby Libourne food market! Of course, Stephane’s English is flawless and, I have to say, so are his map-drawing skills: he charted out our route to a local restaurant in a nearby village with Google-Earth precision! 😉

FRANCE, Montagne: The common areas at Château Saint Jacques Calon

To top it all of, Stephane is a real pleasure to spend time with, very personable and incredibly kind to all his guests. A true French gentleman. Plus, he offers fellow bloggers a discount off the regular B&B rates and, for those who may be interested, guests may also sign up for French cooking classes with him.

Thank you, Stephane, for making our stay in Saint Emilion so pleasant and productive! 🙂

Saint Emilion Chronicles #2: Collegiate Church & Cloisters

This is the second post in our series about our trip to Saint Emilion (in the Bordeaux wine region of France) and its beautiful surroundings. In case you missed it, you can find the first post (about the town of Saint Emilion) here.

On this post, we will briefly focus on a beautiful church-clositers complex in Saint Emilion: the Collegiate Church (Eglise Collégiale) and its cloisters.

The Collegiate Church is an imposing Romanesque building that was built between the XII and XV centuries and is considered one of the most impressive churches in the Gironde region.

Saint Emilion
: the cloister of the Eglise Collegiale

Saint Emilion: 
the stained glass windows of the Eglise Collegiale

Supposedly, Arnaud Guiraud de Cabanac gave impulse to start building the Collegiate Church in 1110, even if the church plans were repeatedly modified over time. While the nave was completed in the XII century, the remainder of the Collegiate Church blends together different styles from the XIII to the XVI century.

The facade and main portal of the Collegiate Church are in a beautiful, sober Romanesque style. In addition, a beautiful XIV century Gothic portal on the left flank of the church provides another entrance from Place Pioceau, on the northern side of the XIV century chancel that houses a magnificent listed organ built in 1892 by Gabriel Cavaillé-Colle and XV century carved stalls.

Saint Emilion: 
The cloister of the Eglise Collegiale

Saint Emilion: 
facade of the Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)

Inside the church, the Romanesque nave is adorned with nicely restored XII century wall paintings and amazing Gothic stained glass windows, while the statues of the Apostles on the tympanum were partly destroyed in the XVIII century during the French Revolution.

The Gothic cloisters, which impress the visitor due to their architectural elegance, were built on the southern side of the church during the XIII and XIV century, and remodeled during the XV and XVI century.

Saint Emilion: Statue in the Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)

The cloisters were built in the shape of a square, with each of the four covered walkways being 98.5 ft/30 mt long and 14.7 ft/4.5 mt wide: elegant arcades support the inner side of the four walkways, which encase a peaceful garden with a cross in the middle, symbolizing the Eden (or Paradise).

The Collegiate Church once hosted Augustinian canons who stayed in the monastery until the end of the French Revolution.

SourcesTravel France Online and Saint-Emilion.pro.

I hope that you enjoyed this second installment of our virtual trip to Saint Emilion… until the next chapter!

Chronicle of a French Wine Country Trip: Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion
: View of the town

Saint Emilion: the bell tower of the Monolithic ChurchFrancesca and I have recently spent a few days in France, at Saint Emilion, in the heart of one of the most renowned among the Bordeaux wine districts and appellations. There we have enjoyed the courteous hospitality of a fellow blogger (more on that later, on a dedicated post), the culture and the beauty of those places, a lot of good food and wine and of course the magic of the Bordeaux wine country and its multitude of Chateaux.

This post is the first in a series that will take you with us, if only virtually, to visit Saint Emilion and its surroundings and discover some of the attractions that such area has to offer.

Saint Emilion: The Monolithic Church and its bell tower

Saint Emilion: 
La Porte de la Cadene (the Door of the Chain)

We will start by showing you the town of Saint Emilion and telling you something about its rich history on this post, then on future posts we will show you one of its churches, we will talk about the wine country and the Saint Emilion wine classification system, we will take you to a beautiful nearby village and to a full-blown visit of our gracious host’s residence, we will make you visit a lively food market, we will take you food and wine shopping in Saint Emilion, and of course we will visit a few Chateaux and talk about their wines… Yes, it will be a fairly extensive trip, but don’t worry, we will take a break here and there with posts on different subjects, but we think it will be worth your time! 😉

Saint Emilion: 
La Maison du Vin and the bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Saint Emilion: The bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Now, without further ado let’s talk a bit about the town of Saint Emilion.

Saint Emilion is a beautiful, elegant small town located in the Libournais area, on the right bank of the Dordogne River, not far from Bordeaux. Saint Emilion’s long history goes back to the Roman times, and precisely to the IV century when the Roman ruler Decimus Magnus Ausonius (after whom the famous Chateau Ausone, one of the four Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” wineries, was named) erected a property there, where he eventually retired. Incidentally, it was the Romans who got the long-standing Saint Emilion wine tradition started by introducing viticulture to the region.

