These may look like fruit, but in the world of food photography these are tools of the trade. Sometimes we just can’t get a fruit or vegetable when it’s in season. When that’s the case we turn to Trengove Studios in New York City. They specialize in creating fake food items that look incredibly real. Each one is handcrafted so they all look slightly different.
Here are some of their fake acrylic ice cubes and crushed ice, which are very useful under hot lights.
One of the most used items believe it or not is blue poster putty (below left). It’s great for propping up food. If we’re working with a food that isn’t opaque museum wax is a better choice. It blends in much better. Wooden skewers and wedges are useful for propping up food or props to achieve just the right angle. Our food stylist Cathy uses the five food items (below right) the most when styling food. Corn meal and instant mashed potatoes are used to fill in a deep bowl. Corn syrup is added to maple syrup to lighten the color or it can be added to sauces to thicken it. Olive oil is good for adding a glisten to an item.
Different size squeeze bottles (below left) are good to have when dealing with sauces and syrups. To clean up liquids on a bowl or plate, we use these special cotton swabs (below center) with a pointed end. It’s much easier to add liquid into props than to take out so we use a funnel (below left) and slowly pour it in.
One of the more important tools in the photo studio is paper towels. Dish towels often leave small fibers on your hands or dishes when you dry them. That just adds more retouching to do in post.
The red and black caps in the photo are tops to a cooking spray and a jar of spice. We’ve found that these can be very useful in propping up fruits and vegetables. Maybe you can’t see enough apple behind that orange, so you put a spice jar top underneath it to prop it up.
Not So Everyday Items
This hair dryer (top left) emits cool air which we use to dry things off without melting them. When shooting frozen novelties a layer of frost develops on everything. To clear this off we use the heat gun (top right) for 1-3 seconds.The paint stripper (bottom left) is used for browning cheese on pizza. The small hand held torch (bottom right) is good for small precise browning. For larger areas, such as browning a turkey, we have used a blow torch.
For adding or taking out liquids an eyedropper or syringe (above) works well. To create the melted pat of butter on pancakes Cathy uses a heated small spatula (above). Food drys out quickly under the lights. Before we take our final shot we spritz some water (top left) on the food to make it glisten. Just a drop or two of food coloring (bottom left) can turn water into a glass of juice or wine.
Clamps (inset right) are another tool we use every day to prop or hold things up. Something as simple as the red blocks (inset left) can be essential when photographing a group of products. Its hard to get numerous products in one shot. To do so you have to create different levels. Drape fabric over the blocks and now you can place products on top of the blocks and in front.