It’s a Scoop!
Picture this: a dull, lazy Sunday morning and you pick up the morning newspaper more as a chore; but as soon as you unfold it, a full page colour image of a scoop of cold, soft, rich, sweet, creamy, delicious ice cream surrounded by a rising mist of condensation depicting a chilled ambience, with plump, luscious mixed berries strewn around hits you right in the face and your soul is suddenly jolted to life, yearning to run out and buy a portion of the yummy dessert from this well-known brand that is advertising its new flavour. Isn’t that what happens to most of us ever so often? Extending a thought to what has gone into shooting that one frame, you feel nothing but awe for the artists who have worked on that picture.
And mind you, ice creams are the most demanding of subjects to work with, fussy and almost like a diva; they will start melting under the lights even as you are wondering if you need a touch more shine on that cherry on top! Every brand of ice cream has a different composition and fat content; and lower the fat content, faster it melts. Even for different flavours of the same brand, depending upon the moisture content, the texture of a scoop varies. When working with ice cream scoops, the temperature at which a tub is maintained has to be just right. If the ice cream is too cold, it may be difficult to scoop and thus affect the form and surface texture. If too “warm”, the scoop will have a melting and smooth surface with a lacklustre texture, and the finer details which give the ice cream the delectable looks may get lost. If you ever have to work with a pile of ice cream scoops with several toppings and garnishes, I assure you, it is the stuff which nightmares are made of.
For all these reasons and more, shooting with real ice cream becomes quite complex and gruelling; and it makes much more sense to shoot using fake ice cream. Even with fake ice cream, it is quite an art to get the perfect texture and ridges on the scoop, a good collar at its edges, and even a slightly melted look on the fringe. It is a challenge for a food stylist to make fake ice cream appear truly realistic, one which has all the trappings of the real McCoy and make it difficult to single out as a fake. Hence, within the niche world of food stylists it is considered a specialisation to shoot ice creams.
The earliest versions of fake ice cream used mashed potatoes which was easy to spot as being an imitation as the product looked crude and had a grainy texture. The most common recipe used by stylists for fake ice cream nowadays uses shortening, corn syrup and icing sugar. Another recipe uses liquid glucose, egg white and icing sugar – the egg white giving a nice glaze to the finished product. The dough needs to be plied and stretched as you would for bread till it yields the desired texture and look. Each ice cream brand in the market will require the dough to have a different appearance, grain, character, consistency and finish, and the proportion of ingredients for the fake dough will thus require a tweak accordingly.
It is only through trial and error, and after years of experience at actual shoots, that you can arrive at the correct look and feel of the fake ice cream – one which will appear as inviting as the real deal and more importantly, will give you the bandwidth and time to style the shot to your satisfaction and do complete justice to your creativity.
Happy Styling! :)