Just when I think I'm getting a better grip on this whole food photography thing, my Food Styling and Photography Group, The Inspired Plate, throws up a new styling challenge, and I realize my grip isn't quite as tight as I had thought. Months ago our first challenge included Photography on White. As that is my preferred food photography style, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and didn't struggle much for inspiration.
Reflections and light became my largest obstacles in trying to capture a decent image. In some cases, the black background took on a fairly unattractive bluish hue, while different lighting directions brought fairly bright reflections washing any drama out of the scene.
Without the luxury of professional lighting, I am almost wholly dependent on natural light. As luck would have it, our San Diego June Gloom (only now it is in October) brought 3 days of grey, hot and humid weather, and while I loved the 80º plus temps, my photo shoots on black remained dull and somewhat lifeless with the murky light.
Over the years my personal food styling technique has evolved as much out of necessity as it has out of preference. Simplicity, for me, keeps the focus on the food, and it also works well with my fairly small store of food styling props. As much as I would love shelves of colorful fabrics, stacks of dishes and bowls, and collections of eclectic props, I have learned to heavily rely on my basics, plus a few food ingredients.
With our Oatmeal Cookies featuring cranberries, white chocolate chips and a touch of heart healthy quinoa, these ingredients served as my props for the first and second shots. A simple glass of milk added a bit of elevation, and a remnant square of red fabric added color to another cookie shot.
As the sun set lower and lower, the back lighting reflecting off of the black had me playing with the white chocolate chips and my son laughing at me saying, "Really... you are really taking pictures of chocolate chips??", as he snagged a few while walking by.
Though I'm not sure I'm totally sold on the black background or my ability to make it look appealing, I am positively sold on these Quinoa Oatmeal Cookies.
Improving the nutrition in the treats, a touch of quinoa flour added protein and no one noticed a thing. I took advantage of my recent batch of Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice and tossed in the white chips and cranberries for a change.
Liv's girlfriends devoured a bag of the cookies at lunch, and comments of, "Mrs. Kelly, you are the best mom ever! Can you make those cookies again?" were music to my ears.
The real test, however, was my husband. With Oatmeal Raisin his all time favorite cookie, I wasn't sure if he would notice the different recipe. As he arrived home from work, a couple of cookies quickly found their way into his hands, but a comment of, "These are awesome, but different, huh?" stopped me in my tracks. Fearing he could taste the quinoa (he's not a huge fan) I paused, and then breathed a sigh of relief as he continued, "I like the cranberries in place of the raisins. Good job."
Whew. Extraordinarily successful cookies along with successful enough photos and a new title of "Best Mom Ever"? ... I'm a happy girl.
For more stunning Photography on Black follow our Inspired Plate Blog Circle... next up we travel across the country to the fabulous Tiffany Dahle from Peanut Blossom.
And... did you know The Inspired Plate Team now has a Facebook Page? Join us for more food photography and styling challenges and let us inspire you!
Quinoa Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
As stated in Quinoa 365, A healthier version of a long time favorite!
Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, pg. 141
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3 cups rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice**
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened (we only had 3/4 cup on hand and that seemed to work fine!)
2 large eggs (I used 2 extra large eggs to make up for the decreased butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Prepare a baking sheet, or line with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
In a large bowl, add the oats, flours, salt, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice, whisk to combine.
In medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and mix until almost combined. Add the cranberries and white chips, and stir to incorporate.
Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on the cookie sheet, flatten to a thickness of 1/2 inch either with your hand or the bottom of a glass.
Bake on the center oven rack for 9-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack.
**Liv Life Note: In place of the Pumpkin Pie Spice, the original recipe calls for 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground cloves.