As anyone who’s ever snapped a photo of their posh lunch and posted it on Facebook only to see a greasy-looking mess knows, there’s an art to taking appetising photographs of food. Joanne Murphy and Orla Neligan are the women behind Cornershop Productions, a creative company that specializes in photography, styling, publishing, event production and design. They’ve styled and shot the images in the gorgeous new Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cookbook, among other tasty tomes – but how do they do it?
How did you get into food styling and photography?
O: My background is actually editing and journalism but I’ve always been interested in photography and the creative process. I was editing SQ magazine for Superquinn and we didn’t have a budget for a stylist for the food shoots so I did it myself. From that, I was offered some work with Domini Kemp on the Irish Times food page and then her cookbook and it sort of snowballed from there.
J: I studied photography as part of my degree (visual communications). I was working as an Art Director for a new magazine, there was no budget so I ended up doing the majority of the photography myself. I met Domini Kemp, who was the magazine restaurant critic, and we would travel to different restaurants to photograph chefs and dishes and my love of food photography was born.
What are the most challenging aspects of the job?
O: I think one of the most challenging aspects is planning and styling for a book whereby you sometimes have 15 - 20 shots to do in a day and 10 shops to visit from which to pick items. So, the pressure’s on. In saying that, we love a challenge. We spend a lot of time preparing tear sheets and ideas for the different recipes so that can be time consuming but also very enjoyable.
J: Making the food look interesting even if it isn’t!
And the most fun?
O: Eating the food. Yum! We absolutely love our jobs, we work together a lot and understand the way each other works very well so we’re able to have a laugh if the soufflé collapses.
J: Getting to work with people who are passionate about what they do, and of course getting to sample all the food.
What misconceptions do people have about food photography?
O: I think people look at cookbooks and don’t always see what’s behind a photo. I know I was probably guilty of that before I started styling. But it’s a huge creative process, a lot of planning goes into every shot, down to the material, the surfaces, the teaspoons and what kind of salt you’re going to use!
J: There is a perception that the food is treated with a variety of varnishes and sprays etc to make it look good. I think this practice which was used a lot in the 70s and 80s has faded out. The key is to not let the food hang around for too long.
How important are props to a food shoot?
O: Imperative. We usually use up to 10 different shops so we have a huge array of items to choose from – you need that as sometimes you’ll try a set up and discover the plate or surface isn’t working so you have to redo it with another set up. Props set the tone, add atmosphere and often bring the pictures to life. Of course, the food has to look pretty good too.
Do you mostly work in a studio or on location?
Mostly on location. It’s important that for each project we vary the locations and backgrounds.
You can find out more about Orla and Joanne’s work at
www.cornershopproductions.4ormat.com and www.joanne-murphy.com.