Lesson 16 – Do the Dishes

Dishes & Plates

Dishes. Rather Plates. Perhaps the single most important prop in food photography.

Today we talk about them.

So let's jump right to the good stuff...

If you are new to food photography, white plates are a simple and fastest way to improve your food photography.

White plates are distraction free, they don't conflict with the food and are versatile. White plates can be used in almost all food settings.

If you were to buy just one plate, I’d recommend you to buy white colored plate.

Now remember, not all white is not same white. Some white plates are a little colder in tone, some are warmer. Regardless of the tone, you can’t go wrong with white plates, specially when you are just starting your props collection.

If you already have a white plate what next? My next color was a lighter blue and green.  Usually pastels and light colors work best for many photos. But again, dark plates will work too. Black plates can work in some situations. I haven’t used that black plate since I bought it couple of years ago.

After color,  consider the material of plates too. I have used ceramic, plastic, acrylic and even disposable plates. Scratches are a big problem on plastics and acrylics and at the same time they can look a bit… uh cheap.

You don’t want to be in a situation when you have plated the food, set the scenes and ready to shoot a photo and you realize that those scratches on the plate are looking awful in the camera.

Some plates come with patterns. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Those multicolored patterns on border of the plates. Yeah!! those. Avoid them. Even if the plate looks amazingly colorful in itself, it is a best bet to avoid those plates. You can safely make this decision to never buy those plates for food photography.

Don’t buy this plate

Except for two or three situations, in most cases, these plates are distraction. Don’t use them.

On the other hand, there are plates that have patterns but these patterns are of same color, as the plate itself. These plates speak “elegance” and these are very much suitable for a story that communicates classy or elegance.

As you are planning your food photo and deciding about the plate to use, try putting the food in different dishes and it will make things very clear for you and decision will be simple.

Some time back, I took some photographs of bruschetta at home and tried to experiment with different plates. The result was quite different than what I expected. I had thought that this will look better on a certain colored plate, but it turned out that I liked a completely different plate – one that I hadn’t thought about.

Take a look at these photos:





Did you notice the food itself? How did the color of the food change depending on the plate color? Did you also notice the burnt edges? Which color plate amplify it? Which color minimizes it?

The plate color and pattern are important considerations when making food photos. When you do the assignment today, make sure you select your plates carefully.

Today’s Assignment

Estimated time: 30 mins (or depending on how organized your prop storage is)

Step 1 – Today again, select the subject. Ideally use the same food subject, you have been using last couple of days. But also remember choose something that can be plated easily.

Step 2  – Use any plate you think would be the best for this photograph.

Step 3 – Now change the plate and take another photograph.

Step 4 – If you have other plates that are different in color, pattern or shape, take photos on them.

Step 5– Again, compare these photos just like you did in previous assignments. Recall your story and the specific elements we discussed earlier. Which one of these photos compares closely with your story?

Step 6 – Upload the best photo/s on Lesson 16 Album on the new Facebook Group. If you are not a member of the facebook group, you will not be able to view the album. Request access from the FB Group page.

  • Misky

    Here’s a plum and nut cake that I made yesterday, placed on a plate with a green rim, and today’s lunch, put into a white bowl.

  • Unfortunately, I only have white dishes here so I will have to skip this one.

  • Here’s a new plating idea I tried where I stacked two plates on top of each other instead of just using the white plates like I normally would. I actually really like the way it turned out!

  • Catharina Linkenbach

    so, I was very fascinated by a bunch of beetroots I spotted in the market… the first to don’t really have anything to do with today’s assignment, but I wanted to add them here so you can see where I started from. I chose the blue plate in the end, not a white one, because although the colours pop nicely on a white plate I wanted to underline the cheerfulness and vibrance of the colours in the salad…