Small is the New Big

STW Small is the new Big

If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know this trick. A small plate makes the food look bigger.

In food photography, this trick is one of my favorites. I discovered it pretty much by accident… looking back through my food photography references, no one really addresses the proportion of the food to the plate in detail. Knowing I should be using smaller plates earlier on would have been great information to have. I simply started using small dishes because they were cheaper.

STW Small is the new Big

In fact, almost all of my prop dishes, flatware and glasses are small. For plates, I use dessert plates or even saucers (the maroon dishes pictured are my real dinnerware, shown for size comparison). For glasses, juice glasses (and sometimes even tall shot glasses). My flatware, then, must be accordingly small, or the plates will look oddly sized. Dessert forks and spoons (and the occasional baby silveware!) work beautifully.

STW Small is the new Big STW Small is the new Big

A small plate allows the food to take the stage, not the plate. Heaping the food becomes simple. Piles stay in place.You can get close, showing the texture of the food, without having to crop out too much of the overall setting. Getting close also changes the perspective on the photo, and makes the food look new and interesting.

Take this example with flatware… most of the time I use the small dessert spoon that’s on the right in this photo. It’s really small… only about 5 inches long.

STW Small is the new Big

Here’s what it looks like with a bit of ice cream on it. It’s huge!

spoon full of heaven

Small dishes also allow you to work with smaller quantities of food, plus, as you start to collect a lot of dishes (they pile up fast…), they take up far less space. In fact, I can get all of my prop dishes (at least for now) into a single large drawer.

STW Small is the new Big

I’m always keeping my eye out for cool little plates and other props. One of my favorite places that has a great selection of small things is Cost Plus… small soy sauce trays, for example, make great bowls for side dishes. I also found this little three compartment dish, which is only about 6 inches long and great for shots of a variety of appetizers.

STW Small is the new Big

I also find a lot of my dishware at thrift stores… because I don’t need matching sets, it’s really cheap to pick up a dessert plate or two for a couple of bucks at Goodwill. Plus, the money given to the store goes back in to helping out the store.

(BTW – here’s another tip. Notice how grainy the photos are in todays post… that’s because I forgot to set my ISO setting back to 100 after shooting in low light. I really should have gone back and reshot everything… but since the post was just to show the size of the dishes, I decided to leave it this time. But, if you change your ISO setting ever, don’t forget to set it back to 100!)

  • http://= Gabriella True

    Thank you for this tip! Sounds like a great thing to follow especially on details.

    Too bad I can’t make mini Lamb of legs.

    My Life As A Reluctant Housewife

  • http://www.devletsah.com DevletÅŸah

    I always using this trick. Like this: http://www.devletsah.com/typo3temp/pics/7ef8c67a1c.jpg

    This remekin only 1 inch. And plate is Turkish coffee plate.

    I just found your blog a few days ago and I’ve already read through all the archives. I hope i am getting better.

  • http://stilllifewith.com L

    Thanks Gabriella. Yes, sometimes big is the new big too :-) Although mini legs of lamb would be very cute.

    Hi Devletsah – it’s quite handy, isn’t it. And your chocolate mouse (I think that’s what it is) looks heavenly. I think I’d want more than was in the tiny ramekin!

    Thanks for visiting!

  • http://mylifeasareluctanthousewife.blogspot.com/ Gabriella True

    I tried it! I piled ginger on a small plate. I don’t have the pic up yet but I will show it sometime. Not my finest pic but it was great to use a small plate and only chop a little ginger.

    My Life As A Reluctant Housewife

  • http://silvia.badall.net silviamira

    wow! this is why i want a dslr. you complain about the grainyness of these pictures; with my bridge camera, it would be 20 times worse!

    thanks for the tips! great post, as usual :)