Fiesta and Food Photography

I have been writing this blog for quite a while now and have learned a few things about the process. I’ve streamlined all of my steps in process as much as I can to fit the pace of daily posting, and while I think I generally do a decent job, there are many areas for improvement.

One of those is my photography.

I generally have made decisions around the pictures you see here for many reasons that don’t really have to do with the food.

  1. I am often moving fast in the kitchen and some pictures end up a little blurry.
  2. Any picture of something on the stove generally has some steam coming off of it and often causes the picture to be foggy.
  3. I use my iPhone to take pictures. I could use a better camera, but the iPhone is always on me, is quick to operate (which can be important in the middle of cooking), and with the use of Dropbox, I can easily move the pictures off for later processing.
  4. While I try to add as much lighting as I can (without it really being severe), the lighting in my kitchen is not the best. I don’t have any south facing windows in my kitchen (and the one in the dining room rarely gets direct sunlight due to the house next door), so I use my existing lights. With built-in floods and some under cabinet lighting, I get light, but not always the best lighting for pictures.
  5. I shrink the pictures I post here to save space. WordPress gives you a set amount of room (for free) and for the first year I didn’t resize my photos. I quickly filled up 80% of my allotted space. Since then I’ve shrunk them. When you shrink a photo, you do lose some quality. (Since the redesign in September, I typically now have one picture a little larger than the rest, but it is still shrunk from its original size)
  6. I don’t do a great job of organizing my pictures before I take them. For final plating, it is the plate that I eat from and the family is often sitting around the table waiting for me to be done with the picture so we can all eat.

This year I was able to go to the International Housewares Show in Chicago and while I was there, I spent quite a bit of time at the Fiesta booth. Fiesta is a collection of ceramic dinnerware made by the Homer Laughlin company that offers sets in a large variety of colors. (16 currently) and other patterns. The offer great plates, bowls, serving dishes, etc.. in some really interesting and unique colors.

While talking to their representative, I really started to think about how in great food photography, the dish color (and pattern) is an important component in making the whole thing look good. The people at Fiesta couldn’t agree more and to help me explore this a bit more, they sent me four dinner plates, each in a different color.

Photo Apr 16, 4 42 12 PM - Featured SizeI am not unfamiliar with Fiesta, as I currently have a bunch of the scarlet colored plates and bowls (handed down to me from the Ranting Mom). Fiesta sent over another scarlet plate, lapis (their newest color), tangerine and turquoise.

Photo Apr 16, 4 42 25 PM

Now that I had some different colors, it was time to explore. Please note that for the sets of pictures below, it was all the same dish, at the same time, with the same lighting conditions and the plate in the same place. I tried to take the picture from the same angle, so the plate color and that specific plating are the only differences.

Photo Apr 16, 5 05 45 PM copy

First try was a plate of pasta (whitish yellow), with some red sauce and large pieces of dark brown sausage. I brought out a white plate from an old set (not Fiesta). I thought that the white would be best as the sauce is red and that would be a great contrast, right? What happened was the sausage got washed out. The contrast was too high between the white plate and the dark sausage.

Photo Apr 16, 5 05 36 PM copy

The turquoise did not work here. Look at how everything has the same color (this was a little blurry too).

Photo Apr 16, 5 05 07 PM copy

The blue suffers some from the same that the turquoise had but the pasta looks a little better and there is more color definition. Still not right, though.

Photo Apr 16, 5 05 26 PM copy

The scarlet is good but it doesn’t look like there is ANY sauce on the noodles.

Photo Apr 16, 5 05 17 PM copy

I thought the tangerine was best. Good color definition and it looks good.

Photo Apr 17, 5 34 09 PM copy

Here is another dish with the red/white combination. This looks decent, but you don’t see as much definition in the meat.

Photo Apr 17, 5 34 33 PM copy

So much more color to the meat here. You can tell that tomatoes were used. I like this the best of the pair.

Photo Apr 19, 5 44 05 PM copy

Here is another challenge. Pork, potato salad (more red and white) and a collection of grilled veggies with some yellow, green, red. The turquoise does not do well for the veggies.

Photo Apr 19, 5 43 10 PM copy

The tangerine looks pretty good but still not enough definition in the veggies.

Photo Apr 19, 5 43 45 PM copy

I thought this was the best of the three. While not perfect (the potato salad is a little washed out), the yellows are better.

