I really struggled with the title of this post. I feel as though it should be Adventures in Food Styling rather than highlighting the Seafood Cobb Salad that I remixed and then photographed twice for my home kitchen. Whatever the title, I’m baring it all today in the hopes of helping you to be a better food stylist by learning from my mistakes.
We are always looking for what we call “Joe’s Fish” when we travel — the local seafood restaurant that offers wonderful seafood at reasonable prices that only the locals know about. Recently on our trip home from Ohio, we were determined to take the time to find a good lunch place near Indianapolis. By using my Yelp app on my phone, I found Mitchell’s Fish Market in Carmel, Indiana, and we were in luck! While not exactly Joe’s Fish, Mitchell’s is a supper-club style chain with excellent seafood and meat options on the menu.
I ordered the special salad of the day, a Seafood Cobb Salad, and a lobster tail. As I do, I took a photo of the plate, but my iPhone seems to be having some issues with focusing. Maybe I’m doing it too quickly; I only include it to show you the original styling of this presentation.
Once home, I was determined to remake this delicious salad. I gathered together the makings of the original salad — two lobster tails, a can of crab, one pound of shrimp, two hard-boiled eggs, and a pound of bacon. Yes, the ingredients were expensive, but I made enough of the meat mixture to separate into frozen packets for at least four more servings. I spent a long time looking for the right recipe, but finally just created my own. I cooked the bacon until it was crisp but not crunchy, boiled the lobster tails for seven minutes and then immediately put them in ice to stop the cooking. I opened the can of crab, and thawed the precooked shrimp and pulled off the tails. I chopped it all into bite-size pieces. Pretty darn easy.
Most lobster roll recipes call for a mayonnaise-heavy dressing, but I tried lightening it up a little by adding a fat-free raspberry vinaigrette to some mayo. That worked nicely, giving the dressing a slightly sweet taste that was not overpowering. I put the salad on a bed of red-leaf lettuce and started taking photos.
This is where we get into the food styling fail. This is actually the BEST photo I got of the bunch.
- To start with, the layers of the salad would have been prettier in a clear bowl, like this photo from Rachael Ray’s web site.
- The egg is dominating the photo, rather than the seafood salad, and it’s not cut very carefully.
- The deep red edges of the lettuce fade out without proper lighting and just look black — not very appetizing.
- The plating of the seafood is not done carefully; it looks tossed on (as it was).
So what’s a girl to do? Remake the salad and buy a new lens.
With purchased lobster roll salad and more carefully thought-out styling, I rephotographed the salad with my new 50mm/f1.4 lens. What a difference!
First I tried it in a clear bowl a la Rachael Ray. My new Monet tea towel made a nice backdrop.
Then I tried it in the white bowl again. It’s amazing what a good lens and some careful food styling will do to essentially the same photo, isn’t it?
What’s the moral to this story?
Both salads were very tasty; it’s pretty hard to screw up lobster. The bottom line is that in food photography, good equipment makes a difference, but it’s important to thoughtfully style the photograph before you use that fancy lens!
Mitchell’s Fish Market, 14311 Clay Terrace Blv., Suite 100, Carmel, IN 317-848-FISH
I’m linking up today at Open House Party Thursdays sponsored by No Minimalist Here. Be sure to stop by and visit some of the creative bloggers sharing their work!
Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I long to hear that, “All aboard!”
Music and lyrics by Bud Green, Les Brown and Ben Homer (1944)