As summer comes everyone is craving for fresh recipes: green salads, tomatoes and milky mozzarella, juicy wedges of watermelon just out of the fridge and ice-cream, tons of ice-cream, gelato, popsicles and granitas.
The change of weather and light are a blessing for a food photographer, especially if you shoot with natural light as you’ll find yourself with more hours up your sleeve. The atmosphere usually changes, gearing toward bright colourful sets and backdrops. All is fabulous until that moment when you have to shoot an ice-cream. You must be quick, efficient, ready and precise, otherwise your fabulous scoop of gelato will swiftly become an unappetizing melted puddle.
The first tip is to start well in advance, preferably the day before. Start planning your shot and choose its mood. Make a rough sketch of how you want to capture your ice-cream, so that it will be easy to select the props you are going to use. If possible, freeze them. Glasses and cups, spoons, saucers, small trays and even marble slabs. If they fit into your freezer stash them there for a few hours or, even better, overnight, so that they day after they will help you to keep your set cold.
Scoop your ice-cream into a tray lined with cling film and freeze it, too. This will extend the time available to capture your photo of a few priceless minutes.
When it is time to capture your photo, organize your set with similar props to the ones you have chosen, mock the ice-cream, the hero of the photo, with a stand-in: an empty bowl and a ball of paper of the same colour of your ice-cream would do. This will help you to adjust the lightning setup of your scene. Stay far from the window if you are in the peak of the day and the sun is too hot. If you do not use natural light, opt for strobes or, even better, led lights, which won’t melt the food.
The Manfrotto LED Light Lumimuse, paired with the PIXI Mini Tripod, is perfect especially if you are on the go and if you want to capture a still life of an ice-cream. Diffuse the light or simply keep it slightly far from the hero of your shot to have softer shadows.
When your set is ready and the lightning setup has been decided, substitute the props with the selected ones, which will be icing-cold in the freezer. Arrange the ice-cream shots and pay attention not to touch them with your fingers, otherwise you’ll leave your fingerprints on the ice-cream. Wait from a few seconds to a few minutes to give time to the ice-cream to slightly melt to become more natural and take your perfect shot.
Be creative with your shots. Shoot your ice-cream not only into nice bowls or glasses, but try also with saucers, wafer cones, loaf-cake pans, paper cups, marble slabs and even parchment paper.
Do not forget the story you want to tell, so select props which can enhance the mood of your shot: modern and minimalist, timeless and elegant, rustic or colourful and playful for kids. Backdrops, fabric, cutlery and colours should all fall under the same mood.
Use frozen or fresh fruit, nuts, fresh herbs, chocolate shavings, chocolate chips, biscotti or cookies to ass texture to your ice-cream. They will help you also to better suggest which is the flavour of your ice-cream.
Embrace the mess. After you have taken home your shot, play with the ingredients. Let the ice-cream slightly melt and capture a messy photo, sometimes they work even better.