Monday, October 22, 2012

Quinoa Oatmeal Cookies - Food Photography on Black

Quinoa Oatmeal Cookies

Just when I think I'm getting a better grip on this whole food photography thing, my Food Styling and Photography Group, The Inspired Plate, throws up a new styling challenge, and I realize my grip isn't quite as tight as I had thought.  Months ago our first challenge included Photography on White.  As that is my preferred food photography style, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and didn't struggle much for inspiration.

As such, when this month's challenge of Photography on Black came around I figured,  "I shoot on white, how different can it be to shoot on black?".  After days of shooting, re-shooting, and re-shooting again, I can honestly say that shooting on black is hugely different than shooting on white, and brings with it a whole new set of "issues" for the photographer to deal with.

Quinoa Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries and White Chocoalte, photography on a black background
Reflections and light became my largest obstacles in trying to capture a decent image.  In some cases, the black background took on a fairly unattractive bluish hue, while different lighting directions brought fairly bright reflections washing any drama out of the scene.

Without the luxury of professional lighting, I am almost wholly dependent on natural light.  As luck would have it, our San Diego June Gloom (only now it is in October) brought 3 days of grey, hot and humid weather, and while I loved the 80º plus temps, my photo shoots on black remained dull and somewhat lifeless with the murky light.

Finally, my beloved sun once again showed its lovely face, and as it set into our smooth Pacific it cast a beautiful golden glow over my house.  Throwing my newly made black board (it's a simple plywood square spray painted with chalkboard paint) up with my bread machine behind it for support, the cookies set up fairly quickly on a piece of donated burlap (many thanks to Captain Greg - you may remember our Gelato making neighbor?) and I was on my way.

Over the years my personal food styling technique has evolved as much out of necessity as it has out of preference.  Simplicity, for me, keeps the focus on the food, and it also works well with my fairly small store of food styling props.  As much as I would love shelves of colorful fabrics, stacks of dishes and bowls, and collections of eclectic props, I have learned to heavily rely on my basics, plus a few food ingredients.

White Chocolate chips backlit on a black background

With our Oatmeal Cookies featuring cranberries, white chocolate chips and a touch of heart healthy quinoa, these ingredients served as my props for the first and second shots.  A simple glass of milk added a bit of elevation, and a remnant square of red fabric added color to another cookie shot.

As the sun set lower and lower, the back lighting reflecting off of the black had me playing with the white chocolate chips and my son laughing at me saying, "Really... you are really taking pictures of chocolate chips??", as he snagged a few while walking by.

Quinoa Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries and White Chocoalte, photography on a black background
Though I'm not sure I'm totally sold on the black background or my ability to make it look appealing, I am positively sold on these Quinoa Oatmeal Cookies.

Improving the nutrition in the treats, a touch of quinoa flour added protein and no one noticed a thing.  I took advantage of my recent batch of Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice and tossed in the white chips and cranberries for a change.

Liv's girlfriends devoured a bag of the cookies at lunch, and comments of, "Mrs. Kelly, you are the best mom ever!  Can you make those cookies again?" were music to my ears.

The real test, however, was my husband.  With Oatmeal Raisin his all time favorite cookie, I wasn't sure if he would notice the different recipe.  As he arrived home from work, a couple of cookies quickly found their way into his hands, but a comment of, "These are awesome, but different, huh?" stopped me in my tracks.  Fearing he could taste the quinoa (he's not a huge fan) I paused, and then breathed a sigh of relief as he continued, "I like the cranberries in place of the raisins.  Good job."

Whew.  Extraordinarily successful cookies along with successful enough photos and a new title of "Best Mom Ever"? ... I'm a happy girl.

For more stunning Photography on Black follow our Inspired Plate Blog Circle... next up we travel across the country to the fabulous Tiffany Dahle from Peanut Blossom.

And... did you know The Inspired Plate Team now has a Facebook Page?  Join us for more food photography and styling challenges and let us inspire you!

Quinoa Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries and White Chocoalte, photography on a black background.  Includes a red napkin

Quinoa Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
 As stated in Quinoa 365, A healthier version of a long time favorite!
Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, pg. 141
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3 cups rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice**
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened (we only had 3/4 cup on hand and that seemed to work fine!)
2 large eggs (I used 2 extra large eggs to make up for the decreased butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).  Prepare a baking sheet, or line with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add the oats, flours, salt, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice, whisk to combine.

In medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and mix until almost combined.  Add the cranberries and white chips, and stir to incorporate.

Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on the cookie sheet, flatten to a thickness of 1/2 inch either with your hand or the bottom of a glass.

Bake on the center oven rack for 9-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack.

**Liv Life Note In place of the Pumpkin Pie Spice, the original recipe calls for 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ground cloves. 


  1. Love the attempt at darker backgrounds, and the realizations to the differences to a white background. Nice post! Keep it up!

  2. LOL, I thought the same thing. "how different can it be to shoot on black"! You did a great job with these.

  3. Beautiful photography! Well done.
    Also, I adore white chocolate + cranberry oatmeal cookies, but never would have thought of the quinoa. What a great stealth-health idea. Where is a good place to look for it?

  4. Wow! Quinoa cookies?! Those look awesome :-)
    I think your black challenge turned out very well-I find it quite hilarious that several of us were drawn to the concept of chalkboard! Love that you remembered the chalk unlike me ;-)

  5. Love the contrast of the red napkin in the last image! I agree black is it's own animal isn't it. I can almost smell those cookies. YUM!

  6. Quinoa COOKIES?? Fascinating, Kim!! I just might have to try those. Love your use of color. A brown cookie would not be something I'd pair with black but it complements each other so nicely here. Awesome job.

  7. These cookies look awesome Kim! Love your commentary on light vs. a black background and how challenging it is! Love the pop of the red napkin and the shot of the chips is really cool.

  8. You are going to force my hand at cooking with quinoa by the end of this year Kim!! :)

    Ok, so I know you LOVE shooting with the light colors.. and you do a spectacular job of it.. and have an amazing stash of white dishes.. :) but your top photo is SO rich and warm and "still bright"! The cookies look so yummy! Great job Kim. xo

  9. I love photographing on black, it's so dramatic...but only on a good sunny day can I pull it off. Lovely cookies too! ;)

  10. Oh nice job Kim! Those cookies look scrumptious. The chalkboard was a great choice here, love it !

  11. Kim, I think you did an awesome job, the photos are quite stunning. And what a wonderful recipe, I'm not always a huge fan of quinoa but if you could fool your oatmeal cookie loving husband you could probably fool me too! Love reading about your photography!

  12. Yum, I love Quinoa, but have not yet tried to bake cookies with it. Now I will!

  13. Love the pictures! They came out great. And how fun to be a part of a photography group!!! Quinoa cookies? Different... but they look great :)

  14. Looks awesome. I loooove quinoa! But will I need to go to a specialty store to buy it? Thanks again!

  15. I can imagine how additive they were.. :D

  16. We've had a couple of questions on where to buy quinoa flour, I purchased mine (It's Bob's Redmill brand) at a local store called Sprouts. I'm not sure if they are far reaching outside of CA... but I'm guessing any "healthier" store would carry the flour, and it is also available online. It's a little pricey, I paid nearly $10 for a bag (22 oz). I love the added nutrition of the flour!

  17. Ohhh the black looks awesome. What a cool group. And those cookies looks yummy. I've been reading a cookbook (La Tartine Gourmand) and all about the different flours. Quinoa is the next one I want to try. Thanks Kim!

  18. Kim,
    What a great idea to add quinoa flour to the cookies, in addition to the white choc chips, and the dried quinoa.

    Great pics! i have trouble shooting on white, so I can imagine the challenges shooting on black.

  19. These are perfect!! I definitely want to try them since I love quinoa so much! Fantastic photos!

  20. I love your black background- all of your photos are gorgeous! These cookies are gorgeous too- love the quinoa flour addition. :)

  21. I think you did a terrific job and I love the white chocolate chip photo. I always like the "moody" look created from shooting on black and I understand the light problems you've had. I'm nowhere near getting it to look like anything other than me trying to shoot in a dark room. :) I think you did a terrific job on the cookies, too. :)

  22. Kim! You are so talented at styling food, it looks so natural yet perfect! Love the use of writing with chalk on the black bg. And I love quinoa...gotta try these cookies!!

  23. I much prefer your version of black to many others I've seen. You bring in light. The only real issue I have with black right now is that it's a trendy food blogger thing and something that you don't find in many 'normal' kitchens. But, that's probably because I can't photograph like you and I'm totally envious. Maybe.

  24. Love the chalkboard paint idea! So cute. I tend to shoot on black backgrounds - I find it easier than white because it doesn't match my plates!
    These cookies look ridiculous too. Can't wait to try them once I get my hands on some quinoa flour.

  25. I love your photos - I haven't worked with black background photography but I love how dramatic it makes the food look. As for your cookies - love that your son didn't notice the quinoa!


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