The beauty of the Saint Emilion landscape and its wine-making history have won the area UNESCO status of World Heritage Site for its being an “outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day”.

Saint Emilion: Les Grandes Murailles (the Big Wall) and the vineyards of Chateau Les Grandes Murailles

Saint Emilion: 
a "tertre" (steep alley) and a pastry shop

Saint Emilion is a town of steep alleys known as “tertres, winding narrow streets, pleasant squares dotted by bistros as well as several food and wine stores, beautiful Medieval buildings and ancient churches built in the yellowish local limestone, and hectares and hectares of lush vineyards.

Probably the focal point of the town revolves around the central Place de l’Eglise Monolithe: this square borrows its name from the homonymous Monolithic Church, the largest underground church in Europe, that was dug out of Saint Emilion’s limestone rock walls by Benedictine monks between the IX and the XII century. The Monolithic Church’s finely sculpted portal dates back to the XIV century and presents scenes inspired by the Last Judgment and the resurrection.

Saint Emilion: 
ancient buildings in town

Saint Emilion: detail of the Place de l'Eglise Monolithe and portal of the Monolithic ChurchUnderneath the Monolithic Church lie the Benedictine catacombs and the Hermitage, an underground cave where Saint Emilion himself (an VIII century Benidctine monk called Emilian, who became the town’s patron saint) is believed to have spent the last years of his life, from 750 to 767. There visitors can see an underground spring that was used for baptismal water, a bed and meditation seat both carved in rock, and graffiti reportedly dating back to the French Revolution. Above the Monolithic Church stands an imposing 53 mt/174 ft tall bell tower that was built between the XII and the XV century, while to the side of the church is the XIII century Chapelle de la Trinité (Trinity Chapel) hosting well preserved frescoes on the walls of its apse.

Saint Emilion: The Eglise Collegiale and the bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Saint Emilion: La Maison de la Cadene (House of the Chain) and la Porte de la Cadene (Door of the Chain)The inside of the Monolithic Church and the complex comprising the catacombs, the Hermitage and the Trinity Chapel can only be accessed and visited through a guided tour operated by the tourist office and, unfortunately, photography is not permitted anywhere within the complex – so here you will only be able to see images of the outside of the complex.

Other notable monuments in Saint Emilion are the Romanesque Eglise Collegiale (Collegiate Church) and its XIV century cloister (this will be the subject of another post), the complex of the Maison de la Cadene and the Porte de la Cadene (House of the Chain and Door of the Chain) located at the top of a steep tertre and dating back to the XVI century, and Les Grandes Murailles (the Big Wall) which are the last remains of what used to be a XIII century Benedictine monastery that collapsed for the most part and are now immersed in the vineyards of the homonymous Chateau Les Grandes Murailles, one of the 63 Grand Cru Classé wineries in the Saint Emilion wine classification.

Saint Emilion: 
elegant building in Rue des Ecoles

Saint Emilion: the bell tower of the Monolithic ChurchTypical of Saint Emilion are also several pastry shops selling two local specialties: the Macarons (delicious almond-based cookies) and the Canelé (small, chewy sweets with a caramelized sugar outside and a core of rum-infused custard).

Enough for today: I hope you enjoyed this first stop in our Saint Emilion trip and our general overview of the town – stay tuned for the next chapters of our chronicle! 🙂

Saint Emilion: Restaurant tables at Place de l'Eglise Monolithe

A Food Photography Primer

Over time, a few readers of this blog who seem to have been enjoying my food images have been asking that I write a post with a few pointers about food photography: today is the day for that. Bear in mind that what follows is not intended to be a comprehensive course on food photography, but just a reflection on some basic rules of photography that play an important role in making a good food photograph.

There is no magic, food is just one of the subjects of studio photography and food photography is still photography, so the same basic principles apply. As such, there are three main guiding criteria that everyone with an interest in food photography should focus on:

1. Composition
2. Lighting
3. Post-Processing

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

1. Composition

Composition is an element that can literally make or break a photograph. A successful image, including one of a food item, needs to have a strong, clean, balanced composition or it will look flat and boring at best. Here are a few pointers as to how to tackle this aspect:

