Food Photography 101 – Lighting

In this series I’ll be showing you some very simple steps to take your food photography well beyond those simple instagram snaps and on to more professional images you’ll be proud to show off. I’ll also be showing you how you don’t need to spend money on a lot of expensive gear to make all this happen. For the first installment in this series I want to discuss lighting. Now most people are probably imaging a studio full of flashes, light boxes and assistants. All those things are great but lets be honest most of us don’t have that as a option and guess what? You don’t need any of it to make great images.

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1. Source It

If you want the most beautiful food photos then hands down natural light is the way to go. A north facing window will provide you with the best indirect light you can get. It gives you that perfect soft glow that really makes your food photos pop. When setting up your work space remember to turn off any nerby lamps or overhead lights as you don’t want their color temperature to have any effect on your photos, you only want that sunlight coming in.

2. Filter It

If you don’t have a good source of indirect natural light don’t panic you’ll just need to soften the light you do have. Most professionals use what’s called a “scrim”. You can easily make your own out of some commonly found materials you probably already have at home. Some semi sheer white curtains work best but you can also hang a thin white bed sheet or if it’s a small area a large linen or cotton napkin would do the trick. If your wanting to make a more solid scrim for use over and over again I would recommend doing this. Find a old picture frame (minus the glass) large enough to cover the area your shooting then simply cut the curtains to fit and affix to the frame. Now you have something that can be easily pulled out and set up for each shoot.

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3. Bounce It

Ok so you have your studio space set up and some nice diffused light coming in. There is one final step to help take your pictures over the top. When you have light coming in from one direction you risk some pretty strong shadows on the opposite side of your subject. While these shadows can add drama and some artistic flair to your photo, let us get the basics down first.

So how do you prevent these shadows? We are going to use a reflector to “bounce” the light back and “fill” the shadow areas. The simplest and most cost effective item to use as a reflector would be a solid white piece of foam board. If your like me though and would like to be able to pack your reflector with you for other projects then I’d recommend going for something like this and at less that $20 it’s a real deal.

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4. It’s a Wrap

My last beginners tip would be this never ever use the cameras built in flash aimed at your subject. I know the urge will be there but just don’t do it. It will give your food images awful highlights and terrible shadows. If you feel you must use a flash go with a off camera model and point it at a white wall or a 2nd reflector to bounce the light back into your scene and soften it up. However if you follow the simple steps listed above to set up your home studio I promise you that you’ll love the images that your now able to produce.

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Kris L Cox

Lost River Photography

Exciting Announcement

I am really excited about a lot of things that are going to be coming this year. First thing, is an exciting announcement. I am going to be working with one of my good friends, Kris Cox, who is an amazing photographer. He will be helping me out, as soon as my work schedule settles down, with the photography on my site. Along with that he will also be contributing to the blog with articles about food photography and maybe we can get him to write up something about some of the food he is cooking as well. Look for the first article to go up soon! Also make sure you check out his site and show him some love!

Kris

Courtesy of Lost River Photography

 

He takes some really amazing pictures and has taught me a lot. I am really looking forward to working with him on my site!

Soy Sauce

I was recently lucky enough to be contacted by a company called “Little Soya“, and as you may have guessed they make a soy sauce. Now this may not excite everyone like it did me but they offer a really cool product. They produce a gluten free, non GMO low sodium soy sauce. I am going to guess that a lot of people didn’t realize that there was gluten in soy sauce to start with, but there is! Since my Mom eats gluten free this has been a super exciting find.

Well I received a big box from Little Soya and was so excited to open it up and see what awaited me. When I opened the box up I was greeted by an amazing amount of products. I could not believe everything I received. There was a box of little soy sauce packs that you can take to go! The best part is as you can see in the picture is they look like little fish!

Little Soya Box Contents

Little Soya Box Contents

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Kimchi Fried Rice Balls

Today since I was feeling adventurous I decided to try making some kimchi fried rice balls with my cooking partner in crime, Wai-man. Oh yeah it has to be as tasty as it sounds right?! I mean can you seriously go wrong with kimchi fried rice rolled into a ball then battered and deep fried?

So to start with we cooked up a batch of jasmine rice in the Zojirushi rice cooker. Just simple plain rice. Nothing fancy about the first step. Looking back on what we were doing I would use something like a sushi rice or another short grain sticky rice, but we used jasmine on our first try. After we cooked the rice we simply let this cool down and dry out slightly.

Spam Frying Up

Spam Frying Up

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Mojo Marinated Pork

So I have been really excited about Cuban flavors recently. Partly due to the fact that I love the movie Chef, but mainly because they are just great flavors. I have decided to mix this with my love of sous vide cooking. I have decided to do a mojo marinaded pork shoulder and cook it with my immersion circulator, instead of the traditional oven roasting and then shred it and make some Cuban inspired street tacos!

My plan is to take the shoulder and mix up a mojo marinade.

 

Pork in Mojo Marinade

Pork in Mojo Marinade

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My Experiment!

I had a great week of classes. I taught a class where we made ravioli, which is a ton of fun. One of my kitchen assistants and I decided to have some fun after the class and get creative. Hence my experiment! Now I can’t take all of the credit for my creativity in this recipe. The day Wai-man and I decided to make something special I had just read a post from Ideas In Food. In this post they were talking about making a pasta dough and incorporating some miso paste into the dough. We took this idea and ran with it.

