Monday, August 27, 2012

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas - A Summer Food Photography Challenge

Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas, food photography

I've had people laugh out loud when I mention how difficult I find food photography.  "Really?", they ask,  "How hard can it be?  It's just food after all, you snap a pic and there you have it.  It's not like trying to get a baby to smile or anything...".

Yes... really.  I find it extraordinarily difficult.  Hence, when local photographer, Laurie of Dalla Mia Cucina, asked me to join her Food Photography and Styling Group, I hesitated.  Join a group of women where some of them list photography as their career?  I felt in no way qualified.

Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas, food photography
The group however, has turned out to be one of the most supportive groups of women I "know".  You see we are a group of women from around the world, and while our main focus has been photography, we have become virtual friends across the internet through our various projects and chats.

Frequently I find myself in a conversation with my husband or local girlfriends and I will mention, "Well... one of the ladies in my photography group said...".  They are becoming a constant and welcomed part of my life, and I miss them when time is too short to chat and catch up on our lives.

These extraordinarily talented women have also helped me to grow.  The monthly challenges have stretched my abilities, and while I've not risen to every occasion, some of my challenges have been quite satisfying.

I am still very much struggling with styling, and as such I find myself shooting close ups of food, hence, not much styling required.  Viewing their setups though, and taking the time to take apart their photos along with their advice on colors, spacing, textures, lighting, etc, I've learned a trick or two along the way, and I'm becoming ever so slightly more comfortable styling my shots.

Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas, food photography
The challenge presented this month is titled Summer Desserts.  As we mentioned in our last post, here in coastal San Diego we are holding onto and savoring each and every sunny/hot day.  Locally, our June and early July often lend a dreadful marine layer, a sort of fog aptly named the June Gloom, that hangs over our homes for weeks on end making me ever so jealous as I read about the rest of the country enjoying summer.  With stories of melting ice cream by the lake, popsicles on the front lawn while taking a break from running through the sprinklers, we sit here in our sweatshirts and long pants longing to join you all.

With our 2012 August bringing more traditional "summer" weather, Liv and I were perfectly in the mood to work on this challenge.  The popsicles from our last post were our first attempt, and while they didn't make the cut, they did cool us off.  Ice cream was suggested, but the lack for a frozen ice cream bowl sent us searching for a different avenue.

Liv and her love of bananas spied Trader Joe's chocolate dipped banana chunks, and she immediately told me she was sure we could do them better.  And better we did.

Spreading an array of toppings, Liv set to chopping the chocolate as I froze the bananas on sticks.  Freezing the bananas makes easy work of dipping the fruits as the chocolate clings and chills quickly.  A quick dip in the chocolate followed by a dip into a topping, and the treats were ready for a brief chill back in the freezer.

Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas, food photography

Next came our photo shoot.  The first difficulty I encountered was condensation.  Is condensation good in a photo?  Thinking it through, I liked the look it gave, sort of the impression of a hot summer day, however the little droplets didn't always photograph in an appealing manner.  As our temps were into the mid  80's that day, and we do not have air conditioning, the chocolate softened quickly, taking away the droplets and lending a nice sheen and a deep, rich chocolaty coating.  Problem solved.

Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas, food photography
While my satisfaction was still not complete, Liv's patience began to wear thin.  She's all about the prepping and eating of the recipe, however a photo shoot lasting longer than 10 minute is really not her thing.  Grabbing one of our not-so-pretty bananas, she took a few bites, appeared to be lost in thought for a moment, then jumped up with an exclamation of "I have it"!

Pulling a fresh plate from the cupboard, she quickly set to arranging bananas along with a half eaten banana to show what was on the inside, giving more depth to the shot.  I have to admit her idea was brilliant, and within minutes we had images that made us happy.  Still preferring the close up the best, we set to shooting the arrangement at differing angles and heights, definitely preferring some versions far more than others.

Shot with my favored Canon 60mm macro lens, the morning summer light streaming into our windows lent a fresh, bright atmosphere to the shots, and a little fill light from my trusty Lowell Ego Light took away the remaining shadows.  Alternatively, loving the look of the bananas directly in the morning sun, I found capturing that image to be more than difficult, bringing somewhat washed out colors and none of the richness that my eye picked up.

Summer on a stick, Liv gave the bananas two thumbs up, and since our original photo, we have dipped dozens of bananas with all sorts of different toppings.  Sprinkles, cereals, nuts, and crushed cookies, have your kids pick their favorites, you simply can't go wrong. 

