THE CHALLENGE A local restaurant has decided to run a special chocolate menu for the next month. They need something SCREAMS Chocolate!!! They are featuring chocolate candies, pie, cake, ice cream, and specialties. Chocolate. Final image is to be a SQUARE.
CONCEPT I brainstormed and came up with the idea of a woman surrounded by a table laden with chocolate desserts of every type imaginable. I wanted to create the look of a woman in a restaurant lost in her own little world of chocolate/indulgence. I wanted it to feel rich and golden. I wanted this to appeal more to women than to men. I wanted it to look sexy but in a manner that would appeal to women. I veered away from the typical men’s magazine sultry come hither expression and instead I resolved to make it look like a woman happily lost in chocolate bliss and fantasy. As I often do when created conceptual images, I sketched out my vision of what the final frame might look like to use as reference.
SHOPPING Once I had nailed the concept, I headed to the local monthly Antique Market to fetch props that could help make my vision a reality. I searched out items that featured accents in gold. I managed to assemble a variety of dessert holders at different heights by being creative with my finds. For example, turning goblets, even a large glass oil lamp, upside down and using them as plate stands. I found gold-rimmed glasses that made fantastic bowls and even a golden pearlescent cup and saucer that made a fun presentation for the chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream. I also picked up some lining fabric for the backdrop that I figured would pick up the light nicely.
PRE PRO PLANNING When I am working with a team on a collaborative test shoot, it is always my goal to work in as professional a way as possible and to get the team excited about taking part. The last thing I want is a no show, so I don't hesitate to put my own enthusiasm, committment and organization skills on display in advance of shoot day. Here is an example of what one of my call sheets might look like. I endeavour to pre-empt any questions the team members might have and get everyone on the same page in understanding the look we are going for.
SET UP & PRACTICE The day before the shoot, I set up my props and practiced lighting set up and composition. The final image was created using two speed lights:, The first was positioned over head of the model in a Westcott Rapidbox Octa. The second light, on low power, was set on the floor and positioned just in front of the back curtains, pointing upwards to give them a little definition.
CHAOS IN THE KITCHEN All of the food you 'see' in the final image was real, but behind the scenes I will admit that some cost saving measures were taken. Polystyrene layer cake anyone? At any good craft store you can purchase fake cake forms, used by cake decorators for practicing icing. So now you know - we had camera-facing fondant, but the model's view from behind was a little more frugal, there was no point covering the parts we wouldn't see. The chocolate strawberries were the real deal, I had to make sure there was something delicious at hand for the model to eat and get messy with...
BEHIND THE SCENES During the shoot, Hair and Make Up artist Hayley Fenech makes some adjustments to model Lissette Maravilla
CHOCOLATE CHOICES Once I had my favourite picks from the session laid out in front of me in Lightroom, trying to decide which would be my hero shot wasn't easy. Eventually the middle selection won out, but only after I resolved to give Lissette a different arm. Below left is the unedited selection, straight out of the camera, on the right is the final image with the replacement arm.
Thanks to the crew: Hair and Maekup Artist Hayley Fenech of Hayley Noel Artistry and model Lissette Maravilla.
How have you photographed chocolate? Share your chocolate shoot tips, tricks or experiences in the comments below. If you'd rather be eating chocolate than photographing it, you are welcome to just say hi or share your favourite chocolate bar!