Katy Moran of Katheryn Moran Photography is a professional photographer based in Bellingham. She photographs weddings, families, business and non-profit events, and works with local businesses on marketing imagery. More recently, though, she has stepped into the world of food styling and food photography.
For the past three years or so, Moran has been working with a team of three other women from Haggen Northwest Fresh to produce their quarterly magazine, an expertly designed 12- to 15-page spread that highlights their seasonal offerings and suggests recipes for the food.
Emily Riggs, promotions and product development specialist for Haggen, graphic designer Katrina Staal, and social media manager McKenzie Unick all work together to produce the magazines for Haggen. They try to highlight foods customers are interested in and bring any new product offerings to people’s attention, as well as the unique products Haggen has to offer.
Each woman on the team wears many hats, collaborating to bring about the best designs and photography to showcase the food. They research content ideas, write the magazine articles, go shopping for the photo shoots, work with Haggen chefs on recipes, and do the graphic design layouts. Sometimes they do the cooking and baking themselves, as well as other projects like decorating eggs or making do-it-yourself crafts.
The magazines are involved—each takes about three months to produce from start to finish.
Compared to other stores that use stock photos for their marketing materials, the magazines at Haggen use all their real products to inspire and educate their customers.
“Our passion for food and Haggen is reflected in the magazine,” Riggs says. We love to bring out the foodie in all our guests.”
As the photographer on the team, Moran helps to style the shots and is responsible for producing photos that show off the unique products and recipes. Her past experience as a wedding photographer and working other large events helped prepare her for these Haggen shoots.
For weddings, Moran developed a skill set around posing people to create beautiful shots that look natural, not forced. With food styling, her work is also all about creating beautiful shots that at once look natural—yet are expertly posed.
“How to speak to someone through styling a product the right way is really cool,” Moran says.
Food photography is somewhat new. With the influx over the past few years of food bloggers, Yelp reviewers and social media experts, food photography has developed into a super specialized field of photography in a way that never existed before.
“I see it growing and changing a lot and becoming more involved,” Moran says.
For the magazines with Haggen, she’s often taking photos of six to eight different dishes that each require their own meticulously placed imperfections to make them look simultaneously natural and mouthwatering.
“It’s all about cracking the peanuts and having the cute little accessories laying around,” Moran says. “The little extra things are actually what makes the picture interesting, not just what’s supposed to be the main feature—but all the extras that make it look like a real situation.”
She isn’t sure why we all get such a kick out of photos like this. “I don’t even know why I like to look at them so much,” she says with a laugh.
Moran’s Instagram feed showcases a variety of her photos, including family portraits, weddings and, of course, food.
“The food by far gets the most attention every single time,” she says. “Way more than cute kids.”
For whatever reason, many of us are drawn to these bright, mouthwatering food photos, so we decided to sit down with Moran and get the inside scoop on this specialized field of photography.
Following are Katy Moran’s “Top 4 Food Styling Tips,” as distilled by WhatcomTalk:
Think of it like a wedding
That means go into it with a clear plan. With weddings, Moran’s primary goal is to deliver photos to her clients that they love. To do that, they sit down way before the actual day of the wedding to create a plan for the event, deciding what she will shoot and outlining the timing of the day.
With food, having a strategy and a timeline ahead of time is no less vital.
Moran and the Haggen team make sure they have a timeline for things like when each dish is coming out of the oven and where Moran should be to get the shot. With French toast, for example, it’s important to decide if they want Moran to capture the syrup as it being poured onto the toast before anyone starts pouring.
“You have to have a system,” Moran says.
Dress up your meat and seafood
To make seafood and meat look their best, it helps to add garnishes that make the whole scene look fresh. Sprigs of greens or other fresh foods help to liven up the shot.
For meat, Moran and the Haggen team will also often brush it with water or olive oil to brighten up the photo.
If you’re photographing something cold, freeze everything around it
Recently, Moran and the Haggen team did a big ice cream sundae photo shoot. The sundae included about a dozen different flavors to highlight a new batch of flavors being sold in the Haggen stores. In order to have time to get a lot of great shots, they created an ice cream buffer to keep the colorful scoops cold for as long as possible. The blue glass goblet that held the sundae was frozen, and they kept the surface the goblet was sitting on cold, too.
Natural light is your friend
For her food styling, Moran mostly uses natural light. She also tends to set up her shots on light backgrounds, using the warm, natural light and light-colored backgrounds to create a bright, fresh feel to her shots.
“It makes the food pop,” she says.
She has a light marble-textured piece of wood she will use as a base and one with a speckled white texture—“Something you’d find in a nice, bright kitchen,” she says. For darker accent colors, she’ll pull in a dark-colored plate, napkin, or even a vase of flowers.