  • Devise a plan before your shoot: pre-visualize how you would like your image to look like and figure out what you need to accomplish your vision (in terms of props, lighting, background and focal length of your lens)
  • Set up well ahead of time, when you have no time pressure: the shoot should be set up according to your plan and your vision, with everything in place except the food you are going to photograph. Take a few test shots in the same light that you would use for the real thing and see how your image looks like through the lens you chose. Use this opportunity to find out what does not work and to move things around or change camera/lighting settings until you achieve a pleasing composition that conveys your vision. Add the actual food item to be photographed only when you are all set and ready to go, so when you photograph it, it is going to be perfectly fresh, in top condition
  • Although composition is subjective and should convey your own vision, there are a few “rules” that will generally make your image a stronger one, including the following:
    • Less is more: keep your composition clean and simple;
    • Compose in such a way that the main subject of your image is immediately obvious to everyone;
    • Avoid blank space near the edges of your frame: make sure that your subject and other meaningful elements of your composition fill the frame in a balanced and pleasing way, making sure that you have a strong foreground, middle ground and background in your image;
    • Very rarely does a subject that is in the smack center of your image look good (unless you are going for an extreme close-up where your subject fills the entire frame): try to create some more dynamism by for instance resorting to the rule of thirds, that is placing your main subject off center, near one of the corners of your frame, or positioning important elements in the frame along an imaginary diagonal line;
    • Know your camera’s commands well and select a focal length and an aperture suitable for what you are trying to accomplish: do you want to achieve a compressed look with quite shallow a depth of field? Select a telephoto lens. Do you want to place a strong subject in the immediate foreground in the context of a wider scene with greater depth of field and a clearer sense of depth? Go for a wide angle lens. Do you want more depth of field? Select a smaller aperture (bigger f/stop number). Do you want only a narrow area in your image to be in sharp focus with the remainder being rendered as a soft blur? Pick a large aperture (smaller f/stop number). Every tool (i.e., your lenses) should be used for the purpose it is intended for and ultimately to realize your vision.

2. Lighting

Lighting is the essence of photography (the very word “photography” comes from Greek and means “writing with light“) and yet it is an often overlooked component in a photograph. Almost never will a photograph taken in bad light look good. Once again, here are a few things to bear in mind while you are planning for your shoot:

  • If you want to photograph using natural lightnever set up in direct sunlight (you would end up with harsh, unattractive contrast) – prefer the light of an overcast day or light coming from a northern facing window or skylight, but be prepared to supplement it with some extra light source so as to avoid that the image looks too flat – also, be ready to use a tripod (especially if youintend to use a smaller aperture) as your shutter speed will likely be fairly slow, unless you crank up the ISO which however may end up in a noisy (as in, grainy) image
  • Stay away at all costs from your camera’s pop-up flash and never place a flash head directly onto your camera’s hot shoe as this arrangement would give you flat, unattractive front light: remember, photography (like painting) is the art of creating the illusion of a 3D object in a 2D medium, and the key to achieve that is creating visible, pleasing shadows in your image
  • In order to create visible shadows you need to ensure that your main light source (AKA your key light) is off axis with your camera: side lighting and backlighting are both effective ways to create shadows
  • Generally, in food photography you want to achieve soft shadows and stay away from harsh, unpleasant shadows. The way to do this is to use a large light source or, if you don’t have one, to make your light source as big as you can: remember, the bigger the light source, the softer the shadows it will cast. This is why photographing food (or making people portraits) in natural light on an overcast day is something appropriate: thanks to the cloud cover, the sky turns into a gigantic source of diffused, soft light. In the studio, soft light can be achieved in several ways: by using a light modifier, such as a soft box (essentially, a big diffuser) or an umbrella (a reflector) or (assuming you have white walls and ceiling) by bouncing the light of your flash head off a wall or the ceiling
  • If you need to open up a bit the shadows that you have created, so as to reduce the contrast and provide more detail in the parts of your image that are in the shadow, you should use a fill light, which is another light source coming from a different direction and with a lesser intensity than your key light (you don’t want to obliterate your shadows altogether, you only want to make them lighter): a second flash head at a weaker setting or a reflector that bounces some of the light coming from your key light back into the scene are both good solutions to achieve this (tip: some aluminum kitchen foil crumbled and then flattened out works fairly well as an improvised silver reflector)

3. Post-Processing

Neither in the “good ol’ days” of film-based photography nor in nowadays digital photography world will a great image come straight out of the camera. While the old GIGO rule still applies (Garbage In, Garbage Out – meaning, if you start out with a bad image, it will be very difficult that you may turn it into a good one in post-processing alone), even a very solid image out of the camera will require some extent of post processing to become a great photograph. A few tips:

  • Shoot RAW, not Jpeg: by shooting RAW you will retain the maximum flexibility on your files and will not have to live with choices irreversibly made by the camera – the possibility of changing your white balance into whatever light temperature you desire is by itself totally worth the choice of shooting RAW instead of Jpeg
  • Learn how to use at least the basic features of Photoshop (or whatever other image editing software of your choice): at a minimum, learn how to crop your image (should you need to); how to work with levels and curves and with the dodge/burn tool to control contrast and exposure; how to use the saturation and color balance commands to control color; how to effectively sharpen an image; and finally how to work with layers so every change you make can be reversed at a later time if need be
  • Generally, be subtle with your changes and only aim them at optimizing your image so as to extract all of its potential from that digital file and turn a good image into a great one.

That’s it! I hope the above may be of help or inspiration to some of you to push the envelope a little bit and try to apply all or some of the above tips to your own food photography and see what comes out of it. And especially, have fun in the process and experiment!

If you are interested in seeing more of my food images, feel free to check out my photography Web site.