Prep for Oven Shoot with LED Lights
We've got an oven. We've got it ready to go, we've got it setup. Melana put a um, You can put anything in here, you can put paper towels, foil. This works really well because it keeps the drippings away. Just something to prop up the chicken. Because you're shooting for a two-dimensional image, head-on. We're using a 180 millimeter lens, which is pretty unusual for food photography. But you'll see how dramatic and kind of cool and compressed the shot is once we get to it. Where as if I went with a 45, it just wouldn't work. It would reveal too much of the sides of the oven, which frankly haven't been cleaned in a while. But it would just be too much of the oven and not enough that, which is kind of the opposite of how I like to shoot. But this is so dramatic, I think it has a really neat effect. So don't be afraid to shoot 300 millimeter just for fun, just to try it out. Don't be afraid to throw a 200f/2 at it, That'd be unique, we haven't done that yet. So we're gonna do the chicken, ...
we're gonna get started, so feel free to interject with any questions you have while we're shooting this. And I'll explain what I'm doing as I'm doing it, so you have an idea of what to expect.
Yeah. So the first thing, let's put a I don't need this marked
because I have an idea, we can move it.
Okay, I can take it out?
Um, yeah. But if this were a commercial, I would probably mark the grates, put some tape as to where the tray went so we know where to go. But since we don't know exactly where we want it yet it's kind of irrelevant. So once we have the chicken in the pan, we're going to pretty quickly which angle is ideal. Um, so Malena knows Thank you Jeff. Malena knows this will be angled this way, so she's gonna look at it and then place the chicken hopefully kind of just this way so it has a little bit of a criss-cross pattern. So it's not just straight on straight. So it's a little bit more dynamic. I kind of look at food, fashion shooters would understand this really well. I look for food to have gesture, so you know when you have a person in front of your camera and they're doing something, but you just capture that moment where they're like at peak gesture where their arms are, there's no, all their limbs are bent properly and it's a really nice image. I look for that in food. I shoot food kind of like you would shoot an athlete and I treat food's positioning kind of like you would treat a model. So it's just kind of like you want a lot of gesture curve in carrots and stuff that isn't just straight and rigid, unless that's the look you're going for. So you've got the tack already.
Yup, I'm gonna put it on.
(laughing) Chickens, styling a chicken, chickens requiring a lot of styling. There's a lot of photographers, or stylists, who style a chicken very naturally and there's stylists who style it very, I guess old school-esque. I really like the old school look. Where it kind of look like it's almost plastic. I like it, I don't know why, it's just really- I love the beauty of that perfect, and those aren't cooked. Those aren't even, I mean you'll put it in the oven for little bit to kind of shrink up the skin, and you'll glaze it with, it's mostly kitchen bouquet bitters and a dash of dish soap so that it adheres to the skin. The oil in the dishsoap kind of just allows that emulsification to happen. So it's very old school that is not how it is done, typically done. I just happen to really like that look. And in a commercial setting, it's even more appropriate because you don't want anything to distract you from the oven. And if you're selling the oven, especially if you're taking a shot of the whole oven, or the whole refrigerator especially, you want everything in there to be perfect so you're like, your mindset is okay that's alright that's already perfect, nothing to look at, nothing to look at. Oh it just looks beautiful and delicious, look at the fridge, which is just stainless so it's really hard to get your eye there. So you use a lot of tricks with lighting and making sure the food style is absolutely perfect because food style is to fully cook a chicken when you let it go the skin will just start to wilt and wilt and wilt and wilt and it'll look like just a dirty date, massive dirty date. There's a happy medium, so what we're gonna do is we're gonna make it look like it's actually being braised in its own pan juices, so we're gonna bush a lot of this on there and kind of let it just coat and almost drip off. So we're not actually styling, we've already styled the skin, but we're create it to make it look like it just got basted. So we're gonna look like, you're opening the oven and it's almost done and you're basing with the pan juices and you're about ready to close the door, and there's a lot of cool steam stuff going on, and the chicken's almost there. So, do you want me to do the honors?
