Behind the Scenes & Styling Tips by Ritumbhara Chinnabalan

Behind the Scenes & Styling Tips by Ritumbhara Chinnabalan
Behind the Scenes & Styling Tips by Ritumbhara Chinnabalan

Food Photographer & Recipe Developer- Ritumbhara Chinnabalan

Hello! I am Ritumbhara – Food photographer and Recipe Developer based in India. A simple country girl living in a small town in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu . Had you asked me my future plans two years back, you would have heard a surprisingly different story unveil but here I am today – having found my true calling 🙂

Of all the different things I’ve tried to do, cooking has had my fascination since childhood- from jumping in joy upon sighting a fruit vendor to enjoying chopping vegetables! Few things have never changed for me! I still remain that girl who enjoys the simple things in life. My work is deeply influenced / inspired by exactly the same thing – “ LIFE ”

My town, my culture, the mundane and humble everyday acts that take up my day including feeding and cuddling my chicks. These are some of the things that reflect in my work. One of my mantras is – Art should be evocative, convey a message and make the viewer feel deeply connected . And each of my images is a reflection of the same.

When I am not behind the lens you would find me reading, singing and randomly gazing into nothingness!! If at all you could call it a hobby, lol!!

I would love to start this conversation with one of my favourite quotes by Albert Einstein


How powerful is that to think over right? And this thought is always a driving force behind all my images. After all, aren’t absurd ideas fun?!

Now, before I take you behind the scenes and my creative process for this image , I would break down the complete process into three parts, just for ease of understanding  –

1) Ideation
2) Preparation
3) Actual shoot

In the ‘ Ideation ’ part, we shall go through my thought process prior to the shoot which would cover all the minute details of planning a mood board. This is my most favourite part I must admit 🙂

In the ‘ Prep ’ part we shall go through the trials that take place before the actual shoot

And then the ‘ Actual Shoot ’ itself where we shall discuss the technical aspects of photography- from lighting to composition



As mentioned earlier, the time spent on ideation is my favourite part as I feel it gives me the most creative satisfaction.

There are a couple of things I consider and make note of before actually picking up the camera :

  • First and foremost – deciding on the dish that is to be shot – our HERO
  • The story or emotion that I want to convey to the viewer
  • The mood that best helps in bringing out the story- Lighting/Colour scheme/Props
  • Angle of the shot
The dish

I wanted to shoot mini chocolate bundt cakes as you can see in the image. I always love miniature versions of food not just because they are cute but also because you can gulp down your individual portions! lol!

Also, these were super yum and hard to keep my hands off of them while shooting! I know you hear me on this!! So, the heroes in our frame- Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes.

The story

While I was baking these mini bundt cakes I couldn’t help but note that:

  • they are cute
  • they are geometrical and artistic
  • each one is an individual serving that can keep people at a table happily engaged
  • also, the colour and taste of these minis would evoke a feeling of warmth

Hence, the above had to be translated in the final image too for the viewer to truly enjoy the picture

The mood

A warm mood would do justice to the above story is what I gathered.The kind of warmth which is a reminder of a cozy evening.

Few important tools that would help me achieve this warmth:

  • Lighting
  • Colour scheme
  • Props and the Angle of the shot -Extremely critical in bringing together the desirable mood
The lighting

While we shall go into the details of light source later, here, during the ideation – I considered soft light and shadow play in the frame unlike my usual style where I love deeper and dramatic shadows.
Visualise those really soft shadows cast while the sun begins to set? I thought that would render the warmth that I intended.

Colour Scheme

I wanted to go for an almost monochromatic look where all the elements in the frame are in shades of the same hue / colour. In this case, Brown would be that colour for us. I was not quite sure if it would work at this point because we know – an ALL BROWN image isn’t fun and easy to achieve at times!

So if you notice, not only is the Hero brown here but so is the background different shades of brown.

I chose to compose an all brown image because I thought brown is a colour that exudes a great deal of warmth relative to other colours.


I love this part!! Which food photographer doesn’t love props right? I am someone who goes gaga over beautiful props all the time!!

Also props can make or break an image!! So, it is very important to choose the right props that can elevate the story we intend to convey to the viewer. Here the props I have used are mini and large tart tins and black terracotta plates. There are 3 reasons why I used the tart tins here:

  • First- Their pattern is almost similar to the pattern of the bundt cakes. So, by bringing together the pattern of food and props we can add to the visual interest
  • As I mentioned earlier- the bundt cakes are cute, geometric and artistic. I wanted to use the tart tins as a tool to emphasize these features
  • Layering by using the same prop in different sizes adds drama and a lot of visual interest as well

Another important prop that brings everything together thereby playing a major role in this image is the surface or the background . In this case it is a large vintage door we had at home.

Reasons I wanted to use this door:

  • While flatlays are beautiful, they can sometimes look boring and less appealing with the use of normal plain surfaces that we usually see. So, I wanted to use a surface that was eye catching and had more visual appeal
  • The door had grids and lines that can add different heights to the flatlay
  • The different shades of brown in the surface was perfect to achieve the monochromatic look
Angle of the shot

I wanted to shoot the bundts in a flat-lay mainly to bring in the feel that they could be enjoyed as individual portions by people at a table.



Now, after ideating and jotting down all my ideas as discussed above, I usually test shoot to know whether these ideas can become a reality.

For this, even before I start cooking a dish, I set up the complete frame without the food and take trial shots to see if the frame looks good and the results are what I intend to achieve.

Actual Shoot


This image was shot in natural light.The source of light here is a south facing window and the image is side lit.

The room I shoot in is really dark with a single source of natural light which is the window. So, I had set up the background (the door) on a table right next to the window (light source).


When it comes to composing the scene, the surface aka the background (the door) here plays a major role. If you can see its placement , I have placed it diagonally instead of laying it straight.
The main reason behind this was to add to the drama by having the grids run diagonally through the frame.

I also placed the props along the diagonal grids of the door so as to lead the viewer’s eye along the lines and subsequently from one bundt to another
A quick note to add that I am not really a follower of composition rules when it comes to composing an image! Yup! You heard it right 🙂

However if I did have to break down this image as per the various composition guidelines/rules, the following have been at play here:

  • Diagonals- As we saw earlier, the diagonals has worked in 2 ways – By placing the door diagonally & the grids of the door running diagonally
  • Leading Lines- I have used the diagonal grids of the door as the leading lines that leads the viewer’s eye from one bundt to the other
  • Triangles- I’m sure you noticed – the bundts have been placed along triangles which I thought would add to the artistic effect creating a visually intriguing image

And that is all! I am so happy to have shared my knowledge and I really hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes and found it useful. Please remember – Being a creative is a boon and always be guided by your heart !!

Much love


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