Food photography? It's not so hard is it?
I know it is. As a food blogger, personal experience tells me I have much to learn when it comes to droolworthy food photography.
Hence when Billy contacted me to get involved with a food photography job for Mad Mex I leapt at the opportunity. Officially I was hired as his lighting assistant. Primarily this meant I was in charge of the softbox lights. It also meant I was the resident gopher for coffee runs etc.
What it did provide me with was an opportunity to see what really goes on behind a food photography shoot.
Setting up the tacos
The brief was to shoot photos of the Mad Mex menu items for a new pictorial menu board. Our food stylist for the day was Peter G from Souvlaki for the Soul. His kit bag included brushes, tweezers and cotton buds, tools that wouldn't have looked out of place with a makeup artist.
Billy arrived with two soft boxes, tripod and camera. Large sheets of plain cardboard clipped to a stool created the white backdrop. The makeshift studio was set up on the bench table at one of the Mad Mex outlets, closed on Sunday.
The brief was to photograph the Mexican menu items so each ingredient could be seen clearly, whilst still keeping a natural look to the food. This is precisely as hard as it sounds, particularly when we're talking about tacos, burritos and quesadillas.
Brushing extra sauce onto the meat for shine
A Mad Mex chef prepared the ingredients before Peter G worked his magic. Because the photographs would be used for a menu board, the images had to be clean and unclutttered. The problem of how to prop up three tacos on their own was soon solved with a nearby menu holder, heavy enough to support the tacos but small enough to be hidden from view. Resourcefulness and lateral thinking were common themes throughout the day.
Making final adjustments
Brushing away the crumbs
Billy provides advice after viewing the camera image
Patience is paramount with food photography. After a few test photos, one piece of meat in the taco would be carefully extricated and swapped for another. Strips of meat were turned this way or that so the grill marks could be more easily seen. The tacos were photographed angled one way, and then angled the other way. Billy, as always, was measured in his photos. Once the set-up was done, only a few shots were required. The taco photo shoot lasted close to an hour.
Plating the nachos
After the marathon taco shoot, each subsequent dish seemed to progress a little faster.
Nachos ready to be photographed
Nachos were photographed in two different set-ups, one in a cardboard tray, the next in a foil-lined basket.
The quesadilla was one of the trickier dishes to shoot - requiring a view of both the toasted tortilla surface, as well as the filling in the middle. Billy was ever mindful of common perspective, ensuring all the foods were photographed at the same angle.
Creating the burrito
Wrapping a burrito so it stays open but appears neat was easily solved by Peter G. He was also unfazed by the challenge of building a filling that had distinct identifiable layers, tricky when it involves rice, beans, diced tomato, steak strips, lettuce and cheese.
Adding tomato pieces with tweezers
Making final adjustments
And with his eye to the camera, Billy masterminded the entire operation. I was surprised by how few shots were taken - most involved only three or four photos, but each one was near perfect.
Checking the images with the client
It was a long day - I had the least to do and I was utterly exhausted by the end of it. Yet throughout the day, Billy and Peter G maintained their good humour, knuckling down for bouts of intense concentration and focus when required.
And the final shots? After much waiting we were excited to find out the images from the shoot are now in use. Check them out at a Mad Mex near you!
Mad Mex menu board at Macquarie Centre
featuring photos by Billy and styling by Peter G
- with thanks to Karen from Citrus and Candy for taking the photo!
Mad Mex - Fresh Mexican Grill
Circular Quay - AMP Plaza Foodcourt
Lower Level, Shop 8C, 50 Bridge St, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9231 3663
Shop 2, 241-247 Crown St, Darlingurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9331 7788
Level 4, Shop 406A
Cnr Herring Rd and Waterloo Rd, North Ryde, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9889 7899
Shop 1038C, 50 Wyong Rd, Tuggerah
Tel: +61 (02) 4355 4880
Blacktown Westpoint Shopping Centre
Shop 4005A, 17 Patrick St, Blacktown
Tel: +61 (02) 8678 4360
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12/22/2009 02:31:00 a.m.