I wouldn’t eat that…

… before I take a picture of it! Cooking with family is one of my earliest and most fond memories. There is something about food, not just the taste, but even the preparation that I find comforting. When I was five years old, I would watch Julia Child and wish so much that I could be a guest at her decorated table. If invited, I would even bring the wine.

Soon curiosity lead me into the kitchen where my parents eagerly taught me basics. First, was learning to stir things like eggs, or ratatouille. Then making meatballs, and hamburgers. By the time I reached junior high, I mastered baked Alaskan, béchamel sauce, the perfect steak, and homemade French fries. While my roommates in college where living on Jimmy John’s sub sandwiches and pop tarts, I would sit down and with white-gloved hands, I’d  eat my signature dish, chicken piccata.

Now, my passion for food has developed into food styling … not easy! Rarely is food photo friendly. Just like a model, the stuff on your plate isn’t really a natural beauty.  Think about the heat from photo lights that can kill food on set. Also, consider your average bag of something like potato chips. Discovering a perfect chip in a bag is  sometimes harder than finding a snack that looks like the Virgin Mary. Not all food photography is honest. Good styling requires a skill to doctor up products to give them a real wow factor. Sometimes that means using glue, glycerin, searing meat for a brown color (but beware it is raw inside), substituting Crisco and mashed potato flakes to make ice cream,  or use a blowtorch to brown meats and casseroles that are barely roasted, etc.

With the advancements in digital photography, stylists now have an advantage of working with more natural food.  Photography is faster so food won’t die on set like it did in the past. Personally, I like to cook things as real as they are and work with the natural beauty and caramelization that occurs.

Knife skills, piping, and color balance are all essential. So is speed and the ability to squeeze into a small set.

In the constrained and humble surroundings of my modest dining room, my husband, photographer Greg Neise and I have started a photo project shooting food. We’ve been working with natural light, and two small strobes. It’s been a challenge to keep the backgrounds unique for each shot. Take a look at what we’ve done in our little studio.

I always liked how Julia Child cooked with lots of wine and seemed to be having fun on her show. We do the same thing and incorporate cocktails into shots. What’s better than celebrating life with a great meal and drink? I want my shots to convey a feeling of good times! This life after all, is my party.

Champagne and caviar tray.
Soft-boiled eggs with toast points, bacon-wrapped peaches and Bellinis.
Mini Manhattans
Mini bread bowl with spaghetti and sauce, topped with a meatball.
Mini reubens atop potato-leek soup shots.
3 mango tarts, by Maggie's Creations Pâtisserie.
Macarons by Maggie's Creations Pâtisserie.




  • Mary

    Nice work, Erin.

  • Judie Ghalioungui

    I’m amazed! Very beautiful work……