Whatever you want me to do, whatever you wanna do.
Okay. So you don't wanna, with the hero chicken you wanna really grab it gently.
Keep it here, so it's not gonna move.
Okay. You wanna style everything more towards the camera even when you're plating a dish, chefs do this all the time where they plate in the center of the plate. You wanna sort of help them, if possible, if they're willing to listen to you, kind of push the food towards the front. Use a slightly smaller plate, push the food towards the front, and it'll look almost as though it's almost in the middle. Same goes here, the chicken if we get it too far back it's just gonna, and this might even be higher, but we'll take a look. We'll stick a, we have a lot of beautiful produce that Melana styled individually. So we know that this is the camera angle, so every time you style, you're gonna look and see how it looks. So I already see, actually that would be good right there. Do you have a T-pin?
I don't have a T-pin.
T-pins are your friend. I love T-pins
I don't have a T-pin, but I have a-
I have a T-pin. You can actually use a screw.
I usually use a toothpick.
Actually these are good. This is not a T-pin, this is a something else that I like and I don't know what it is. So go to Home Depot and just, until you find one of these. But they're more robust than a T-pin. A T-pin would be torn, it'd be bent by this situation. T-pins are really small. I'll show you one in a second. But this at least gives you, you can come under the chicken and it'll kind of allow you to at least get some height on it, maybe. There we go. Yeah, that's better. That one could use it too, yeah. Thank you. So you're always looking, this doesn't matter what matters is the final camera angle and no matter how ridiculous it looks when you're actually looking at it in real life, the only thing that matters is what you're coming in at. And if you do happen to, I rather get the chicken at the right angle and then have to do a little Photoshop work removing the T-pin than having to actually liquefy and entire leg. Alright, we'll see if that works. That works. You can't see it. That looks good. That looks really good. Okay. Let's push it back a little bit and we'll start um
Should we start putting it in?
I'm gonna push paper towels, since you can't see
I brought the foil too, you want the foil?
Let's do the foil because foil's black.
Oh you want that foil? Okay.
Yeah. I don't want anything that will reflect. This is an expensive use of cinefoil. Now cinefoil is not usually used to bump stuff up, but I do want no reflections coming up into the, this can be reused though. If you use this for, I will showcase this right now, this can actually be used as a light cutter. I actually fold it like this into an L-shape and you can mold it, so if you have something, it's completely flexible, so if you have light coming through here and this blocks it, on the set, you can actually come down and just push it exactly into the position that you want. It'll stay and it sucks up light like crazy. You can actually use this for the backing of the oven. I could have actually, you know if I really wanted to cut a lot of light, I could actually put that on the back to really make the back of the oven black. But you have to really shoot to shallow up the field, otherwise you will see it. So I'm gonna scrunch this up. Be careful not to touch the beautiful and I'll do one more. Don't do this at home, this is really expensive. I mean it's not really expensive, it's a waste. I'm doing it for you guys.
Here are the potatoes, for the bottom.
Yeah, that'd be great.
You want me to...?
Can you lift that up and I'll go under, yeah. Perfect. And then again I go down and make sure, nothing changed. There we go. And yeah, let's start doing uh, we could do filler in the back, because you can start to see as you come down, you can't get away with as much there so yeah. Even if we have...
I was gonna put these
No those vanish completely. Let's put a-
No these are the non-hero ones.
Oh we have to get, I think a lot higher than that.
A lot higher than that, just so yeah I'll go in there. Now you can use paper towels, and you can also use Crisco, you can use instant mash potatoes to kind of just create bulk where you don't have to put, because you can't see any of that back there, so there's no reason to put food back there, you just put filler or you put paper towels. Crisco's my favorite because you can move stuff on it, like in cereal you can actually move flakes and stick flakes into the Crisco and it's a lot more manageable, but for soups, I think mash potatoes, I mean, instant mash potatoes have their place for sure. But you can start to see those potatoes. Yeah, just put them all in there.
