Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Favorites!

On my 5th day here, I'm finally seeing the rainy side of Singapore (I knew there was a reason the leaves are all so darn green =p). I don't mind, though -- the sounds of the downpour are just right for a lazy morning in. And it's the perfect chance to share this week's picks with my readers! Today I'm adding a new twist to this series -- it's entirely optional but I think it'll be fun and educational.

For those of you who enjoyed last week's overview of food photography and styling and want to improve your skills in those areas, I have a little challenge. As you scroll through the photos below, pick one favorite (or more if you want) to "read," and share your analysis in the comments section below. I highly recommend this guide to "reading" food photos, but in short, to read a photograph means to identify the visual elements used by the photographer that make the image successful (or not). Some good questions to start asking yourself are:

  • What is the main subject of the photo and how is that being communicated?
  • What is the story/mood of the photo and what elements support that?
  • What direction is the light coming from? Is it hard or soft (diffused)? (Hint: observe the shadows to help answer this)
  • What camera angle is being used and what effect does this create?
  • What colors are found in the photo and what feeling do they produce?
  • How are shapes, textures, and space being used?
  • Where are the focal points in the photo and how are your eyes encouraged to move among them?
Reading photos (and practice taking your own) is key to your growth as a food photographer/stylist because it allows you to observe the abstract concepts you've read about when put in action. As you identify what works in other photos, you'll form a sense of your own style and how to create the effects you desire in your own shots.

Figs on a Platter from Dolce Vita
5 Dvita-Figs Stand Ingred
To get things started, I'm going to share my own analysis from "reading" the photograph of figs above. The figs are the main subject of this photo. This is evident from the fact that they are placed centrally in the frame. Including 2 sliced figs also helps to draw attention to the fruit, and adds a nice touch of red color which is complementary to the green on the outside. The figs also have prominence as the main source of color in the photo, since everything else is restricted to neutral whites and browns. There is a lovely aged feeling about this photo that makes it almost like an old painting. This feeling comes partly from the fairly low, hard lighting which comes from the left side. The saturation seems to have been reduced and the edges of the photo seem to be slightly darker (vignetting). The vintage props (metal stand, knife, and table with chipped paint) chosen for this photo also contribute to its aged look. The camera angle used here is slightly higher than head-on (at around 10-15 degrees). This works well to highlight the shape of the figs and the seeds inside, which are much more interesting from the side than from above. The principle of pattern is present here in the use of many figs and 2 sliced pieces instead of just one. By tiling the figs as well as the fabric and knife, the natural curve of the figs is enhanced and there is good movement throughout the frame. Lastly, the "white space" at the top of the photo is nicely balanced by the textured table and fabric below, which help to give weight to the image.

Phew -- OK that's it...I'm done and now it's your turn! Please don't feel like you have to make your analysis as detailed as mine. I just wanted to give an example of all the information that is there for you to learn from if you pay close attention. I hope you find this useful, as I'm planning to make it just one of many follow-ups to my main post on food photography and styling. Happy "Reading"!

Lemon Bars from The Cookie Shop
1 Thecookieshop-Lemon Bars
Cucumber Caipiranhas from Cookie+Kate
3 Cookieandkate-Cucumber Caipiranha Watermelon Cocktail Drink Idea
4 Csokiparany-Apricot Mini Galette Tart Blueberries White Choco Sauce Idea
Berry Linzer Tart Photograph Styled by Carla Gonzalez-Hart
2 Carla Gonzalez-Hart (St)-Raspberry Linzer Lattice Pie, Tart Rack
Wild Mushroom Photograph from Photo-copy Ann
6 Photocopyann-Wild Mushroom Ingred
Steaming Tea Photograph from Hungry Ghost
7 HungryGhost-Tea Drink
8 Lemonpi-Strawberry Buckwheat Mini Cakes Muffins
9 Cookingbooks-Radish Greens Artichoke Rotini Spiral Pasta


  1. Lovely clicks and gorgeous food!



  2. Isn't that picture of the figs a true work of art? When I saw it on Flickr it really took my breath away. Thanks for adding my mushroom. ;-) And I've got some new people to bookmark. :)

  3. Everything looks so yummy! Thanks for the round up!

  4. Love the figs phot and teh one of teh mushroom looks surreal!

  5. hey Xiaolu, just to reiterate my comments earlier, your past few posts on styling and photography have helped me out of my rut big time. I'll def be participating in the little activity you've set forth. Such a great way to get my mind moving. For now must trot to bed but wanted to thank you again for the inspiration to keep growing :)

  6. What an awesome idea to help readers practice. I loved reading your analysis, because I saw many of the same points you brought up but you also opened my eyes to several other aspects I would have missed. I really love learning from your blog!