We started out with the basic pasta dough recipe we use in the ravioli class at Sur La Table.

2 1/2 C Flour

4 Large Eggs

1 Tblsp salt

To this I added about 2 Tblsp of white miso paste to add a mild flavor of miso to the pasta dough.

Sheets of Pasta Dough

Sheets of Pasta Dough

While that was resting we started our filling.

Since we were kind on an Asian flavor path with our pasta flavor we decided to keep with that for our filing. I brought some of my short ribs and Wai-man brought some kimchi and a little bulgogi. We chopped up the kimchi and mixed that with the beef, sesame seed and sesame oil. I put all of that in a bowl and mixed it all up and added a little sriracha to give it just a little bit of an extra kick. I heated up a pan nice and hot and then added the mix to the pan and started cooking it up. I cannot even describe how amazing this combination of ingredients smelled. It was the most heavenly things I have ever smelt. It was meaty and the sesame oil gave off the most amazing aroma ever. I thought with the kimchi in it that we might get a little bit of a funky aroma but surprisingly it was quite mild.

Cooked Ravioli Filling

Cooked Ravioli Filling

While Wai-man was filling and cutting our ravioli’s I started working on a sauce for our pasta. I decided to keep it nice and simple and just make up a quick cream sauce.

Filling the Ravioli

Filling the Ravioli

I started reducing some heavy cream in a pot. When the cream got nice and hot I added some more miso paste to the cream along with a little sesame oil and thinly sliced green onion for flavor. After it reduced down I started checking it for seasoning. It ended up turning out really good and complimented the pasta really nicely but looking back I should have grated a little ginger into the sauce. It probably could have used a touch of soy sauce in filling or in the sauce.

Cream Sauce Reducing

Cream Sauce Reducing

Either way I was really happy with our final product. The filling turned out super tasty and the pasta and sauce complimented it. All in all it was one of the best ravioli’s I have had. It was the perfect food for the cold night that we had last night. It was one of those things that as you’re eating it you feel like you are wrapped up in a nice warm blanket. I think that our mix we made for the filling would be really good in  a nice bowl of ramen or a multitude of other dishes. This is just another example of why experimenting and playing around with food and ingredients is so much fun. Never forget that there is no such thing as failure as long as you learn from what you create.

I will be making this again for sure! I think that one of the best parts of this and some of the other things I have cooked is letting other people eat it and getting such great feedback. I don’t know that there is a better feeling as a chef then someone enjoying the things you cook!

My Goals for 2015

So with the new year brings a whole host of new challenges and new goals. I know everybody loves setting goals for themselves for the start of the year. For me 2015 is no different, time to set my goals for 2015! So here we go, I think this is going to be a great new year.

Sauced up finished ribs.

Sauced up finished ribs.

One of my goals for this year is to do more cooking and writing about it. I bet you could have guessed this would be at the top of my list! Well it is true, and one of the things I love most about cooking is there is always new things to learn. Not only are there different methods to learn but there are also so many different types of cuisines to learn. I have been on a big kick to learn more about Cuban food, and thanks to my Grandpa for giving me a Cuban cookbook I am already on my way to learning more about it. Along with that I have a great assortment of new chemicals to learn how to use. And thanks to chefsteps.com and “Modernist Cuisine at Home” have some great resources to learn some fun new cooking methods.

Another thing is to expand my range of cooking equipment. I am off to a great start, already have my immersion circulator and induction burner, so what is next you ask? Well I would love to get a nice pressure cooker and explore the world of cooking in one. As you all know I am a huge fan of cooking sous vide and to make my life a lot easier I am hoping to save up and buy a chamber sealer. Not only would this make cooking sous vide a ton easier but also storing and marinating foods. The downside to them is the price tag attached to them. But like all things hopefully patience will pay off and I will have one sooner rather than later.

I would also love to do some traveling over this next year. I would love to visit some amazing restaurants across the country. I am thinking that a great place to start would be heading to Chicago and hopefully have the chance to visit Alinea and maybe visit Graham Elliot’s restaurant as well. I also want to make a trip back to Portland and visit some friendly faces, talk about food and eat at some great places.

One other thing that I really hope happens this year is to get to move into more of a full time cooking job. I enjoy what I do now with Page One Power but it is a lot more fun to go to a job where your passion is what you live day in and day out. I seriously love teaching classes at Sur La Table and I would love nothing more to do that on a full time basis.

Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

Just 3 days into the new year and I am already excited about some cooking that I am already doing today. I am making another batch Creme Brulee in my immersion circulator. It is one of my favorite desserts and cooking it in the immersion circulator I was shocked at how beautiful it came out. One of the best creme brulee’s I have ever had.

First Run in Water

First Run in Water

I think that it has been my best purchase of 2014 and I could not be happier with how it has preformed. Not only does it look cool and make you feel like a mad scientist but it is a super efficient way to cook delicious food. I will be giving it a serious work out over this next year. After that I am hoping to get some mojo marinated pork shoulder working to make some delicious Cubano’s or some Cuban inspired street tacos!

I hope all of you have some great goals for this new and exciting year that revolve around great food and fun cooking as well. Let’s all work on making this a tasty and fun new year! I have a feeling that this is going to be great year with a lot of fun things in store! Happy 2015 everyone!