|Lažni sladoled koji se koristi za postavljanje kadra /|
Ice cream stand-in
|Lažni sladoled zamijenjen je pravim /|
Ice cream stand-in is replaced with the real thing
|Nakon nekoliko minuta sladoled se počinje topiti /|
After just few minutes, the ice cream starts melting
|Na smrznutom sladoledu vidi se inje /|
When ice cream is completely frozen, tiny white ice crystals are ssen
Sladoled od karamele sa zrnom soli
So, if you are a foodie interested in food photography, I bet you've tried to capture your favorite ice cream at least once in your career. And I bet it was nervewrecking. Oh yeah... Been there, done that. In the last five years, I've tried shooting ice cream four times. None of them was very successful. For the sake of my mental health, I decided to take a break from ice creams for a while.
In the meantime, I learned quite a lot about food and food photography. I read countless blogs and web sites and studied many books dedicated to food styling and photography. The two books I found the most inspiring and useful were Delores Custer's Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera and Helene Dujardin's Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling. I experimented a lot, practiced shooting all kinds of food, developed my photographic skills and found my own style. It was time to face the ice cream again. This time I was much more successful and I decided to describe the process and share some useful tips.
Tips & Tricks
Preparation is half the battle. This rule applies equally in life, work, cooking and photography. Before the photo shoot, it is important to think about what look and mood you want to create. Will you shoot on a dark or light background, what color scheme are you going to use, are you going to serve it in cones or bowls...? I opted for cones, a very neutral color scheme and a minimal use of props to avoid distractions. I bought 10 cones and immediately set aside 5 perfect ones to use for the actual shoot, while other, less perfect cones, were used for preparatory work.
I photographed this ice cream twice in two days to see if some small differences in the process would make any difference. The evening before the first photo shoot, I formed six scoops of ice cream, placed them on a shallow tray lined with parchment paper and put them in the freezer overnight. It's important to make enough room in your freezer and it's a good idea to lower the freezer temperature by 5 degrees so that the scoops freeze better. The next day I chose the background and props, set up my lighting, camera, tripod and other equipment. Now comes the most important step - the preparation of the set up, composition and camera angle, as well as lighting and exposure adjustment.
To make sure the process of photographing ice cream goes smoothly, it is best to set the scene and composition, and try out different camera angles and styling using an ice cream stand-in. In my case, the ice cream stand-ins were two pieces of crumpled brown paper bag, approximately the same color as caramel ice cream. In this step, I used some of the less perfect cones. This method was very helpful because it gave me enough time to think through and try out my composition and styling, as well as some variations, and choose the best camera angle. As your ice cream stand-in you can use anything that remotely resembles a scoop, but make sure it's roughly the same color as your real ice cream. This makes it much easier to imagine the final photo and make any last minute adjustments in the styling. When you're happy with your set up and you've adjusted your lighting and camera exposure, you're ready for the real deal.
I took two ice cream cones and put them into tall glasses so they stood upright. I took the ice cream scoops from the freezer and using a metal spatula I carefully placed the scoops onto the cones. I wasn't really satisfied with the result because it looked too staged and not quite natural. I took a small knife that I warmed up a bit between my fingers and began to gently push the edges of the scoops to achieve a more natural look. I wanted the scoops to look like they're naturally sitting on the cones. Now I was pleased with the result, but I realized that the ice cream has started to soften around the edges. It was only a matter of minutes before it will start to melt. I quickly took the ice cream to the set and carefully replaced the ice cream stand-ins with the real thing. One final look through the camera's view finder and the photo shoot started. The first shot was great and I was relieved. I then wanted to try out a couple of variations of the composition. After only couple of minutes of rearranging the ice cream and props, it started melting and dripping. This photo shoot yielded a total od 7 or 8 photos, of which only one was really good. The first one, of course.
I wasn't completely satisfied so I decided experiment to a bit more and give it another try. Since I had some leftover ice cream scoops and cones, I did the same as before. I placed the scoops onto the scones and used a small knife to shape them so they look more natural. Helene Dujardin recommends using a plain drinking straw to fix the problem. She suggests blowing gently on the edges of the scoop through the straw. The warmth of you breath will soften the edges and make them look more natural. However, my scoops were really flat in the bottom and the straw trick didn't do much, so I had to improvise. I put the cones into high glasses padded with some paper towels so they would stand upright and freezed them overnight.
The preparation process of the set up was exactly the same as the first time, only quicker because I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I did change the position of light slightly to get a different effect and adjusted my camera settings accordingly. When everything was ready, I replaced the stand-ins with the real ice cream and started shooting. This time, after the initial shot, I had much more time to try out some other variations and rearrange the composition a bit before the ice cream started melting. I captured quite a few images and was satisfied with 5 of them. The only problem with this series of photos was the fact the the ice cream was completely frozen and you can see a lot of tiny white crystals on its surface. But this was visible only in the first few images. As it started to get warm, the crystals disappeared.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you - this salted caramel ice cream is out of this world! The recipe was taken from David Lebovitz, otherwise known as the ice cream guru. His recipes are wonderful and work every time. David suggested incorporating caramel praline into the ice cream, but I decided to skip this step. This ice cream is just pure luscious, creamy, velvety goodness. It's rich but not too sweet or strong. I love it!
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
In a large bow make an ice bath by filling it halfway with ice cold water and ice. Insert a smaller bowl over the ice and pour 250ml of milk into it. Lay a strainer on top of it and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the rest of the milk (250ml) with heavy cream.
Whisk the yolks in the small bowl and gradually temper the warm caramel mixture over the yolks. Scrape the yolks back into the saucepan and cook until it turns into a custard like consistency. Scrape the bottom as you stir. It's best to use a silicone based spatula or a wooden spoon to stir the ice cream. The ideal temperature is 71-80°C, and a good indication is when it coats the back of a wooden spoon evenly.Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk sitting in the ice bath. Add the vanilla and then stir frequently until the mixture is completely cooled down. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you don't have an ice cream machine, transfer the cooled custard into a freezer friendly plastic or metal bowl and put it in the freezer.For the next 3 hours, check the ice cream every 30 minutes and stir it vigorously to break up any ice crystals. It's best to use a sturdy whisk or a spatula. Then leave it in the freezer until completely frozen and serve.