Book Club: Plate to Pixel Review

I just joined a new online book club, called the Kitchen Reader. There is a new book every month, each book is related to food, and members write a review on their blog at the end of the month. For September, this book was Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin of the blog Tartlette. I don’t do very much recipe photography from my cooking- more often it’s food while I’m out at a restaurant or event- but I was sure there were still tidbits I could learn, So here’s my Plate to Pixel Review!

cover of the book Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin of the blog Tartlette

This book is written with the voice of hands on experience, yet also casual and conversationally that keeps a reader engaged like being taught by a friend. She often tells an anecdote from her past, and there are plenty of pictures (she never goes 4 pages without a photo) to help illustrate her points, including showing the differences between different options. I find this a great way of learning, peppering information with lots of examples.

She devotes 2 of the 8 chapters to explaining camera basics, clearly trying to coax the beginning photographer using a point and shoot from the automatic mode by explaining all the flexibility and power the equipment can give you. Next, 2 chapters (one on natural light, and one on artificial light) explain how to work with the next most controllable part of food photography. It was these two chapters unfortunately that I found the most disappointing, as she talks about diffusing and reflecting or putting together setups, but not with enough details on how to figure out the setup such as illustrations of how to take a first guess or how to see how to improve from your first attempts. Although it’s true you may just need to experiment, I was hoping to leverage more sage advice like an apprentice here than spend hours attempting a setup- here the photos showing the difference between setups should have been complimented by also photos of each of those setups.

Her last chapter covers basics of transferring files, lists some possible software to consider for editing photos, backup/storage, a chapter I can’t really comment on because I just skimmed it: you would be better off researching what fits you online, as there is no way she can keep up with current offerings or meet how your mind wants to organize. She does bring up the vary valid and important consideration of copyright though, so I have it on my to do list to understand this better.

Helene won me back with the Chapters 5-7, the 3 chapters that include high level concepts of different compositions to try, planning shots varying from picking the story points of a recipe to using ingredients to help flesh out the background of the food, and 1 of those 3 chapters goes into detail on styling all the categories of food (bread, sauces, fish, stews, cakes, ice cream, beverages!) I know I will be referring to this particular chapter over and over again. Everywhere, her beautiful photos emphasize her skill and are something to aspire to.

Not only that, but she has multiple appendixes, one of which includes what’s in her bag (including her prop/tool box) and an entire appendix with urls to more resources such as recommended other websites by food photographers and food stylists and for purchasing styling props.

This was a great start to my journeys with books and food with Kitchen Reader. Thank you for introducing me to this book, and I hope this review is helpful to others thinking about food photography and styling, and/or this book! Check out the site for other links to reviews of this book this month to compare my viewpoint with other readers!

Next month, read my review of the next book on the list for October: Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky



  1. Welcome to the group! I think one area the book could be better at is taking photos in restaurants and other settings. Those pictures are so challenging since you do not control the light or styling most of the time. But I am sure there are ways to make intelligent decisions that would help them be as good as possible. I agree that I liked the part of the book with detailed styling advice and ideas. Sometimes a sprig of rosemary can make such a difference!

    • I wish too there had been a section on when you can’t just bring your setup to a cooked recipe- I know the author also goes to restaurants to do shoots there, and would have been interested to hear what she does. Still, the chapter on how to try to make different kinds of dishes look good was still helpful! As for lighting, I usually will wait until a sunny day, and go either at lunch or very early when it first opens for dinner, and try to get a seat by the window!

  2. I also liked, best, the parts of the book that made it unique to food. Although, I can see that many beginning photographers would want everything together in one tidy package.

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