A question, well first of all, people had said that they thought that was a cotting pin.
A cotting pin.
It is a cotting pin. That's right. Yeah, yeah, thank you for that.
Sure no problem, the internet always knows. (photographer and woman laugh)
But a question, unless you have any here, from Chavi Taddelbaum was, can you walk us through your thought process of how you decide what to include in the set itself, the composition. Do you always know ahead of time, like where you're starting and what you're looking for.
In a commercial setting, always. They won't let you, especially if you're photographing a refrigerator for a client, or an oven, they're gonna want some interior shots that are more macro, they're gonna want some environmental shots usually that involve ya know, a set of the kitchen. That's a realm that I don't get into as much because I don't shoot a lot of products. I shoot a lot of food-related product. Not necessarily in that scale so this job potentially coming up is gonna be a departure for me, but we're able to do it for sure, it's just a bigger, especially if the sets being built, but yeah.
So does the art director-
They tell you, they tell you.
Tell you exactly-
Oh yeah, yeah. There's no essential bless, in fact the angle, where the dials are. Cause we shot for a company that has a temperature gauge on the front of the machine to tell you what the temperature is. So we have to dial that in to match what we're cooking in the machine and even if there's no heat going on, it has to. We get a plate of just the temperature that we brush in later in Photoshop.
We'd love to go back and see what Malena is doing and have her talk through that process.
Yeah let's get her opinion, kind of what her thought is on where to put stuff.
Um, first I just kind of build it and a lot of times with styling you build it and you may have to redo it and move stuff around, you just kind of get a base for it. And then, you know once you put it in there you may have to move stuff around or you know take stuff out. So it's just kind of improvising right now and then figuring out where it all goes. You're just kind of layering it in.
And you want things to kind of be vertical and fresh and moving. You want the gesture to be there, you want length and bend to your images. Um, and I'll kind of keep an eye on. She's really focused on styling, but I will keep an eye on camera angle and kind of how that effects what's going on, so I'll make suggestions throughout. In fact, this might be moved beyond there. I want the front of the chicken to be fairly visible. So that means maybe even, yeah just kind of where everything kind of goes out and up away from it, but where this is visible. So the potatoes, and we're gonna put some herbs too to fill in that.
Probably more in the back too, in that area.
Do you want the herbs like the fresh, I chopped some up, and do also want the regular herbs?
I want just, we'll sprinkle the chopped, but I'd like the thyme and maybe some of the tips of the rosemary like four inches, to be kind of together and coming out the side and out of the chicken.
Do you want them to be wrapped up in like twine or-
No, no, no, I mean they could be, but I think we just stick em in the backside of the chicken.
That would be ideal. That's a really good position for that, that looks nice. With everything kind of criss-crossed, but sort of work its way outward and then outward that way.
It lets us really kind of create a- that's really where the carrot is coming in. It takes some time, in food photography there's a lot of hurry up and wait. So there's a lot of frantic-ness while you're trying to get a shot because it's time sensitive and then you'll be kinda hanging out while stylists do their work, while other things go on, while sets are being rebuild. We sometimes have two or three sets going on at one time, but generally speaking there's a lot of waiting, a lot of prepping between shots. So it's important for the stylist to be, like she said, one ahead, one shot ahead, as far as prep goes, if not more. So you can really just kind of go, go, go.
So a question had come in related to that, which was, first of all do you have a real kitchen in your studio? Do you have to? Would be another question I guess and then how do you keep the food looking fresh? Like for example, grilled steak, if you only have a couple minutes to take that shot, since you were talking about like hurry up and wait. How do you keep things fresh?
