In the last couple of days I was exposed to meat in all its forms as I had several different shoots with it as the main subject. From a “simple” Sunday roast at a pub to a review of a Brazilian rodizio restaurant. A t-bone on a barbecue with some friends and a shoot at a steakhouse finishing with another review at a top steak restaurant… all in less than 10 days! These made me come to a conclusion: grilled, braised, slow cooked, or on a barbecue; meat can be a pain in the neck to photograph.
If you’re ever in a restaurant and need to get a shot of your meaty dish, you might want to consider the following steps before snapping away. There are many ways to make meat look interesting and appetizing which is our purpose as food photographers.
So, based on these back to back close encounters with meat dishes here are 5 tips to follow if you want to make mouthwatering pictures of your steak.
Try to get at least one shot of raw meat as this is when it looks at it’s best. Visually, there’s nothing more appetizing for meat eaters than a sharp, bright picture of their favorite cut on it’s raw uncooked form. The contrast of the red and light brown tones contrasting with the white marbled effect of the fat and muscle. Trust me, you can’t go wrong with shots like this. Oh and don’t forget to ALWAYS shoot in RAW!
Meat tends to sweat after being cooked. If you’re shooting meat that has just been cooked and plated, be very quick as its juices of will start leaking unto the plate and it’s not very pleasant to the eye. Blood isn’t either so be aware of any leaks and have a napkin ready.
Another thing to worry about is that meat dries out very quickly, so keep a bit of oil next to you in case meat dries out. Freshly cooked meat looks shiny and juicy.
Cut it open
If you’re shooting a thick cut, it’s best if you cut it open to show its cooking temperature, the chef’s skills, or just how beautiful that piece of meat is. Perhaps you want to use a shallow depth of field to highlight the centre. Don’t get too close as you want to have enough space in the foreground and background. Be subtle.
Sauce on the side please
Most likely you’ll get your sauce on the side but it’s always good to double check with your waiter if it’s possible to have the sauce on the side. Sauces are delicious but they don’t have a pleasing colour or texture to the eye. Your photos will look outdated (like a 1980s cookbook) and the texture of the meat will be spoiled.
No matter what you do, NEVER use flash on meat. Like I said, meat comes out juicy and shiny. If you fire a flash directly at it you’ll end up with a ridiculous amount of hot-spots which are quite difficult to cure with cloning and masking tools. Why are you using a flash inside of a restaurant anyway?
If you’re in a dark spot and need to shine some artificial light, use a light pad or an led lamp with a diffuser attached to it. Move it around so you get minimal reflections.
Have any other ideas? Share them in the comments and if you like what you read, please share it with your friends.
Until next time.