After the Test Kitchen approves a recipe, it’s officially a Taste of Home recipe. Time to snap a photo for use in our magazines, books and website!
No matter what the food-from Mom’s Meatloaf to Moist Chocolate Cake-we eat with our eyes first. We want all of our dishes to look as pretty as possible. This is where our Photo Studio comes in. Our team of talented food stylists and photographers work together to make the recipe picture-perfect.
Plenty of companies use unappetizing tricks to make food look good on camera-think using dish soap in place of bubbles on a glass of soda, a “roasted” bird spray-painted bronze, plastic ice cubes, and more gross but good-looking tools and chemicals.
Taste of Home never uses fake food or crazy editing techniques. Photographer Dan Roberts says, “The home cook should be able to reproduce anything we do in the studio.”
Here’s how it works:
Set the Scene
Food is just one part of the equation. Set stylists stage the scene that surrounds the food. Should the food be served on a plate or kept in the skillet? What kind of surface should the plate sit on? Do we want any utensils, linens or extra ingredients to be seen?
Set stylists work out of a massive warehouse-style prop closet that holds thousands of home goods including dishes, utensils, linens and glassware, organized by color and style.
Photography Director Stephanie Marchese and Set Stylist Melissa Franco explain that their job is all about telling a story. They don’t just reach for the newest or most expensive pieces-they like to mix colors, textures, design style and age, often combining old pieces with new. Their goal: Make it look homey. For instance, many people don’t have an entire set of matching dishes, from coffee cups to dessert plates, so they mix and match. You might have an heirloom serving tray mixed in with some plates from Ikea. If you happen to get inspiration for setting your breakfast table alongside our cinnamon rolls recipe, we’ll be all the happier.
Fun Fact: Out of our thousands of colorful dishes, which color is most popular? White. White dishes provide a bright, clean contrast with the bold colors of the food.
Style the Food
Our food stylists prepare recipes with style in mind. This can take several iterations to nail down-especially if we’re shooting a cover for our magazines. For example, the team might prepare several roasted chickens to make one that looks just right.
Our goal: Make the food look both totally delicious and still approachable to real home cooks.
Lead Food Stylist Kathryn Conrad believes the art of presentation is simple enough for any cook and any meal, even the most casual picnic or breakfast. Dress up a soup with a scattering of fresh herbs, for example. Keep packaged foods, like bottled dressings, off the table; toss the lettuce before you sit down; or consider serving a little dish of ketchup or other condiments for the family to share.
Snap Gorgeous Pics
When the stage is set and the food is ready, our photography team steps in. They keep a busy schedule, shooting about 4,000 gorgeous images and videos per year.
Shooting food can be tricky. Ingredients can look different as time passes-think how lovely a steaming plate of spaghetti looks fresh from the pot, but the same noodles look gloopy and sad if left out too long. Salads wilt, ice cream melts, ingredients lose their luster. Our photographers have a brilliant trick to avoid this: They use a “stunt double” dish that goes out on set first. This allows the food stylist, set stylist and photographer to play around with the image until it’s just right. Then they bring out the perfect, A-list dish and capture their shot.
Here are the team’s three favorite tips for getting the best photos of your feast at home:
- Shoot food while it’s fresh! Catch the steam rising or salad greens glistening by snapping a photo right away.
- Find good lighting. No need to overthink this one. Natural lighting from a window is often the best light-not too glaring or artificial. It makes most foods look fantastic.
- Choose great subject matter. Odds are, you’re not going to prepare four green bean casseroles until you make a perfectly gorgeous one. You’ll be happier taking pictures of naturally tempting foods, like a plate of decorated cookies or a lovely golden roast.