Photo Apr 23, 5 16 35 PM copy

Finally some green (edamame), white (mushroom risotto) and some brown (mushroom chicken). This works well for everything but the risotto.

Photo Apr 23, 5 16 24 PM copy

The risotto still doesn’t work here but the chicken is a little more defined.

Photo Apr 23, 5 16 30 PM copy

This works well for the risotto and for the rest.

Photo Apr 26, 5 37 42 PM copy

This dish had chickpeas (tan), eggs (white and yellow) and spinach (green). Quite a challenge. The tangerine didn’t work for me.

Photo Apr 26, 5 37 32 PM copy

The yellows worked here and the tans. The greens seemed darker.

Photo Apr 26, 5 37 55 PM copy

Sometimes white still can be best.

I know I can improve my food photography and will likely go out and buy some additional colors of Fiesta to best match the dish at hand. It is a good choice for any foodie blogger. Check out the great dinnerware that Fiesta offers and as they sell individual pieces, you too can have a variety. In fact, when I now have four different colors set out on the table, it really is a great look.

All the dishes you see above will be in future posts.

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Categories: Recipes

Author:The Ranting Chef

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13 Comments on “Fiesta and Food Photography”

  1. April 29, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    Reblogged this on Jeff Parker Cooks and commented:
    As a professional food stylist, I know how important dishware and prop selection can make in the success of an invitingly delicious photo. The Ranting Chef shares his experience…


  2. April 29, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Excellent post, your photos were quite helpful!


  3. April 29, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    This was a really nice post and observations. I hope you don’t mind that I reblogged. Cheers!


  4. Joni MacDougall
    April 29, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Your post reminds me of my Color Theory class! Very interesting.


  5. April 29, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Awesome pictures . Loved it


  6. April 29, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    My go to dish for summer entertaining is London broil, prawns, grilled peppers and a rice pilaf. I have two cobalt blue serving pieces, a bowl and a platter. I put the rice in the bowl and arrange the sliced meat with the shrimp and peppers on the platter. The bright colors in the peppers, along with the contrast between the rice and the blue bowl really make the colors pop. It really adds to the presentation.


  7. April 29, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    I recently thought the same and bought some new plates that are different shapes and colours. Love your blog.


  8. April 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Interesting post. i’ve played with colours too but have come back to white or cream to show off the food best. Black is often good too. 🙂


  9. April 29, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    Love this! For my birthday, my sister gave me an assortment of plates – different sizes, colors and styles – just to take blog photos. It can totally make a difference in how your food photos turn out!


  10. April 29, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    This is a good post. As someone who eats with her eyes first, I try to take clear, well-lit photos that are appetizing to me, and (hopefully) to others as well. Over time I’ve tried to take note of the things that seem to work for me, and do them consistently for more predictable results. One of those is using classic white plates for just about everything. I think it provides a nice, clean background that doesn’t compete with the food. Also, I don’t have to worry about plating something, finding out it doesn’t look good against, say, a green plate, and then needing to replate it. Like you, the pics are nearly always of my own plate that I’m photographing before I eat, and ain’t nobody got time to replate, lol.


  11. April 30, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    I don’t know how you do it – meaning cook for the family and posting the recipe. I have a hard time doing that, although I have posted a few recipes which I photographed while hungry guests were waiting. My photos from those time were certain NOT stellar…. I’m always very impressed how often you post – and your recipes and photos are always good!! On another note, I’ve always loved all kinds of bowls and platters etc. and have quite a few. And, since starting my blog, I’ve been finding lots of dishware in both discount stores and places like Salvation Army etc.! Now my problem is…. finding a place for all of them!! (My favorite photo from this post is the spaghetti with the blue fiesta ware. The pasta and sauce looks sooo good!)


  12. May 1, 2014 at 12:30 am #

    The main thing I’ve gathered from this blog post is that photographing food can be complicated. Right now I have white dishes and bowls, and my food photos have been less than inspiring. I suspect the addition of other colors would help, but I am not sure that is where I want to spend my time, effort and money. Right now, I am focusing on words and ideas. The pictures may come later. Thank you for your insights.



  1. Fiesta Dinner Ware and Salt Block Salmon with Mustard Dill Glaze | Rantings of an Amateur Chef - April 29, 2015

    […] I posted about using different colors of the Fiesta Dinnerware with food photography (check it out here). After visiting their booth at the International Housewares Association in March, the great folks […]


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