A glimpse into the studio

Behind The Scenes for a BBQ!

First, as always, thanks to everyone who contributed their time and talent:

Linsey Bell….. Food stylist
Chris Hazard….. Assistant and BTS shooter
Amber Scott….. Assistant

For this barbecue shot I wanted a very outdoorsy feel, but with a twist. So I used a slice of a tree stump as the background, and a fake grass mat as the food platter. These grass mats are used in store displays and I found them in Tap Phong (a great housewares store on Spadina Avenue just S. Of College St.). I also found a cute little bowl for the corn spice there as well. It’s one of my favorite places to shop for unique and unusual setting pieces.

Here’s a shot of our preliminary set up, stunt food in place. I wanted a very sunny outdoorsy feel for this shot, so I used a beauty dish placed behind the set to create “sunshine”. To fill in the shadows I’ve placed a medium-sized softbox above and in front of the set, and balanced the output to just fill the shadows from the beauty dish. This combination gave me lots of texture and contrast in the food while still being able to control the depth of the shadows.

In looking at the shot I felt that the lighting was a bit too even overall, and the back corners of the shot seemed to bleed out of the frame. I cut some fingers into a piece of foam core and placed it in front of the beauty dish to cast some random shadows into the back of the shot, giving it a bit of depth and reality. I find that I often do this type of shadowing to create the feel of real light rather than the very clean studio look of even light. In the real world outside the studio, light often comes to us through tree branches, windows or other obstructions, so by casting some shadows in front of my lights I create a little more sense of reality.

Meanwhile in the kitchen our food stylist, Linsey Bell was prepping final food. Here she heats a metal skewer to place grill marks on both the corn and the chicken. For the purpose of this shot she lightly browns the skin of the chicken using a combination of ‘kitchen bouquet” and a butane torch. Then the grill marks are applied with the hot skewer. This allows the chicken to retain its plump juicy look for the camera.

Once the final food hit the set, and I grabbed a quick test shot, I had to make two quick little adjustments. I felt the highlights from the chicken were a little bit hot so I quickly clamped a small piece of brown gel to a grip arm and positioned it so that it would just slightly shadow the chicken. I also added small gold reflector to bounce a bit of light into the fruit salad. Here’s a shot that shows all the little lighting refinements in place.

gold reflector, lower left and brown gel clipped to a grip arem

Food shooting is a very collaborative process which requires coordination between the food stylist, the photographer and the assistants. Here’s Lindsay grating a little bit of greens over the salad, and here we are both reaching in to make small final tweaks before taking the shot.

With the overall shot completed and in the bag, I grabbed the camera off the studio stand and quickly take a few close-up and detail shots to supplement the main shot. One of the joys of the digital era is knowing that you have the shot without having to wait for the film to come back from the lab, which means you have an opportunity to play around and grab some extra shots, which often end up being the shot!

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