Play With Your Food this Holiday Season — No, Seriously

Create your own holiday-themed food visuals and animations.

by Aaron Bernstein

posted on 11-22-2018

Holiday traditions don’t always have to be a repeat of the same ole’ same – sometimes a pie is just a pie if there’s nothing that screams out to you – Creative Resident, Aaron Bernstein encourages you to challenge that.

On the contrary to what you might believe to be, “traditional” holiday food, tradition is whatever you want it to be. And what better way to relish the true spirit of the holidays, then to make food present in the festivities.

Here’s how you can bring out all the color and personality of your holiday spread, and share them with friends and family, near and far.

“As Easy As Pie”

    1. Instead of photographing each letter appearing individually, I like to manually add/remove letters for a more consistent animation. I take a photo of all the letters arranged as I wish together, and then a photo of the same exact background without any letters.
    2. I line up the two images in Photoshop as perfectly as possible before using an adjustment layer mask to create each individual frame (see video). I save these images sequentially in a separate folder.
    3. From there, I am able to import the individual layers into a video sequence all at once (File > Open > check the “image sequence” box under options).
    4. Instead of creating an endless loop, I only want the title animation to play through once (export > save for web > looping options > select “once”). This allows the viewer to see the movement at the beginning, but to be able to reference the full title while looking at the rest of the imagery so as not to distract from the other animations.

Get started!

PSD file:

“A La Mode” time-lapse

    1. I set up a tripod and set my remote control take photos once every 30 seconds.
    2. After doing selects and general edits in Lightroom, I export my stills with sequential filenames and import the images into separate layers in Photoshop.
    3. I am able to add adjustment layers to the entire group as needed, which is great for fine-tuning color balance and evening out lighting as desired.
    4. I also use adjustment layer masks to keep the plate in the same exact position between each frame (even with a tripod and remote set-up, there can still be subtle movements between each shot). This way, I was able to clean up the background lines on the base frame and removed a chip on the plate.
    5. Instead of setting a standard frame rate for this animation, I customize the timing of each frame to control the pace that the ice cream melts.
    6. By reversing the frames, I create a continuous loop animated gif of the ice cream melting. When exporting for web, make sure “forever” is selected under the “Looping Options” menu.

We got you!

PSD file:

Garnish spiral steps overview

    1. Sometimes when I know I can create a more dynamic image through repetition, I photograph individual elements against a similarly-toned background to construct the final result together in Photoshop. In this case, I photographed the garnish for the chocolate ganache pie: whipped cream and strawberries.
    2. By photographing the elements on a solid color and recreating the color backdrop in Photoshop, the tones reflected in the shadows and highlights of each object do not look out of place when placed on top.
    3. I use the “color range” tool to create an adjustment layer mask on each object, before manually painting in areas of the mask to ensure a more accurate selection (see video).
    4. Once my pattern is created, I merge each layer I want to animate (see video).
    5. Using the video timeline, I create my animation by converting each layer to a smart object before applying “transform” keyframes to control the speed and direction of movement.
    6. I export the file as a .mov with the document settings to create an endless smooth video file that I can then share on social.

No excuses!

PSD file:

Aaron’s miscellaneous tips

  1. I like to shoot with real ingredients as often as possible, which can be more challenging. With something like whipped cream in these images, it melts quickly. By implementing layer masks very carefully, I can keep things more consistent between frames and hide the melting factor (example: whole pumpkin pie animation).
  2. Sometimes allowing yourself to experiment can work in your favor. With the animation of the piling up of whipped cream on the pumpkin pie slice, for example, my intention was to create a seamlessly growing whipped cream tower. I found that by including the images of my hand, the can, and the bits of cream falling mid-air, however, it created a much more dynamic animation (albeit messier).
  3. Individual items can easily be duplicated to create a pattern and more interesting compositions (example: frozen pie slices still image, whipped cream dots). By slightly altering each duplicate in size, position, and/or slight dodging/burning, they will be less noticeable to the viewer as copies and not distract from the overall image.

You can follow Aaron’s new podcast, “All On The Table”, available on both iTunes and Spotify.

Listen to episode one, a sit down with BreakfastClub founder and creative director Emily Miller over tartines and coffee.

You can find more episodes at

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud