My plate looks fat! – Ricotta and white bean salad

When I read about Donna Hay challenge at JungleFrog-cooking blog I was so excited. About a year ago I found a Flickr group that did the same thing. I tried only once and then the challenge was over. So this time I knew I needed to get myself together and do my best.

How does it work?
Basically a photo is picked every month from Donna Hay magazine (this month’s photo is by Chris Court). The challenge is to replicate the photo. So you make a dish, style it and take a picture. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s great way to learn. Trying to achieve exact output gives you a knowledge what elements of which elements of photography and styling are your Achilles’ heel.
I read a few comments by people who feared that this kind of challenge maight teach you copycat, and thought you should find your own style. I don’t think there is risk.
For beginners like me, it’s a great way to learn the basics and explore the food photography.
The photo and recipe that Simone has chosen looked pretty simple. After some chopping in the beginning, you could focused on taking photos. I knew that working with natural light would be tricky, but I didn’t think that it would be such a challenge!
It was a cloudy afternoon. I set up my boyfriend’s new tripod. I put a plate (that I bought specially for this photo shot) and a fork on my white cupboard (which I brought in from my bedroom). I took the first photo. And… my plate looked fat! It wasn’t oblong; it was almost circle. Did I take the picture from right angle? I don’t know, it should probably have been taken from a more overhead angle. But I focused on the light. Surprisingly, there was too much light and shadows were too dark. I put the salad on the plate and decided to fight. I used some white foam to lighten up the shadows, and it worked, but just a little bit. I changed the position of the plate. I changed the position of the fork. The fork reflected the light. It shouldn’t! How can you convince a fork not too do it? I took plenty of photos. There wasn’t much difference.
In post-processing the light got me one more time. When is white white? Which white is whiter? Donna’s photo is slightly blue, but tomatoes still pop up with their red colours. Grrr…

donna's hay challenge

So you see, that wasn’t easy. I’m still left with many unanswered questions.
Am I happy with the result? I would say not really. I’m glad I’ve tried, but I should have tried more angles, and I could have taken pictures at different times to check how light was changing. I should find something to defuse light, I don’t even have white sheet! I like  the photo. I wouldn’t have chosen this kind of stylisation by myself.
And what do you think about my work? Any tips?

Ricotta and white bean salad

Ricotta and white bean salad

Recipe from Donna Hay
Serves 2

  • 400 g cannellini beans (or white beans, 1 can)
  • 1 red onion (small)
  • 30 g black olives (pitted and halved)
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley (leaves only)
  • 1-2 red chili (small and sliced)
  • 125 g cherry tomatoes (halved) seasalt black pepper (cracked)
  • 100 g ricotta (fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Place the beans, onion, olives, parsley, chilli, tomato, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss gently to combine. Divide between serving plates and top with fresh ricotta.

Combine the oil and vinegar and spoon over the salad to serve.