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Food Photo Props: Cleaning Clam Shells

01.09.10 steamer shells

Every food photographer I know is on an eternal quest for good props for their photos. Over the last couple of years, I have collected a lot of dishes; some days it seems the plates multiply when I leave the room...and still I want more. You, too?

Now that I have a fair collection of dishes, I am looking for the small stuff that makes an image stand out. I've got a box of fall leaves on the closet shelf, next to the witch's cauldron full of Halloween props, which is on top of...well, you probably know what I mean.

I'm finding that many of my new favorite 'props' are found objects: stones from my 9-acre wood, a feather from my local heron, a squirrel tail left by a cat - well, maybe that won't make it into photos, but it is going on a walking staff - and shells.  Like these, from the steamer clams we ate on New Year's Eve. (These are Manilas, which are ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest.)

Cleaning shells so you can keep them is easy:

  1. Start with a quick scrub with a brush to remove any leftover meat.
  2. Fill a bowl with enough hot water to cover the shells and add a tablespoon of bleach. Let soak for at least 15 minutes and rinse well. If any fishy odor lingers, repeat.
  3. Refill the bowl with hot water, this time adding a tablespoon or two of baking soda. Let soak for 30 minutes. Rinse well. If you can still get any whiff of bleach, repeat. Lay, open side down on a towel and let dry well.

That's it. You now have beautiful, natural props for your food photography. So, next time you find yourself wanting shellfish, buy it fresh and look for beautiful shells, too.

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This photo is an entry in Project 365, which entails taking one photo a day for the entire year. My flickr set for this year is here:  Project 365. If you happen to live in the greater Pacific Northwest, I started a flickr group for 'local' people who are participating: Project 365: Cascadia. There is also a Project 365: Foodbloggers group on flickr. (I am way behind in posting there, but my arm's back in a splint. I hope to catch up soon!)

How about you? Are you doing Project 365 this year? Some other crazy internet project? Tell me about it in comments and let's keep each other motivated.

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