I’m one of those people that believed that fancy props made pictures beautiful. Like many of us, my journey with food photography started by falling for jaw dropping and drool worthy pictures of great photographers. No day passed without looking at a bunch of their photographs. I gazed at their work for hours and envied them first for the props they could find and afford :). Obviously, their subjects were the first to catch my attention, but my next and last stop was the props and my eyes knew no place else to go. They were stuck there forever. If I look at those pictures again today, I’ll have a million things to learn from them, but a few years ago, it was all about props. According to me, the bowls, napkins, silverware, glassware, backgrounds, trays and plates were the ones that weaved magic in those pictures.
So, I had to start collecting props. I was always on a constant lookout for cool, attractive and unique articles that I could use in my pictures. Wherever I went, whatever was the purpose of my visit, prop hunt was always in the agenda. Props started to become one of my precious possessions and I dedicated an entire closet to house them. Friends and family that have been around me in the recent years will acknowledge this with a big nod. Thankfully, I’m a person that thinks at least twice before spending. That was the only guardrail that kept me sane. Well, there is some exaggeration in my writing, but you know what I’m talking about.
While the propoholism (that isn’t a word for sure) continued, my voracity to observe and the persistence to learn also accompanied, fortunately. I gained exposure to the work of several great artists and became part of many forums where they exchanged views, critiqued pictures and recognized brilliant work. The plethora of educational materials on the Internet also helped me land on a proper growth trajectory. I do not know how many years it could take for me to make pictures like my idols, but I’m certainly happy about my learning journey so far. The fact that I have started to understand light, appreciate different compositions and emulate them sometimes gives me immense satisfaction.
However, as they say, old habits seldom die and mine is not an exception too. I continue to have a weakness for props and it is one of my simple pleasures of life. When my husband raises his eyebrows over my propoholic behavior, I’ll counter that by saying “I don’t drink coffee, I buy props” ;). He is a big coffee addict(Starbucks) and I’m a no beverage person. Equation balanced :).
Having started the topic about props, I wanted to trigger a conversation with you my fellow bloggers about your props and their sources. Where do you find them? What are your creative/cost effective ways of procuring them? I’ve given my list for you below and I can’t wait to hear from you.
Background boards and paints – Home Depot
Ceramics and glassware – Crate and Barrel, Goodwill, IKEA, Pier One Imports, Target
Table linen and other fabrics – JoAnn, IKEA
Vintage/Vintage like items – Goodwill, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx
Silverware – Goodwill, Crate and Barrel, HomeGoods
Goodwill thrift store is a great place to buy fabulous stuff at literally throwaway prices. Believe me, you can bring home a truck load of exquisite and unique props for ten-twenty dollars. My vintage collection (although small) is primarily from there. I do shop in India for ethnic cook/serve ware whenever I find an opportunity. Also, I do not hesitate to raid the kitchen of friends and families to shamelessly confiscate rare finds :).
Now, that’s my props story, what is yours?
Prep Time : 5 mins
Cook Time: 10-15 mins
Serves : 2-4
2 cups cubed paneer
1 cup diced green peppers
1 cup diced red peppers
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp tandoori masala
1 1/2 tsp red chili powder
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp kasuri methi
In a large/wide mixing bowl toss all the ingredients (except oil and kasuri methi) together nicely until the paneer and veggies are coated well.
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet and add kasuri methi and saute for a quick second or two. Immediately, add the spice coated veggies and paneer. Spread them well in the pan allowing every piece to be in contact with the pan and wait until they get seared (2-4 mins). Toss to allow all other sides to get seared (or even charred) nice and dark.
Remove from the skillet and serve warm.
1. As an appetizer with mint chutney
2. In Kati Rolls and Tacos with thinly sliced red onions, shredded lettuce and cilantro
3. As a side dish for rotis, parathas and rice
1. You can substitute Paneer with tofu/boiled potatoes to make it vegan
2. Cook the paneer and veggies under medium-high heat to get a nice sear on them without overcooking the vegetables
3. There is absolutely no need to marinate the paneer/veggies and you can cook them as soon as they are coated with the spices
4. You can coat them ahead of time and refrigerate. Pull out from the fridge and saute just before serving
5. You can alter the chili powder quantity to suit your heat tolerance