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Chapter 5. Prop Styling: Who’s Doing the... > A Visual Comparison of Prop Styles

A Visual Comparison of Prop Styles

In the past, food photographers emphasized a very refined, formal approach to design. Stylists dressed tables with multiple layers of fabric, linens, and ornate decorations that suggested luxury and elegance. In recent years, however, photographers and stylists have moved away from this look. Today’s magazines, advertisements, and cookbooks emphasize simplicity, natural beauty, and an organic feeling. Photographers shoot at close range, zeroing in on a specific ingredient or element of a dish. As a result, the prop stylist must be able to determine which props work best with very small elements of food, as well as larger scenes. The following examples illustrate differences in approaches to prop styling.

Poached Pears

  1. Photographed nearly 20 years ago, this shot portrays the old-fashioned style of dressing a table using a hand-painted canvas as the surface and backdrop. The antique dishes and flatware underscored the muted tones and regal setting. Although this approach was typical of the time in which it was done, looking at the image today we can understand that the pears are lost in the photograph, and not the main focus of the shot.

  2. This more-recent shot shows only a single serving, with minimal propping and contrasting color to set off the pear. The modern dishware and horizontal lines in the linen lend texture to the photograph. The cinnamon sticks add a balance of natural ingredients, the perfect touch to create this contemporary feeling.


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