In a joint project with a downtown Menomonie business, University of Wisconsin-Stout students learned the art of food styling as part of a product photography class and created a legacy for the owner.
Students in the Product Photography class taught by Keif Oss, senior lecturer in the communication technologies department, stylized and photographed cupcakes, brownies and other desserts donated by Marion’s Legacy, a coffee shop near the campus, owned by Marion Shambeau.
“I think the photographs were beautiful,” Shambeau said. “They did a great job. I provided the food, but they created everything around it. They really captured the atmosphere of the shop by the items they added to the photos.” Some of those items included towels, napkins, dishes and a sprig of pine.
“It’s fun to be a part of seeing what students do,” Shambeau added. She plans to put the photos on Marion’s Legacy website.
Creating photographs for a client in the community made the project more interesting, said Cambria Sinclair, a junior apparel design and development major from DePere. “You don’t think of food as a product,” she said. “I loved doing the styling. That’s what I did right. The styling is so interesting because of the different variations you can come up with.”
Matt Sweeney, a senior majoring in graphic communications from Wausau, said before taking the class he had seen photographs of food all over social media but never really thought how those photos were set up. “I had a lot of fun with it,” he said. “I liked that the photos we were taking would actually be used by a business. It’s going somewhere and being seen by people. It gave it a lot more meaning. It is just a way different feeling if it is going into the community.”
Kelley Kat Mann, a UW-Stout 2015 alumna with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design and interactive media with a concentration in interaction design, freelances in photography and the video production of food products. She visited the class to show students the brushes and other items she uses to get food ready. Mann explained to the students how she uses matte white spoons that are not reflective, Sweeney said.
Mann, also a digital strategist for Mighty Spark Food Co. in Minneapolis, said in food styling every aspect from textures to styling and the set are controlled to create the best possible images.
In a food styling kit, she has spray bottles with oil and water to mimic a fresh look in food and a dulling spray to cut reflections. Tacky wax helps keep food items in place, she noted.
“People think a lot of the food is fake,” Mann said, noting Food and Drug Administration rules require real food to be used in advertisements. “Sometimes it is a struggle to make something that does not always look good, look good. It’s a lot more detailed than people think. It is very involved and crafted.”
She enjoyed returning to campus and working with students, particularly in a class that focuses on creating projects that students would do outside the university.
Once they stylized the food and took the photos, students had to tone and color-isolate the pictures, Oss said. “I thought the projects were awesome,” Oss said. “I want students to find out about the professional experience. I find students have more reverence for the project. I want them to experience getting feedback from a client outside the classroom.”
Taking the photos also gives students an opportunity to have them for their portfolios. “Presentation matters a lot,” Oss said. “It’s about the work. You’ve got to do it well. If you can come out of school with a portfolio that does not look like a class project, that is our goal.”
Mann said she was impressed by the class’s images and how they worked well together. “Every single image was crafted and designed by them,” Mann said. “They took ownership. They designed the images to look and feel like the coffee shop.”
Sinclair said the class has inspired her to do more photography. “I learned about shooting straight down at products, an angle I hadn’t used before,” she said.
UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes.
UW-Stout student Cambria Sinclair stylizes food for a photo shoot of foods from Marion’s Legacy in Menomonie.
Kelley Kat Mann
Students set up a photo shoot of desserts from Marion’s Legacy as part of a class project.
Marion’s Legacy owner Marion Shambeau said she is pleased with the photos the students took and believe they captured the atmosphere of her coffee shop.