Every item is completely different. I mean there's tricks for steak, there's tricks where you keep like an egg, what you're going to do in my splash class is, you can keep that in oil, at room temperature oil for days, like an over easy egg, as long as there's no oxygen getting to it. Kinda the same with steak, but steak you really have to move on because I see cold steak photographed constantly, it just looks purple and weird. Steak is one of the more difficult things to shoot properly, and I actually recommend the sous vide technique works really well. I don't know if you're familiar with that cooking technique, but if you sous vide something over time and then sear the exterior, visually it's really appealing. That may not be what the recipe calls for or what you're even selling, but if you have a choice whether to do that with meat, especially beef, it creates a really nice pattern of appetizing color throughout, and it's more stable because it was cooked for so long, that you can kind of slice through it and you have a little bit more time, but you still have to really move. There are no tricks, I don't brush oil on meat, I don't do a lot of stuff. The thing that looks really good as far as styling meat, is to take the juices from the pan and use kind of those juices to brush on the meat. That's one of the only things that looks natural and not greasy, but really good. It's like its own natural styling sauce. So, that's one of the good ways, but for every product it's totally different, from chicken, it's usually a matter of putting saran wrap on stuff. And you'd be amazed how much stays at room temperature. This chicken's been room temperature since six in the morning and it's not cooked. I mean the outside is. So it looks plump, but it's not cooked at all. There's just different- some people cook it halfway, and some people just want a regular chicken, especially if it's editorial. It just depends on who's calling the shots and what they want. It really is.
[Female Audience Member] I think this pertains to styling, but what about a cooked chicken, cutting into it, how would you do that?
Oh cooked chicken, like a whole cooked chicken?
[Female Audience Member] Yeah if you like, wanted to cut into it and see the inside of the meat.
Oh yeah, that's a different story entirely.
[Female Audience Member] Totally, totally.
The whole cooked chicken has to be cooked, but it's a really good shot, especially in motion you do it when it's still warm cause you want, when a piece of meat is warm, it'll leach out it's juices if it's cut too early, and that's kinda what you want in an image. If you want the action shot of it being cut, just kinda zoom in and go for it. There's not much else you can do. There might be tricks that people use that I'm not aware of because I'm not a full-time food stylist. But there's food stylists that specialize in very specific things, pizza bowls, there's a stylist in New York who specializes in just ice cream. So there's actually, food stylists who are known for just one thing. That's not all they do, but they have a vast amount of knowledge. But if I were to do it myself, it would be a fully cooked chicken. I would do some tricks, I would probably a little more like paprika or some sort of seasoning sauce. It's not so dramatic as this, to just kind of bump it up a little bit. That's more natural and it's usually a macro shot of you actually slicing it so the whole chicken isn't necessarily in the picture anyways. If you pull it out of the oven immediately and cut it, there won't be that wilt. It'll still be plump, so you only get that wilt when there's a lot of cool for any amount of time, so you have to go fast and have a lot of chickens on hand.
One more question and maybe we'll involve Malena so we can go over and see what she's working on, but were the vegetables prepared in the same way? Are they raw? Were they cooked? In terms of making it make sense, in the oven.
Again that's one, from raw all the way to fully cooked, it depends on your direction.
I mean, in this shot-
In this instance, she went through and we were doing this from my aspect, I was the art director on this. So I went through and said I want at least at least a little bit of color in most of the vegetables. I want this to be almost done. I want it to look like you roasted chicken and then threw some vegetables in later and now you're doing the final basting, before it comes out of the over. That's where our goal was, so we want everything to match that idea. So there's not a lot of really raw stuff, I think the carrots are, but that's the only thing. And so everything else has a little color on it. We put it in a skillet and we caramelized just one side, so you're doing every little component separately. So it's not like you just throw a bunch of vegetables into a pan because they get damaged. You take everything really carefully and you select heroes out of that and then you slowly place them and build the scene from the camera angle, so yeah. And I think we're almost there. Oh that looks good. What? Yeah that looks nice, okay.