Last Saturday I had the pleasure of learning some hot photography and food styling tips from Caroline Edwards of Chocolate And Carrots. I love her photography style and how she arranges her delectable subjects in a way that makes you want to reach into the screen and grab a bite. Luckily, she is local to Columbia, SC and I jumped on the chance to collaborate with her and produce a class to offer to the public since good photography only serves to help out everyone. Seriously, if you’re going to see people’s food on Facebook and Instagram, wouldn’t you rather they put a little thought and effort into making is as aesthetically pleasing as possible?

Caroline started with a basic overview of photography principles, like f-stop, ISO, depth of field, and bokeh. I learned a LOT from this part, as the only thing I really knew how to adjust on my camera was the white balance and shutter speed.

She also showed us some photography tools she uses like this collapsible 5 in 1 reflector tool. It’s less than fifteen bucks on Amazon. I am going to get one ASAP!

Then we got to work, setting up scenes with the food generously donated from our sponsors. And sure, there was some eating involved too…

We set up vignettes with Caroline’s guidance and ideas, to make sure that the scene had enough depth, and that it looked like something you’d want to pick up and eat. There were four varieties of pimento cheese with garnishes from DiPrato’s Delicatessen! This was the spicier jalapeno version, which has a really nice kick that works well with the creamy mouthfeel of the cream cheese.

116 State sent along these delectable dolmas, along with Erica, who works there. It was great to meet her and to finally taste these little treats. A squeeze of lemon really brought out the flavor in these and they held up well during the whole day.

For our scene involving them, the dolmas were placed atop a really refreshing summer quinoa salad from Whole Foods Market and garnished with sunflower sprouts from City Roots. The drink is a pomegranate Italian soda, also from WFM. I like how it picks up the tiny bit of red in the red bell pepper in the quinoa salad. Subtle and eye catching.

We also had a vibrant green kale salad from Whole Foods that didn’t need much styling at all, other than plates, cute napkins, and a fork! Sometimes the food itself is just the star.

Carolyn set up this sweet scene featuring the melt in your mouth macarons from Ally & Eloise. If you’re anywhere on Forest Drive, find her shop and get some of her goods. Or check their website to see about special orders! Isn’t this just so cute?

Other folks have taken way better shots of this Maurice’s Piggie Park BBQ slider vignette than I managed to capture on my Canon, but you can see how the depth of the photo is acheived from this angle. I love the grilled asparagus spears (from WFM) in the bucket! And you can see Caroline’s ubiquitous little chalkboard tucked in too!

To learn more about capturing beverages in clear glasses, this monochromatic scene with the lemon Italian soda and lemon slices was set up. You can tell that we didn’t diffuse the light from the window in the harsher shadows that the lemon segments created within itself, lending the overall photo for a moodier vibe than you’d usually think of when it comes to lemonade! But then again, it’s all up to what the photographer wants the viewer to feel when they look at the photo. Doesn’t this one seem a little more ominous than innocent lemonade should feel?

This jerky really was a cool challenge for us to take on, after all, jerky just ain’t pretty. It’s definitely delicious (confirmed for me by Patrick), but visually appealling, not so much. We all collaborated on this one to give it a rustic feel that I think turned out incredibly well! After all, when I think of beef jerky, I inevitably think of cowboys, rough textures, and chili and all of these elements are reflected here. I’m tipping my hat to Two Brothers Jerky for their sponsorship and this spur of creativity!

Good food styling and photography takes a lot longer than you’d think, but luckily the food is a patient subject and will let you take all day to work on your craft except in the case of things like ice cream, which waits for nobody. So go ahead, experiment, learn your camera, and take tasty photos!

Thanks again to everyone who made this possible: Caroline for leading and working with me on it, Charleston Cooks! and their wonderful staff for letting us take over your classroom space, Whole Foods Market, DiPrato’s, Ally & Eloise, Two Brothers Jerky, Maurice’s Piggie Park, 116 State, and the Free Times for mentioning it in print! Let me know if you’re interested in taking a future class, if there is enough we may put it on again (and again?!)! And of course, thank you so much to the nine ladies who came to the class! It was great to meet you all, some who I have been tweetering with for a while and had yet to meet!