Food Photography

When You’re Sh*t Outta Luck, Shoot on the Air Conditioner

Food Photography, and photography in general is as much about problem solving as it is about creativity and beauty. I have been travelling a lot lately, and tend to fall back on the easy excuse of ‘but I don’t have any of my props or surfaces with me’. I am sure you’ve all experienced the serious lack of ‘usable’ hotel props for food photography that you’d find in your average hotel room. Funnily enough, this was something a new reader, Marisa Franca mentioned in a blog comment as being a hurdle for her.

So how do you find meaningful hotel props for food photography when you’re travelling? The answer is simple.

There is always something, you just have to be open to it. The more you look, the more you see.

I totally faced this mini crisis last month whilst I was on the Sunshine Coast with my family taking a week’s vacation. A quick Google revealed that I would indeed be staying quiet close to Tome Bakery, an Instagram account that I have admired and followed for some time now. Surely worth putting onto the itinerary list for the week.

In between a morning hike and a BBQ lunch on the beach followed by a swim, we made a trip to Tome. Quick in, out. (For those of you who don’t know, I am totally bossy and organise my family to the point where they don’t know what to do with themselves when I don’t tell them what we’re up to next). We ordered a few cakes and the best Lamington hot drink I think I’ll ever have – which is hot chocolate with coconut milk. Pressed for time, I wasn’t able to take any pics of the cakes before lunch and took home the goodies in individual take-away boxes.

After a swim and steak on the BBQ, with cooked Pineapple, I headed to the apartment we were staying in to shoot the gorgeous, sticky, gooey delights I’d been dreaming about since the day I first came across their IG. Delight quickly turned into panic – WHAT THE HECK WAS I GOING TO SHOOT THEM ON?

Two Loves Studio Hotel Props for Food Photography

Two Loves Studio Hotel Props for Food Photography

As I got out the cakes and the camera, Marisa’s words were going through my head and I literally thought I was going to have to shoot the cakes on the balcony floor tiles for the lack of ANYTHING to shoot on. There must be something I can use. Nope, not here. Hmm, not here either. As I scoured the apartment looking at what bed side tables weren’t screwed onto the wall, I thought ‘surely there is a nice plate somewhere with plastic fruit covered in dust?’ No luck there either.

At this point I was facing having to either, a) shooting on the slightly wet tiles on the balcony floor, b) use a the rusted, paint chipped outdoor furniture (and not chipped in a ‘oh, vintage’ kinda way), c) putting a plain white plate on their Hawaiian inspired cane furniture. Which option did you choose, I hear you say? NONE! I refused to accept that I couldn’t find anything that was do these little cakes justice.

Now sh*t was getting serious. I had to switch gears and use look for shapes. Bingo. Next to the stove top was that little shallow box with compartments that houses the complimentary tea, coffee and sugar. (By now I was a little frantic and the humidity was for sure doing something gross to the shine on the chocolate ganache). I hastily tipped out the tea and coffee sachets and gave the bottom of the box a wipe down. ‘Great! This will fit two cakes nicely’. Now I headed for the light. The balcony was covered in white tiles and white concrete, making for an amazing light box. In the corner against a well lit wall there was the grimey air conditioning unit. ‘Oh, just do it’.

So I set up my little box, cakes on top, and shot at the shallowest depth of field I could manage (to limit the visibility of the state of the air conditioner)! And it came out just as I had imaged. A interesting surface that added to the shot instead of taking it over, a complimentary colour to allow the cakes to really pop. Feeling a sense of accomplishment, I enticed my sister to jump in the front of the camera for a few more shots. Hotel props for food photography ain’t so bad!

The moral of the story? Don’t take no for an answer. If you look hard enough, you will find something. There is always something, you just have to be open to it.

Finding Food Photography Props In Your Hotel Room

Two Loves Studio Hotel Props for Food Photography

Oh and by the way, beacuse I know you want to ask – these cakes are:

Nutella Cheesecake and Raspberry Filled Chocolate Brownie.


Sh*t Outta Luck? Shoot on The Air Conditioner | We've all been there. On holidays, wanting to take pictures of food in our hotel rooms. So how do you find meaning full props to shoot on in your hotel room? Click to find out.

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  • Reply Marisa Franca @ All Our Way April 7, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    The minute I saw the title of your post I knew it was meant for me 🙂 Little did I know you’d mention me!! Thank you Rachael! You’ve given me some hope that I can get some ideas for surfaces and backdrops and NOT be tunnel visioned. We’re home for a month then off again for another month 🙁 I plan on being prepared with at least some white cloth backdrops. I’ve used white flannel before (bed sheet) and it turned out great. Soft surface and no shine. BTW, may I borrow your sister?? Have a great weekend — back to studying your shots!

    • Reply Rachel April 12, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Such a nice little surprise! I knew you’d like that. This was a post for you and also for me and everyone else that feels that same. It was great that you had mentioned it as it really stuck out for me this time. I was just thinking the whole time, there has to be something!!! I also took a few little props with me, but they never seem to be right. Maybe I also needed to venture out in the open away from the hotel? But alas, it was raining a lot at the time. No one wants soggy cake, even at the cost of a good pic!

  • Reply Sarah @ Wandercooks April 19, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Nice question Marisa! We dealt with this frequently on our big trip.

    I think my favourite example of this was in Bali, Indonesia. We had to get a recipe out and I was running around the room and balcony trying to think of anything I could use. Finally, I spied the large shallow wooden dish that was holding all the remote controls for the tv, air-con etc. Perfect. With a quick wipe down, we set the food on it and it looked good…but the tiled floor wasn’t doing it any justice. Then I had an idea with the block-out curtains, I closed them until they only shed a tiny bit of light, with the sheer curtain behind it to act as a diffuser. Next, I had Laura hold the wooden dish, but stand in the darkness. Looking at my first shot to the final one was amazing. Sarah: 1, Hotel: 0.

    PS. How was the Nutella Cheesecake?

    • Reply Rachel April 21, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      I’d love to see this image! Maybe share a link? Nutella Cheesecake was amazing. So, so rich. I could have eaten a quarter of it and been satisfied!

  • Reply Sarah and Laura @ Wandercooks April 24, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Haha! Thanks 🙂 that would be such a good challenge as a photo series actually! Hmmm… Might have a new goal for next month I think.

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