How to style: Pancakes
Hey! If like us you think pancakes are for any day, all year round, you'll love these recipes and styling ideas.
We have pancakes most weekends, so trust me these recipes are tried and tested! They're not mine - so I won't copy and paste them to take credit, you can find them on the links.
We will focus more on the photography techniques and food styling tips to help you shoot pancakes this Shrove Tuesday and all year!
As with any styling & photography, the first question to explore is; what do we want people to notice first, stay focused on or remember from the image? With food styling we have the added dimension of flavour too!
So what's special about pancakes?
Classic Crepe Pancakes
Focusing on those delicate crispy edges
Shot on the 'Bleach' photography backdrop
With this shot I wanted to highlight the thin, delicate nature of these crepes and focus on the crispy edges. Leaving the taste buds to imagine the classic combo we all know; lemon and sprinkled sugar.
If I'd wanted to make them look fuller I could have given them some body by adding make up wedges, cotton wool or damp kitchen roll inside the folds.
But I kept it simple with the styling, flavours and colours, as well as dropping the aperture to really hone in on the front crispy edges. This technique can be very evocative and is used a lot by big 'food porn' brands to really hone in on the texture and flavour of the food.
I'm only including one shot for these, because to be frank, they're just not as fun as pancake stacks!
But they are delicious and there are some cute ways to style them.
Our go to recipe for the perfect, thin and crispy crepe-style pancake is by Holly Bell and you can find it here. If you make Holly's pancakes please let her know on Instagram @hollybellmummy !
You'll need a squeaky clean (or brand new in our house) non-stick, shallow edged frying pan for the perfect crepe.
American-style Fluffy Pancakes
Dark & moody, side lit
Shot on the 'Plum' photography backdrop
Our favourite recipe for really thick, fluffy pancakes is by Nigella Lawson and you can find it here - American Breakfast Pancakes.
They are easy to make, rise beautifully every time, are super airy and light and hold their shape well. You can also mess about with the recipe and swap milk for cold brew coffee like we did in the shot above. So good!
So why are pancake stacks more fun? Well you've got the height to play with of course allowing for a lower, front-on angle and lots of directions to explore with toppings and pouring shots.
Again - what is it you want people to remember from the shot? In the pouring shot above it was all about that chocolate sauce rippling on top and running down the front of the pancakes.
I wanted to highlight the contrasting textures in the food - fluffy pancakes, silky smooth chocolate sauce and crunchy walnuts. And the coffee beans are there as a visual clue that they are flavoured with coffee. Delish!
Using a soft side light is a good way to highlight texture - which in essence is the highs and lows of a shape on a minute scale.
So when the camera is front on, the side light skims the edges and leaves the dips in shadow.
Sometimes I might reflect light back into the dark side or front of the subject but in this capture I left it dark to keep the mood and emphasise how that cylinder shape would naturally act in the light.
I think it makes it feel really decadent and inviting!
To get the pour shot on my own I set the focus to manual and got it bang on the top of the pancakes, then used a 10 second timer and took a burst of 10 shots to get different levels of sauciness - because you only get 'one shot' (or ten) before its just plain messy!
Light & airy, back lit
Shot with the 'Patsy' photography backdrop
With this stack of pancakes I've gone for a back/side light to come through the toasted, flaked almonds on top. They are the photographic focus for my image and what I want people to think about - biting into the crunchy flakes and sweet maple syrup.
I've also bounced light back in from the right with a large white card and small silver reflector (just on the pancakes) so that the front of the stack is well lit and the shot feels light and airy.
The back light is subtle, just enough to catch the almonds nicely on top and create texture.
Have you played with back-lighting yet? It can be tricky but its magical when you get it right!
Overhead & monochromatic
Shot on the 'Whisper' photography backdrop
From above, what?! If you really want to highlight a beautiful ingredient or seasonal recipe, a pancake stack offers the perfect, elevated stage for you.
By popping your hero on top of the stack you are bringing it closer to the camera and on a shorter f-stop this means your image will fall out of focus around it. One of the best ways to frame and pull all the attention to your hero.
I've also used another technique here of leaving everything else in neutral tones so that the only colour is that of the food. Really pops doesn't it!
(I don't know why my images are uploading softer than shot sorry, they are in focus!)
Heart shaped with in camera vignetting
Shot on the 'Stan' photography backdrop
Using the same recipe by Nigella we made these heart pancakes for a Valentines shoot for a client. The trick to perfect hearts is to have two pans on the go - the heart shaped one to start with and create the shape, then a large frying pan to flip on to and cook the second side!
Here I've gone for a classic chocolate spread stack, keeping the styling simple and playing around with shaping light during the shot, in camera, rather than adding vignettes and gradients later when editing.
I could have done a lot more to make the chocolate spread ooze out and form better layers but it was a really quick play with some left over pancakes on a new backdrop design.
Fun to play around shaping the light though! I used a mixture of black cards to flag (block) the light and a silver reflector to put more detail back in on the right side.
What do you think? I hope you've found some ideas and inspiration to play around shooting pancakes!
If you plan to stack your pancakes it's best to let them cool down separately first so they don't go soggy with condensation. Some food stylists will use card between them to keep them perfectly flat too!
Do let me know if you try any of these techniques in your food photography, comment below or tag us on Instagram @blackvelvetstyling
Want to learn more about food styling? Check out our blog on Food Styling Kit Essentials next.
Thanks for reading!