Fresh fruit and vegetables make excellent props and photography subjects, they are relatively inexpensive, widely accessible and come in vibrant array of shapes, sizes, colour and texture. Although they are aesthetically pleasing to work with, photographing produce and perishable items can be challenging and often requires a more efficient photoshoot to capture them at their best. Even the freshest ingredients can lose their lustre over time so it’s important to have some good techniques in place to ensure you are making the most of your time on set.
We’ve collected our top tips for sourcing, preparing and photographing produce for food or still life photography:
Sourcing the perfect produce
The most important step in your food shoot is to pick the perfect produce. Focus on items that are locally produced and in season to ensure you are getting the freshest fruit and vegetables possible. Rather than your local supermarket you may need to visit a farmers market or organic grocer ideally on the day of the shoot. Spend some extra time selecting each item to ensure it’s perfect for your shoot and make sure you buy more than what you need so you can have some backup items on standby.
Have a plan and prepare extra
Working with fruit and vegetables often means that you have to work quickly. Continuous lighting can add heat and accelerate the rate at which food wilts so using natural light or switching it off during set up can help make your items last even longer. Using stand in items or having extra pieces waiting in the fridge enables you to switch in your hero ingredients just before you take the shot to help you capture each item at its freshest.
Boost the moisture
It doesn’t take long for fruit and vegetables to dry out so rinsing raw items in water first can help keep the moisture levels up. Another trick to keep your veggies looking extra fresh is to soak your items in a mix of water and ascorbic acid which is a component of vitamin C. You can also dunk thinly sliced peels, such as carrot or cucumber in ice water to make the curls appear super fresh.
Slice it right
The sharper your knife is, the less cellular damage you do to your produce when you slice it meaning the cut edge will be less likely to turn brown or lose quality. Mandolin slicers are a great option for when you want thin and consistent looking shapes in your fruit and veg. Want some more creative looking cuts? Use cookie cutters to get circles or cute decorative shapes like stars or hearts.
Spritz your slices
Cut edges of many produce items can turn brown quite quickly and lose their appeal. When working with sliced fruits such as apples, pears, bananas and avocados, an easy way to keep them looking crisp and not discoloured is to spritz them with some citric acid such as lemon juice. Mix equal parts lemon juice and water into a spray bottle and as soon as you’ve sliced them give it a good spritz. Alternatively you can sprinkle with ascorbic acid powder or try soaking the slices in salt water for 3-5 minutes.
Mist on droplets for that freshly picked look
Spritz on water droplets with a spray bottle or water atomiser to make your produce look extra fresh. If you want droplets or condensation that stays select a spray bottle that gives off a fine mist and mix equal parts water and glycerin to achieve water droplets that don’t evaporate - just don’t try and eat it the food afterwards as glycerin is not suitable for consumption!
Add delicate or frozen items last
A pop of green from herbs or salad leaves can make your shot look extra fresh but these items are often the first to lose structure and wilt. Add the most delicate items such as your garnish last after you have perfected the composition to ensure they still look robust. Frozen items such as berries can make an interesting and colourful garnish but will lose their integrity quickly once out of the freezer. Try to handle them as little as possible and once in place blow gently on them to make them look extra frosty.
The creative possibilities of working with produce are endless and getting the best results from working with fruit and vegetables just takes a little extra care and preparation. The best part is that if you are efficient with selecting and photographing your produce while it’s still fresh the more likely you are to be able to eat it straight afterwards!