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Tastes of the Season


Food and lifestyle blogger Amy Locurto uses the Tamron SP 24-70mm VC G2 and 35mm F/1.4 Di lenses to showcase her festive holiday fare.


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By Jenn Gidman
Images By Amy Locurto


Whether she's taking pictures for a holiday card or simply documenting a seasonal soiree, Texas photographer Amy Locurto places food front and center. That's not surprising, since food photos are the foundation of her 11-year-old DIY lifestyle blog, Living Locurto, which features recipes and party, home, and travel ideas. "The site started out with me just sharing creative concepts that I came up with while I was at home with my children," she says. "It became more food-oriented as time went by, and the food photography naturally evolved out from that."

© Amy Locurto
24-70mm (44mm), F/3.5, 1/400th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

The Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 and 35mm F/1.4 Di lenses are Amy's workhorses for capturing the delectable victuals that show up on her blog and social media. "I typically use the 35mm for portrait photography, but then I started using it to capture crisp close-ups of the food and loved it," she says. "For video, I rely on my 24-70, as well as for shots where I have a larger surface area I need to get into my frame, like the charcuterie image you see here featuring all of those scrumptious-looking meats and fruits and breads."

© Amy Locurto
24-70mm (24mm), F/4.0, 1/80th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

Amy conceptualizes each shoot and does all of her own styling. "I'll recruit my children to help out on occasion as hand models," she says. "I have large hands, and my kids have perfect little hands, so they work well for many of the photos I want to create. Sometimes I'll ask others to help as well. For example, for that charcuterie photo, I was at an event with about 10 other bloggers, so I just stood up on a chair and shot down on them as they reached for the various snacks."

How and what Amy shoots depends what social media platform she's aiming for. "Every platform is different," she explains. "Food photos I put on Facebook, for example, don't have to be styled or look a particular way; they don't have to be lit just so. It's a little messier and more real. The photos I post on Instagram, however, have to be more stylized. People seem to want more professional-looking photos on that platform. That tiny parfait with the Santa hat, for example, with the holiday lights blurred out in the background—that's totally an Instagram-ready image."

© Amy Locurto
35mm, F/2.2, 1/320th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

Using mostly natural light is Amy's lighting M.O., though she'll use artificial light in her videos. "I used to have a studio, but I now just shoot in my home—I remodeled my kitchen and that works better than the studio kitchen did," she says. "I also tend to move all around my house when I'm shooting, because I have different windows that work better at different times of the day. I have three different types of foamcore I use as reflectors. Plus, I always wear a white or black shirt when I'm shooting: If you're wearing brightly colored clothing, it affects how the food looks in your photo. I keep a few big white T-shirts lying around as well in case I happen to have someone helping me with a shoot."

Amy usually prefers to shoot from just slightly above her subject, emulating the view you'd have if you were at a dinner table looking down at your plate. What often guides how she shoots, however, is how viewers react to the photos on social media. "I tend to take a lot of close-ups, because I have many followers on Pinterest, with a huge percentage of traffic from there," she says. "And for whatever reason, my Pinterest viewers just love close-ups, with the food looking extra-yummy and tempting."

How long Amy's subjects last in front of her camera depends on the type of food she's shooting. "Of course ice cream goes quickly," she says. "But in general, I try to work as fast as possible anyway. As a food blogger, I'm usually just shooting what I'm making for dinner, and my family is sitting around waiting to eat what I'm making. What I do like to do is style everything ahead of time: Before I even start on the recipe, I'll set the plate up and arrange anything else I might want in the picture. That way, when the food is ready, I'm ready to start shooting."

© Amy Locurto
24-70mm (70mm), F/3.5, 1/25th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

Certain foods are more photogenic than others, or are easier to "dress up" for the holidays. "Drinks can always be adorned with garnish," Amy says. "They almost always look good. What's tough are foods that are just one color or otherwise bland, like some pastas. In those cases, what I like to do is an 'action' shot, like pouring icing on cinnamon rolls, or syrup on pancakes. I recently took some photos of chicken tortilla soup, and so I filled it with as much chicken as possible so the chicken could be seen on top of the soup. There was a lot of styling involved with that."

© Amy Locurto
35mm, F/3.2, 1/160th sec., ISO 1000
Click image to view larger

With more holiday-specific fare, Amy suggests placing items in pretty seasonal containers before taking pictures, or showing food that's about to be consumed or already has been. "Have someone breaking a cookie apart in front of the camera, or take a photo of a cookie with a bite out of it, or a cake with one slice missing," she says. "People like to see food that's actually being eaten."

Some of the fare Amy takes pictures of have gone viral. "I love to create fun, no-bake food for holiday parties," she says. "I love Disney, and I've seen these Minnie Mouse-style Oreo cookies for other events, but not for holidays like Christmas or Easter. So I started making them my own way, and now hundreds of people send me their own photos showing the ones they've made. It's what I'm known for: taking very simple ideas and putting my spin on them, then sharing pictures of them with the world."

© Amy Locurto
35mm, F/2.5, 1/125th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

Whatever kind of spread you have on your holiday table, Amy recommends keeping your camera nearby, even if you're not a food blogger. "We always take pictures of the presents and the people and the decorations around the house during the holidays," she says. "But it enhances the memories to also have photos of the food and drink you consumed while you were making merry with family and friends. We have such deep connections to food, whether it's an old family recipe or a food item that over the years has become integral to your own celebration."

© Amy Locurto
35mm, F/2.8, 1/25th sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

To see more of Amy Locurto's work, go to www.livinglocurto.com.



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