Cooking with Max: Food Photography and Delicious Eats

February 23, 2016

This past weekend I was able to focus on some real food photography for the first time.  Sure, I'd taken the odd photo here and there, but never while actually thinking of the lighting setup, prep, and food styling.  So it was a real first.

My friend Max, author of the awesome food blog The Globe on my Plate, is looking to start a business where he does in-home cooking lessons.  He invited me along on his trial run so I could take some pictures he could use to get the word out. I made my way up to Madison on Saturday and set up at his friend's beautiful home.

Whole Apartment Whole Apartment

Guests chatting while Max does some prep work.

We went over multiple techniques and learned four different dishes.  All in all it took about 3 hours, but it was totally worth it. I've definitely done a lot of Indian cooking at home (a chicken curry is one of my go-tos) but never anything that felt so authentic.

Aloo Asala Aloo Asala

Aloo Masala, a potato curry.

It was a pretty good mix of Max showing technique, letting us in on interesting facts and people helping out hands-on.  Max did a really good job of involving everyone during the important parts. He passed things around for people to smell and get a feel for, something I feel is really important to Indian food.  So much of the essence of the food comes from the various spices and the techniques used to extract those different flavors and smells.

All the spices were purchased from a local Indian store, and we toasted and ground them all at home.  The only thing Max did beforehand was start marinating the beef curry (which was originally supposed to be lamb, but a leg was hard to come by,) but that takes more time than we had, so it made sense.

Garlic And Spices Garlic And Spices

Mmmm... garlic.

The photography portion was really interesting as well.  This was definitely the most professional work I'd ever done, so I was a little nervous going in.  It was tricky shooting in the kitchen with just the light we had and an on-camera flash, but I managed to get a few shots I really liked.  I definitely learned a lot.

My favorite part was shooting the individual dishes at the end. While I was stupid and didn't bring my own linen for shooting on (a mistake I won't be making in the future), I lucked out on the plates.  The host had these absolutely beautiful spanish plates that brought just the right amount of color to everything.

Navratan Korma Navratan Korma

Navratan Korma, a curry dish with paneer, vegetables and pomegranate seeds

I bought a new softbox just for this, and used a reflector on the other side to bounce just enough light back.  It's still a little darker on the right side than I'd like, but they turned out well.  Since I'd never done anything like this, I practiced the night before on some eggs, seeing how the light would hit it from different distances.  In the end I liked the overhead shots more, but I took some from a few different angles.

Beef Curry Fin Beef Curry Fin

The finished beef curry, with a little naan to eat it with.

All in all, I had a great time.  Hopefully I'll get to take some more photos of future lessons.  I know a lot of the little things I learned will help me on my trip, as I'm sure I'll be taking plenty of food pictures over there.

See the a few more photos below, and you can find the rest I took on my Flickr.

Masoor Dal Masoor Dal

Masoor Dal, a delicious lentil dish.

Spices Toasting Spices Toasting

The spices toasting for our garam masala.

The Whole Meal The Whole Meal

The whole meal all together on one plate.