DENHAM SPRINGS -- When it comes to food, presentation is as important as taste to Kristine Stone.
A professional food photographer for nearly five years, Stone takes great pride in creating a hungry stir in anyone who catches a glimpse of her photographs, which have been featured in magazines, cookbooks and local art galleries.
The focus on food photography stems from Stone’s own love of being in the kitchen, a place where she’s concocted many savory dishes for herself, her family and friends over the years.
She can often be found in the kitchen experimenting with another entree or dessert, but the biggest difference now — she spends as much time thinking about the look of her food as she does on its flavor.
“I already loved experimenting with food, inventing recipes, and trying new things,” she said, “so making the switch to food photography was seamless and easy. I don’t remember the day I was like, ‘I want to be a food photographer.’ It just happened.”
Stone was recently honored for her mouth-watering photographs when the Arts Council of Livingston Parish named her the recipient of its 2018 Artist of the Year award.
Stone, owner of Kristine Stone Photography, has more than a decade of experience in photography, and her work has appeared in exhibits at the Arts Council in the past. Stone’s work will be featured in the front lobby of the ACLP gallery throughout March, giving visitors more than a dozen photographs that are bound to wet their appetites over the next month.
This was the first photography award for Stone, who joined the Arts Council three years ago, about six years after her family relocated from Illinois to Denham Springs. But even before this year’s winner was announced, Stone had an idea of who’d be taking home the award.
“They were being too secretive around me,” she said with a laugh. “They were supposed to announce the winner in December, but I was on a trip with my husband, so they couldn’t announce it then. When I got back, I asked who got the award, and they told me they couldn’t say, but I knew I was the only one that didn’t show up before, so I had an idea.
“I was so nervous the night I went to the meeting [when the winner was actually announced], but I was incredibly humbled when they said I won.”
Before Stone became focused on food, she used her camera to focus on people. Stone said she tried her hand at family events when she first ventured into the photography world, and she even shot “one or two” weddings before she quickly realized that wasn’t her cup of tea.
Around that time, Stone recalled receiving a bit of advice from “a very wise photographer” that made a lasting impression. The photographer told her: “You can be good at everything or awesome at one thing.”
“He told me to find that one thing that I could be awesome at,” she said. “So I kept looking for that one thing.”
Stone eventually put all her eggs in the food photography basket, and her work slowly started to get noticed.
Stone credited Andrea Leyerle, owner of Andi Lynn’s Pure & Custom Formulary, for helping her in the early stages. Stone started off by taking pictures of Leyerle’s homemade elderberry syrup, and she eventually shot all the food photos for Leyerle’s website.
“She had a big hand in getting me started,” Stone said of Leyerle. “After that, I had another friend who made cinnamon rolls, and I asked if I could photograph them. Then I started realizing this was a lot of fun, and it went from there.”
Eventually, DIG Magazine hired Stone as a freelance photographer for restaurant openings in the Baton Rouge area. Many of the photos on Stone’s website, www.kristiephoto.com, are from her DIG assignments — trays of crawfish and catfish, a baker working with flour, a chef sprinkling seasoning on a meaty entree, a bacon-topped king cake.
“I loved those shoots,” she said. “I told them, ‘If you ever need to shoot a restaurant, give me a call and I’ll be there.’”
When it comes to food photography, Stone said “every” detail is important, from the lighting of the environment to the tidiness of her work station.
“Another photographer told me, ‘You get it right in the camera the first time, and that saves you a world of headache later in editing,’” she recalled. “So if there’s a little speck on the table, I need to notice it right away, wipe it off and resume photography.
“You have to pay attention to all the surrounding details because there’s nothing worse than going to your computer and realizing there was a tiny speck on the table, and you can’t fix it and it’s stuck on that photograph forever.”
Whenever Stone shoots for clients, she’ll usually bring three big lights, a reflector, multiple cameras, and her laptop. She also takes her “food stylist box,” which contains props such as spray bottles with oil or water, tweezers, and utensils that “help tell the story.”
“Sometimes you want more than just a plate with food, as long as it doesn’t detract from what the customer wants,” she said.
When Stone has an upcoming shoot, she’ll ask clients to send her photos of the food ahead of time so she can brainstorm ideas, determine what props she may need, and what she may need to do to make the food “pop more.”
However, that’s been less of a problem with Louisiana’s unique cuisine, Stone said.
“Everything is so colorful down here on its own — especially crawfish,” she said. “That is so much fun to shoot.”
Stone is currently working on photographs that will be included in “Preserving the Culture of Livingston Parish,” an upcoming book by the Arts Council that will give readers a history of the villages, towns, and cities in the parish while also highlighting the work of local artists.
Stone said her photos will go with recipes that will be featured in the book, including a few desserts, casseroles, and dishes from families passed through the generations from Livingston Parish.
The project even gave Stone a chance to test out a new piece of equipment she’d been waiting to use.
“I actually got to use my fancy new knife for the first time in one of those shoots,” she joked. “I was so excited to slice up those oranges. They asked me if I really needed to use my knife, and I said, ‘Yes, I finally get to use it.’”