A Food Stylist Tells Us How She Makes Meals That Look Instagram-Worthy Every Time
As part of our #MyBlogLife series, Niamh Browne talks baking, Ballymaloe and getting the perfect food photo.
Facebook: Niamh M Browne
A bout of glandular fever during her Leaving Cert year was what first inspired Dubliner Niamh Browne’s interest in nutrition, as she hunted for foods that would boost her energy and help her recover. A trained Nutritional Therapist with a stint at the Ballymaloe Cookery School under her belt, Niamh works these days as a food stylist and chef. One look at Niamh’s Instagram feed was all it took for us to become addicted to her beautifully shot food snaps, and we caught up with her to find out how she brings her cooking to life.
When did your love affair with food begin?
I always loved baking as a child, things like soda bread, cakes and buns. I always enjoyed the ‘handmade’ element so I would only mix with a wooden spoon and never an electric whisk… much to my mother’s dismay. These days though I am very much a fan of electric whisks!
Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in food?
In my last year of school I became really sick with glandular fever. In order to try and nourish myself to get through the long days I started studying nutrition and researching what foods to eat for energy and health. After a year in a marketing course I dropped out and enrolled in Nutritional Therapy the following year. Since then it’s been food all the way.
Tell us about your time studying at Ballymaloe?
It’s quite an intense time as there is so much learning in the 12 week course, but it’s a priceless experience. Every student becomes completely immersed in the Ballymaloe way of life. Their ethos of only using the best ingredients – many of which are grown by themselves on their organic farm – is something that has really stuck with me. Each day you we were each given a chore to do, from picking and washing the leaves for the giant lunchtime communal salad bowl, to feeding the hens with the kitchen scraps.
When did you first think to start a blog as a way to share recipes?
When I started working as a food stylist, I needed to have a website as a calling card of sorts to showcase my work. It seemed liked a natural progression to share some of the recipes I love to make at home.
Your Instagram feed has some beautiful food photos, as does your website. What makes a great food photo for you?
I like a lot of different styles of food photography. Dark and moody images can be gorgeous for creating a winter feel. For those kinds of photos I’ll use rich jewel tone props and maybe some candlelight. That said I love bright, natural light and creating more of a summery feeling with pastel coloured props. Something as simple as a kitchen window is a great source of natural light.
The angle you are shooting your chosen subject from is important too, for example certain flat-lay ingredients shots can look amazing shot from above whereas a tiered cake needs to be shot from a lower angle.
What’s it like working as a food stylist – some dishes must be tougher than others to make appear appetising on camera?!
Absolutely! Things like stews and casseroles can be difficult as they don’t have much of a shape on camera. Pasta and noodles can be tricky too – you sort of need to fold them into a shape to look normal. Food that is all one colour, for example brown meat, can also look quite unappealing so you need to inject more colour around it.
What’s your day-to-day life like right now?
My everyday life varies quite a bit. Some days are spent shopping for ingredients and props or prepping and cooking at home. Other days are spent on set shooting anything from a recipe video, to a product shoot.
More importantly, what’s a day on your plate like?
I like to have some wholegrains for breakfast so something like porridge or granola and fruit for breakfast at home. I want to have something that will keep me full until lunch. My afternoon meal is usually a soup or salad, or maybe whatever we are shooting on set that day.
For dinner I love simple dishes like grilled salmon with lots of veggies and greens with some quinoa. I drink lots of water and herbal teas throughout the day and Nobo ice-cream or a few squares of dark chocolate would be my treats of choice.
If you had to pick three restaurants/cafés in your home city of Dublin, where would you head?
I would pick Bibi’s in Portobello for breakfast, there is a really cosy neighbourhood vibe there and I love their Turkish eggs. Their brownies are also not to be missed!
For lunch I would go for Cornucopia in Dublin city centre, they do delicious vegetarian food, really fresh colourful salads, lots of comforting hot dishes and nourishing soups.
For dinner I would choose Coppinger Row as there is always a great buzz in there and they have amazing cocktails and really tasty rustic Mediterranean style food.
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