Plate to Pixel – Digital Food Photography and Styling is food photographer Hélène Dujardin’s first book undertaking and it is obvious that she poured her heart into every page. I first became acquainted with Hélène’s photography through her blog Tartlette and immediately fell in love with her style. Unlike the food photography I have gotten used to looking at on iStockPhoto, Hélène’s photographs of food are rustic, moody, and real. She favors vintage props, wider angle views, and isn’t afraid of a few shadows or crumbs. I wanted to try to infuse my food photography with some of her “look”, so I pre-ordered her book.
When I torn open the Amazon box containing her book back on April 26th. my first reaction was “Wow, this is thicker than I expected!” The book is 258 pages, not counting the index, filled with beautiful images and lots of photography and food styling wisdom. It was written so that someone who is just getting into photography could get up to speed, as many photography books are. So, if you’ve been at this awhile as I have, you may want to speed read through Chapter 1 and 2. Chapter 3 is on natural light, which is Hélène’s preferred way of shooting food, and was one of my favorite chapters. She shows example photos shot with a bounce card vs. no bounce, silver vs. gold reflector, etc. and several shots of her setup. One shot on page 42 was a light bulb moment for me, when I saw how she sat a diffuser on the table held by two plastic clamps – duh! why didn’t I think of that! I put that idea to use quickly, as you can see from the setup shot above. Although I’ve been doing some natural light food photography with some success before her book, little tips like that really help!
After a chapter on artificial light, the heart of the book gets into composition and styling. Hélène is a master in these areas, and favors natural techniques to help the food look it’s best. I think she says somewhere in her book that she eats 90% of the food she shoots – which I like, I’d hate to see all that yummy food go to waste! No Scotchguard on the pancakes here! One of the things I’m trying to do with my food photography is back up. Hélène’s images have lots of negative space and multiple elements, and I am trying to emulate her work by getting my nose out of the whipped cream with my images. She also does a wonderful job of the overhead food shot – something I struggle with, so by studying all her wonderful images I hope to get out of my close-up comfort zone.
After the meat of the book, Chapter 8 discusses after capture, which is again, is a good introduction for newbies, but since there are many options on processing, storage and backup, can’t get very specific. If you aren’t new to photography, this is another chapter to skim. Then there is an Appendix filled with more wonderful photos and a Glossary, Hélène’s Equipment list (always fun to read) and a “Recommended Resources” full of links and recommendations on everything from how to make your own distressed tabletop to where to buy props and Hélène’s favorite camera bag. The book can’t teach you EVERYTHING you need to know, but it will send you in the right direction if it can’t.
Since I am so fond of Hélène’s photography, it would be hard for me to NOT like Plate to Pixel. Her style is much like that of Con Poulos, whose images grace the pages of most of my Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazines. If you are interested in food photography it is definitely worth the time to read this book, written by someone who is so obviously passionate about what she does. Enjoy!