Join us as we take a summer tour around the world (though it's not really summer all over the world...) with The Inspired Plate's blog circle.  Next stop is Tiffany's new house - Tiffany Dahle from Peanut Blossom...

Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas, food photography

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas
Melting chocolate can sometimes prove difficult.  After much trial and error, I've found Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate to melt beautifully and successfully time and again without being too harsh on the pocketbook...

bananas, not overly ripe
popsicle sticks

Peel bananas and cut in half.  Insert a stick into the bottom of the banana, place on a waxed paper lined plate and freeze until frozen through.

Chop chocolate and melt.  Cool slightly.

While chocolate is cooling, set out desired toppings.  Our favorites include rainbow sprinkles, nuts and crushed cookies, but let your imagination run wild and set out a bowl of your personal favorites!

Remove the bananas from the freezer, and working fairly quickly, dip first into the melted chocolate and then quickly into the toppings.  Replace dipped banana onto the waxed paper, and when all of the bananas are dipped, return to the freezer.

Freeze until the bananas are re-frozen (they may have thawed slightly during dipping) and the chocolate is set.


Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas, food photography


  1. Oh how I could devour those little morsels. I think you did a great job with these Kim. I have to chime in and say that I personally love the shot with the condensation on it, I think it;s my favourite one. Reason being it portrays to the viewer that it is in fact COLD. Great job this month :)

  2. Kim, these look so good, really like that one where the icy finish has melted away into a dewy dark chocolatey surface! I love how much information you shared about your photography process - I've got to put one of these Canon 60mm lenses on my wishlist, you do such good work with it ;) Love the pop of colour you get with your Lowell Ego as well!

  3. wow you did a fantastic job styling these, so fun! I also made these but didn't add any toppings, I think next time i will! great job!

  4. This is a To-Die-For- Summer dessert! I love chocolate covered frozen bananas Kim!! I'm so glad you're a part of our team.. We all missed our FB chats with you while you were in Italy.. and since you love us all soo much, next time just take us with you!! :) Beautiful shots.. you and Liv did a great job! Oh, and something I think you and the family would enjoy.. especially you as a food writer, The original Balboa Bar and Frozen Banana stand in Balboa, Newport Beach. My parents use to take us there when we were little. Hence to say, it's been there a VERY long time and still selling their famous concoctions. You guys would love it!

    Ciao my friend!

  5. I love these little morsels from TJ's - I think you and Liv did a great job, I can see why these would be hard to photograph!

  6. Kim! Wow! You and Liv did a fabulous job. I love the story you told and the bananas are gorgeous. Everything looks summer fresh and bright and perfect!!

  7. Kim, these look so fun and fabulous!! This is NOT an easy subject to style, and you've made them look very professional!! I have to make these with my own kiddo!!

  8. Kim and Liv,

    Your bananas are so inviting that I want to grab one thru my screen. Delish! Liv is not only learning how to cook, but she'll be a top notch food stylist and photographer, before you know it, with a wonderful teacher.

  9. Great post Kim and super choice of desserts too, I love these frozen treats! I have my good days and not so good days with my photos, I'd love to have all my days be comfortable like you mentioned. Sometimes I'm not as patient as others and when it's not coming together like I want I get frustrated and nix it :) but I've come a long way since I first got started so that's what's it's all about.

  10. Kim & Liv,

    This is fantabulous. I will surely try this recipe, thanks for sharing :-)


  11. Food photography is so much harder than it looks!! These are gorgeous photos, I love your description of how the beads of water give the impression of a hot summer day, it's so true!

  12. What a fun idea for a summer treat! Love the ones that show some moisture on them! Fun toppings too.

  13. I love the sprinkles and other toppings, the add so much fun to it.

  14. I live in San Diego and didn't know this group existed!

    HOW FUN!

    Condensation and chocolate - boy oh boy do I have stories to tell.

    Your pics are great and glad you're loving the group!

  15. this group sounds so great, wish I could join! :)

    GREAT challenge, shooting frozen food is very difficult - you have done a great job! looks delicious...

  16. i've always admired your photos. You're so modest Kim, your photos are gorgeous. If they weren't most probably you hadn't be part of this creative circle.
    Love your choice of summer treats

  17. I agree with some of the other commenters that you are too modest. I've always admired your photography and you make me strive to do better myself. What a great group you describe. I'm quite envious. And it's so lovely that you take on these challenges with your trusty assistant. My assistant has 4 legs and a tail and although she's cute as a button, she's somewhat less helpful than yours! :)


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