Co-founders of Edible Communities, Tracy Ryder and Carole Topalian, share their tips for capturing seasonal produce.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds and what inspired you to start the whole Edible empire?
A: We owned a graphic design and marketing firm where we did a lot of publication design for other companies as well as corporate identities, photography, website design and marketing campaigns. After twelve years running our creative agency, we decided to create a magazine for ourselves based on subject matter we really cared about and were interested in so we launched “Edible Ojai,” the first of the now-ninety Edible magazines across the United States and Canada.
Q: I know that Carole’s photos have been in most if not all of the Edible publications. Since they are seasonal magazines with very topical themes for each area, it must be a challenge to get images of farm fresh produce at the correct time to make printing deadlines. Can you talk to us about your process to us? How far in advance do you have to shoot? Do you shoot on locations around the country? Do you keep a stock image database that you can use?
A: Yes, you’re correct. It’s challenging to stay on top of seasonality when deadlines come up prior to the time when things would be at their peak of ripeness. The only way around it is to anticipate and to think long-term. Now, after fourteen years of shooting for Edible magazines we have an archive of nearly 60,000 images that are stored online and are available to all of the publications to use at any time — the images include every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable and all were photographed at the height of their season but it wasn’t always that way. There were lots of times during the early years where we would have to work a lot harder at styling because we would need something like pears in February and they simply weren’t available.
Q: What are your tips and tricks for creating the best, most interesting and freshest looking images of fruits, vegetables & plants?
A: Fortunately, fruits, vegetables and plants are beautiful things all on their own so there really isn’t a lot of hard work that goest into making them look terrific. Mainly, it’s important to remember that simplicity when it comes to natural subjects is sometimes best. Find the hero of the shot and focus on that. There’s no need for complicated styling or set ups, and if you’re lucky enough to be shooting these things in season, then it’s all that much easier.
We also like using wood and stone or an old painted table in terms of backgrounds. Natural looking settings go very well with fruits and vegetables and they feel so inviting. Light is really the most important aspect of all when it comes to photographing produce, plants and flowers in season. Natural light will always give you the best image. We tend to stick to the “less is more” philosophy when it comes to our photography. We like images that tell the true story of the thing we are photographing. No tricks. Just good natural light and the best possible ingredients (which, by the way, holds true for cooking and eating them too)!
Excerpted from the Summer 2016 edition of Visions, the IACP Food Photographers and Stylists newsletter. Read the full issue here.