  7. Got to see last few post abt photography.. very well written learning from u blog... wonderful post. Hope ur enjoying in sing:) have wonderful day.

  8. The steaming tea picture is stunning..I am loving all the help that you are extending through your blog on photography resources..Tha ks so much hon:)

  9. I was impressed with your photo tutorial, especially because I would never take the time to write all that out - you're astonishing!

    I'm not the hugest fan of food styling - I know, what am I doing here, right?! I appreciate the photographic aspect of it, but my interest mostly stops there. Maybe someday I'll go into the antique table business, but I doubt it:)

    I would add that I feel there to be a bit too much negative space in the fig photo up top. Although maybe the peeling-paint table is actually meant to be the subject... once I adhere to that old-time table-ing business, I'll probably understand;)

    I think the mushroom photo is quite nice!

  10. Dear Xiaolu, Your monday favorites are my fave too. loved the gorgeous posts and ur previous post on photography styling, a great deal of learning and discovering !!!

  11. Gorgeous Monday Inspiration, Xiaolu! Bravo!!!

    Hugs <3


  12. I really like the apricot galette photo. I like how your eye is drawn all the way down the photo to the lovely tart. I think the striping in the background helps to draw the eye downward to the focal point - the tart. Lovely.

  13. Thanks everyone! Glad you're enjoying the photos and I am glad a few of you are interested in the activity.

    Rivki - I agree with you about the lines of the curtain behind the tart drawing your eyes to the tart. Nice analysis :)

  14. the fig photograph is especially beautiful.

  15. I just finished taking an intro digital photography class. I am a long way from taking the quality of food photos that you have shown, but I am ever hopeful and appreciate your lovely tutorial.

  16. Gorgeous photos and great pick as always. Isn't Singapore just so gorgeous and clean .. CLEAN! have fun out there :)

  17. I'm going to a photography class to hopefully learn more about the camera and how to use it! I can't wait! :)

  18. I hope you'll post about it Lorraine! I'm excited for you =)

  19. Beautiful selection Xiaolu! I am not sure if I am experienced enough to make a detailed review but I will sure definitely look at these with a different eye after I read your review on figs.

  20. I really love the galette shot. There is a lot going on in the photo, but your eyes are still drawn to the main attraction: the galette.

  21. Hi,
    oooh, I'm surprised, thnaks for choosing my picture for your favs!

  22. I looove them too! The picture of the mushroom is really curious, and i loove the one with the tea steam!!

  23. What a challenge! Thanks for the link - after reading I realized that I naturally look more about element (forms, color, and space) and not too much about composition etc. I definitely tell myself to focus on other aspects if I want to improve my photography. I just need to train myself to look that way... Now my analysis... biggest challenge because I never "analyze" and put it in words before..

    I pick Cucumber Caipiranha as this kind of photo is something I would take (because it requires less food styling...). The main subject here is of course the cucumber drink rather than watermelon. It creates refreshing feeling by the glass surface being chilled (hazy with ice) and lots of light source from left creates soft, bright and white effect (not sure how I can explain it). Camera angle helps to see from top of the drink as well as side. Angle that makes you feel like you can almost sip. The main subject is light green and the darker green shade of napkin sort of makes it majority of color to play with hint of red (watermelon), suggesting the cucumber is the main subject. The darker color is on the bottom, so the red color helps to use the space above. Focal point is the cucumber that's attached to the glass and one in the drink. Although the drink is clear, it gives the sense that this is a cucumber drink. The decoration of cucumber/watermelon balance out the drink portion on the left. I tried my best to analyze photo for the first time and realized that it was hard to explain with words! Sorry it took a lot of your comment space. =P Your review of photo is amazing... :-)

  24. Thanks again for sharing my cucumber cocktail photo! It's really neat to read Nami's analysis. I feel like most of my photos are taken on an intuitive level but I really want to start planning ahead more (sketching out photos, etc.) and to practice manipulating the lighting to convey the mood I want. I also need to heed your advice and really study striking photos to determine what makes them so great.

  25. Hey you Xiaolu, Hello! :) I'm so sorry that I send the reply just now. But excuse me to say I was on holiday with the big family and we came back only Sunday. ;) Well, thanks the note. I love the collection, also these moods, stylings. All of them is really meaningful.

    And thanks the comments of my little lovely galette photo. It's really important for me, and they always inspire me! :)

  26. Hi, dear, I'm so thrilled to see one of my photos here - I'm a fan of your blog, always.
    Cheers from Brazil,


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu