Updated: May 17
Unlike sweets and pastries, savory dishes require much more planning and overall effort to capture those mouth-watering shots while maintaining a clean, beautiful look. As a former chef myself, I approach each savory shoot by discussing the recipe with the chef so that we can really break it down in a detailed way. This level of planning and communication is essential because it allows us to not only capture the dish in the most visually appealing way, but it also helps us to showcase the unique flavor combinations and ingredients that make each dish special.
When it comes to savory dishes, every ingredient of the recipe plays a critical role in the overall presentation. From the texture of the meat to the color of the vegetables, every detail matters. Therefore, I spend a lot of time working to ensure that each element of the dish is cooked in a way that is visually appealing.
Recently, I did a photoshoot of shrimp ‘n grits with bacon, andouille sausage and gravy. The way I approached the dish was to cook everything separately and plate them before the ingredients solidified. I cooked the bacon and sausage first so I could then use the remaining oil to flash fry the onions, peppers, and garlic. In this step, it was important to lightly sauté the vegetables in order to maintain their crisp bright colors. Separately, I took the jumbo shrimp and quickly fried them so they were cooked just enough to give them the perfect browning while maintaining their natural colors. Pro-tip: Each time I finished cooking an ingredient, I placed them into separate bowls. From there, I dressed the ingredients on their respective plates as they were cooling so they would maintain a nice shape. For this shoot, I had the advantage of working with grits as they maintain their mold when they’re cold. 😉
Now, we’re really ready to prepare for the shoot! I start by placing all of the separate ingredient bowls alongside the studio table. From there, I begin to place each plate in the spotlight and begin to envision what it will look like when it’s all put together. Before I can begin assembling, it’s crucial to make sure the lighting is right and all of the props are set in place.
Once everything is good to go, the assembling process is ready to begin! If the chef is not actually in the studio I will then send them a link through Capture One (my live link software of choice) so the client can see the raw image as I’m shooting it. Additionally, I provide the option for my client to join me on set via Zoom so they can provide feedback or request to make tweaks. It is of the upmost importance that my client is happy with their results, so this is a fantastic tool for achieving the desired results.
Finally, we are headed to the final stage of the shoot. I am incredibly thorough leading up to this point in the process so that I can get all of the pictures while maintaining hero images. Once I have gotten “the go” from the chef, it’s time to finish it off with dressings, gravy’s and/or garnishes. In this case of the shrimp ’n grits shoot, the final touch is adding the gravy because once the gravy is added, I can’t take it away. Once this has been added —Voilá! We shoot the final images.
When it comes to capturing the perfect photos for a savory dish, there's no doubt that it requires more effort and planning than other types of photography. But I believe that the end result is always worth it. When I work with a chef to capture their ultimate vision for a dish, it's not just about taking a pretty picture. It's about really understanding the recipe and the ingredients, and working closely with the chef every step of the way. Through this process, we are able to not only create a beautiful image, but also capture the unique essence of the dish itself - the flavors, the textures, and the overall culinary experience. And when we're finally done, it's not just a photo, but a work of art that celebrates your artistry and hard work as a chef. So, to all the chefs out there, I say let's work together to create something truly special. Bon appétit!