For our family Fourth of July get together, my signature dish is homemade cherry pie. This year, I took a little extra time to capture the process from start to finish.
The recipe to start creating delectable food photography
I'll be the first to admit, food photography is a niche I'm still learning and growing my skills in. I've come to understand that amazingly talented food photographers make it look easy when it's anything but.
When it comes to any type of style photoshoot, there are some basic rules to follow. First, having a vision of the end product. You'll save yourself time and frustration, if you take a moment and visualize - whether in your head or sketching out - how you see the final image.
Second, choosing a location. For most food shots, you probably won't need a space bigger than your table - but are you going to shoot this in your home, or at a restaurant. While deciding on a location, also think about lighting. Light is both a technical necessity, but it's also an aesthetic tool that will give mood to your images. Natural light is lovely and probably my favorite, but it isn't consistent. If you're shooting for hours in the same spot, then studio lighting might be better.
This photo is an example of inconsistent natural light. I shot most of the shoot in the morning with direct light coming in. By the time the pie was done and I got back to shooting it was afternoon and the light had changed.
Next up, props. Props are something you can make as simple or complicated as you choose to. For most commercial and advertising shoots, props are limited because all the focus is on the hero. On the other side, editorial and lifestyle, a story is being told and props are used to help tell the story. Again they should enhance and compliment the hero - not steal the show. Also, you don't want to overwhelm the viewer.
Starting out, I have found it helpful to build your set slowly and shoot as you go. Beginning with your main subject, then add one piece at a time.
COMPLETE PROP LIST FOR THIS SHOOT
(1) Blue Gingham tablecloth
(1) White/Gray striped cloth napkin
(1) White bowl
(1) Wooden cutting board
(1) Small metal collindar
(1) Small blue glass dish plate
(1) Silver fork
(1) Sugar Bowl
+ Baking tools
We've checked off vision/style, location, lighting, and props. Time to start shooting. In the world of digital more is always better. The three most common angles are: straight on, directly over, and 45-degrees. What will work best comes down to the subject. If you're shooting a burger or sandwich, perhaps straight on. If it's a bowl of pasta or cookies, then directly overhead might be best. Don't forget to shoot vertical and horizontal.
Visualize: Think about what you want your final image to look like.
Location: Will you be shooting in a controlled space at home/studio, or onsite?
Lighting: Think about the length of your shoot and the mood you want to create
Props: What story are you wanting to tell? Does the hero need sidekicks or do it go solo?
Angles: The angles you use will have just as much impact on your photo as the rest of your food styling.
Easy Homemade Cherry Pie
With some modifications, the recipe I often refer to is from the Food Network Kitchen. It's straight forward and simple to follow.
4 cups fresh or frozen tart cherries
1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, to dot
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to sprinkle
If you're using fresh cherries, start by washing and then pitting them. This part is messy - but tasty. You can but a handy gadget to get the pits out, but I use a paring knife and cut the cherries in half. (Remember, cherry juice will stain, but here is how to get those stains out.)
Place cherries in medium saucepan and place overheat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch. (Note: I deviated a little here. If my filling is too thin (and it often is), then I will leave some of the juice out when pouring into the crust. I feel adding more cornstarch can make it gritty. The finished pie is still very juicy. But, that's me.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Use your favorite pie dough recipe (or store-bought, like me 😂). Prepare your crust. Divide in half. Roll out each piece large enough to fit into an 8 to 9-inch pan. Pour cooled cherry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Moisten edge of bottom crust. Place top crust on and flute the edge of the pie. Make a slit in the middle of the crust for steam to escape (I used a small star cookie cutter). Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
MY PIE MAKING TIPS (FOR ALL PIES)
Place a sheet pan, cookie sheet, or a long piece of foil under your pie in the oven to catch any juices that might spill over. This will help keep your oven clean.
After thirty minutes of baking, check your crust. If the edges are browning quicker, than place foil around the edge.