how to make your birthday gathering photograph beautifully
tips from an entertaining pro!
Published Sep 28, 2016 5:00 AM
text by ISOBEL BENESCH
photography & styling by AMBER THRANE OF DULCET CREATIVE
Throwing dinner parties is one of our absolute favorite ways to hang out with friends. We obsess over recipes, details, and certainly the table itself, which we want to photograph beautifully, of course. To give us an Instagram-worthy advantage, we asked Isobel Benesch, visual content creator, to teach us everything she knows. Alright maybe not everything, but some seriously smart stuff. Read on for Isobel’s advice on throwing a dinner party worthy of draining your phone battery.
HOW DID THIS DINNER PARTY COME ABOUT? With summer coming to an end, I wanted to put together a casual, yet beautiful al fresco dinner with friends to celebrate the end of those long, lazy summer days. Whether it’s a garden party or just a dinner with your best friend, summer is all about spending time outdoors, and I couldn’t resist throwing one last soirée before the days turn shorter. While staying at the Kid & Coe Zuma Barn in Malibu for a little staycation, I invited my friend Amber of Dulcet Creative and her family to come join my family for an evening of conversation, good food, and a gorgeous table scape.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS KIND OF WORK? I worked in the corporate world as a technical writer for a long time before my boys were born, and when I left my career to stay-at-home with my first child, I discovered my true passion was creating beautiful visual stories. Having the ability to be creative and work with a variety of brands to create visual stories through photographs is truly what feeds my soul.
ISOBEL’S ADVICE ON STYLING YOUR TABLE…
Use your appetizers and finger foods as decor.
When you’re hosting friends, you want to keep things low key, fun, and interactive. By plating appetizers on cutting boards, bread in open baskets, and fruit down the center of the table, it creates an unexpected and eye-pleasing design element while making the food easily accessible and keeping the atmosphere casual.
Mix and match different textures and elements into the tablescape.
For this table setting, we incorporated a variety of natural textures such as wood cutting boards, marble trays, ceramic and glass vases, woven baskets, and copper trays and silverware. Don’t feel as though you have to stick to just one element.
Keep it local.
Explore the local farmers market and fill up on berries, cheeses, bread, and ingredients to incorporate into your dishes. You can also save glass containers from your local pressed juice bars or coffee shops to incorporate into the table design as vases or to hold extra silverware.
Pull in natural elements from your surroundings.
Since this is outdoor dinner, use natural elements from your surroundings to incorporate into the table design to add a unique component to the table setting. If you’re lucky enough to have an open yard and a green thumb, you can use freshly clipped flowers and vines from the garden and fruit and vegetables picked from the orchard. However, if you don’t have a vegetable garden or flowers currently in bloom in your own yard, you can pull in shells collected on the beach or rocks you gathered on a hike.
Your place-setting should include an unexpected surprise.
We have all seen silverware or a knotted napkin set on top of each plate, but adding something different really pulls your table together and adds an unexpected surprise to make your dinner party unique. Try placing in-season fruit, an air plant, or a succulent on top of each plate.
…AND TAKING PHOTOS:
Make sure that your camera battery is fully charged and that you have plenty of storage on your memory card. There is nothing worse than going to photograph your event and your battery running out or your memory card being completely full and having to go in and manually delete photos to make space for your new ones.
Try to schedule the party for later in the afternoon or early evening so that the sun isn’t too bright or high in the sky. The early evening light, also called the golden hour, is the ideal time for shooting and will add a little extra magic to your images.
Give yourself time for photography.
Dinner parties can get a little busy, especially the hour before your guests arrive, but make sure you leave yourself enough time after styling the table and prepping your food to document your set-up prior to your guests arriving.
Take a variety of shots.
Although you’ll want to take photos of the tablescape in it’s entirety, make sure to take plenty of detail shots and photographs from different angles. The details are what makes your dinner party unique.
Turn the camera on yourself.
It’s always disappointing to look back and not see yourself enjoying the party that you spent so much time on and it’s something often forgotten when you’re planning, preparing, setting up, and hosting a party, but before the night is over, hand the camera over to one of your guests and ask them to capture a few candid shots of you with your guests.