Last week I had the opportunity to attend the #IFBC (International Food Bloggers Conference) which I wrote about in my previous post. I enjoyed the keynote speaker, Dorie Greenspan and spent a fun weekend in Seattle with the Doristas. I also had the privilege of attending two photography sessions offered at the #IFBC conference by the noted photographer and food stylist for the New York Times, Andrew Scrivani. Just for fun check out beautiful food photography at andrewscrivani.com. So, what did he say? What did I take away from the photography sessions at the conference?? Wow, where do I start? He gave a lot of information about food styling, food photography, organizing photos and the business of photography. He also told quite a few jokes, I think just to lighten up the serious business of food styling and photography -the jokes were much appreciated by all of us attendees. I was most inspired by the information he gave us about how he lights the photos he takes in his studio -specifically how he controls the natural light that is the light source for his photos. He explained how the light flows through a fairly small window on to a table set in front of a window where he arranges both the food and selected props he photographs. He uses all kinds of thin boards, paper, films, fabric etc. to both diffuse the bright natural light and direct it on to his photography subject. The end result photos are so natural looking that they look like they could have been taken anywhere -on top of a snow covered mountain, on a blanket placed on a sandy beach or in the middle of a vineyard in the Napa Valley. I find it fascinating that lighting and a few well chosen props can convey so much ‘other worldly’ information in a simple photograph. I’m intrigued by beautiful natural lighting in photographs, most likely because I find it to be so difficult to accomplish.
He talked about shooting in RAW versus JPEG and why you should be shooting in RAW. He also spoke about selling photographs and how to organize your photos using tags. He spoke to the serious photographers at the conference, giving them solid information about food photography and answering questions at the end of both sessions. I admit to glazing over a few times but I’ll go back to my gut feeling that sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself with info that’s over your head -nothing wrong with that!
A few of Andrew Scrivani’s food styling tips have already made it into my food blogger’s repertoire. For example..making notes on your recipe about the way you’re planning to style your photograph later, like..’chop parsley for soup garnish, zest lime for cookies or cut a fresh sprig of basil for plate’. I know what you’re thinking..food bloggers have way to much fun playing with their food.
As for my food photo challenges -we live in a wooded area where natural light for photos is never found to be pouring through any windows, maybe light filtered by trees -if there aren’t any clouds in the sky and it’s anytime between 3 and 3:15 in the afternoon – then you’re good to go for food photography. Next house, next life..I’ll be sure to look for a sunny window! I’ve been know to carry food and props around with me in search of sunlight but that gets old real fast. So as fascinated as I am by Andrew Scrivani’s sunny studio window I have to make photos using pretend natural light from sources other than the sun, which is unfortunate but life in my wooded canyon goes on and things get done all the same.
I made an Italian Crumbly cake for this post because I hoped it wouldn’t be too awfully difficult to photograph with my limited source of natural light. I also used the beautiful cake plate my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday in hopes that it might distract you from any and all imperfections in my photos. The cake was excellent and the recipe will be a keeper for years to come.
Gently adapted from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma.
- For the Cake
- 1 & 1/4 cups Italian style "00" flour or cake flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (1 stick / 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- For the Topping
- 2 cups sliced almonds
- 1 large egg white
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 325F.
- Lightly grease and flour a 9" springform pan, tap pan to remove excess flour.
- To Make the Cake
- Using a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon, set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the whole egg, egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until the mixture thickens and turns light yellow, about 3 minutes.
- Add the dry ingredients on low speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Add the vanilla extract and melted butter, beat for 30 seconds on medium speed.
- Scraped the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top to make it as level as possible.
- To Make the Topping
- Place the almonds in a medium bowl.
- Lightly whisk the egg white in a small bowl until it is foamy and pour over the almonds.
- Sprinkle the almonds with sugar and cinnamon, stir gently to combine.
- Spread the almond topping over the cake batter.
- Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or the cake is golden brown and the top of cake is springy to the touch. Cake tester should come away with a few crumbs.
- Place the cake on a metal rack to cool.
- After 10 minutes remove the sides of the springform pan and continue cooling the cake.
- Carefully remove the bottom of the pan from cake with a large offset spatula before serving.