Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Chicken Tikka Masala

Recipe Food Photography NYC

Chicken Tikka Masala


* 2 tablespoons of olive oil
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 4 cloves garlic
* 2 tablespoons ginger
* 2 teaspoons garam masala
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 20 oz tomato puree
* 1 onion finely diced
* 1 teaspoon ground red chili powder
* 1 healthy pinch salt
* 1 cups of heavy or thickened cream
* 1/4 cup water if needed
* 4 tablespoons Fresh cilantro


Chicken Marinade:
* 28 oz (800g) boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
* 1 cup plain yogurt
* 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 2 tablespoons ginger
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
* 3 teaspoons garam masala
* 2 teaspoons turmeric
* 1 teaspoon of salt


* In a large bowl, thuroughly mix ingredients for the chicken marinade; if possible let marinade overnight in the fridge.

* Bring oil in a large skillet to high heat. You want to blacken the chicken and burn it slightly. Fry a couple at a time making sure to cook them evenly on all sides. Set aside and keep warm.

* Add butter to the same pan and let simmer. Fry the onions, garlic, ginger until golden brown. 

* AAdd garam masala, cumin, turmeric and coriander. Fry for about 1min until the room fills with the fragrance of the spices.

* Add tomato puree and stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and becomes a deep brown red colour.

* Stir the cream and let simmer. Thoroughly mix until cream disappears into the sauce. Add the chicken and cook for another 10mins.

* Garnish with cilantro and pour a little of the remaining cream on top.
Read More at: NYC Food Photography

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Best Meats in Town

I've photographed many Pat LaFrieda meats all over NYC. You might not know his name yet but if you've had a steak at any restaurant of good repute in New York city you've had his meats. These are two of my favorites that I photographed at Antica Pesa in Brooklyn. a pat lafrieda steak photographed at the italian restaurant antica pesa a pat lafrieda slider sandwich photographed at the italian restaurant antica pesa

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Test Photoshoots

NYC Food Photography

Test Photoshoots - Try it you might like it.

One of the traps of being a professional photographer in New York City is that you only get to do what other people want you to do. That’s sort of the deal that you create what they want in exchange for money and that doesn’t necessarily mean that your creating the work that you want to make. One of the leaps that you have to make when you go from being a hobbyist photographer to a professional is to produce work for other people rather than just for yourself. And then the next step is to learn the business of photography and learn how to turn that skill into something that you can charge money for. For many people this leap can be creatively stifling and soul sucking. You’re making money and your achieving your dreams to become a professional food photographer but often the work that you’re creating no longer fulfills you spiritually. The advertising industry can be both a wonderful and fantastic place where the sky is the limit and at other times a crushing hellscape of repetition and boredom. Because this also has the tendency to make artists keep creating the same work over and over again because that’s the work that sells as opposed to the best work that they possibly could make.
a video of a dancer moving
As a professional food photographer or really any kind of photographer or artist it’s extremely important that you keep exploring and keep trying new things. Sometimes as a food photographer this means photographing things that aren’t food. Photographer’s usually refer to this as “testing.” Test shoots are non-paid jobs that you explore on your own or with a other creative professionals. This can be a great way to build your portfolio or try out funky new weird technics or ways to look at the world in an environment where you’re free to fail and try something else. When your a photographer and your on the job you often only have a very small window of time to impress your clients and the people that your working with. This can stifle creativity and causes a lot of very talented photographers to just create ‘safe’ work. It might not be their best work but they know that the client will like it. Test shoots are a free time. A time to try using that weird funky gel, create that dark moody lighting aesthetic with shallow depth of field. And if it doesn’t work out you’re only out the time it spent to create the work and not a hard earned client.
a dancer posing for a photograph
Finding other people to test with can be hard at times. Everybody is extraordinarily busy, overworked, overstressed, worried about money, worried about their relationships with others and finding others who are in the same creative head space as you at the same time that you are can be difficult. But rewarding. Never be afraid to ask to ask another creative professional if they’re free to test and never be offended when they say no.

By doing so you can learn more about yourself, more about photography and more about the world around you. Go out into the world and be awesome and do awesome things and awesome things will happen to you.

These are photographs that I took of my friend Shieri Yamafuji who is an amazing dancer and yoga teacher.
a belly dancer frozen in motion

Want to read more? How to be a food photographer.com a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword a belly dancer posing with her sword

Passport to the World - Cannoli in the coffee.

Being an NYC Food Photographer means having a passport to the world without ever having to wait in line at La Guardia. That doesn’t mean that you get automatic TSA pre check. In my life I’m constantly going from one restaurant to another and from one cuisine to another and one language to another. Part of what makes New York city such a great place to live is that people from all over the world converge here on these tiny islands looking for new opportunities. And many of them bring their food and culinary traditions with them and start restaurants. You can find just about every kind of food imaginable in NYC. From East African tibs and Injera to Himalayan yak stew. And as a food photographer your job is to help share those culinary traditions. In my life on Monday everybody is speaking Chinese, Tuesday switches to Italian and on Wednesday I’m photographing with the Dominicans.
cannoli being dunked in coffee
It’s important to understand the subtitles of these traditions. They share a rich cultural heritage but Italians and Italian Americans are very different people. Their lives are literally half a world apart and it can be important to understand these traditions. One time me and the marketing director of a restaurant photographed the most beautiful cannoli ever being dunked into a cup of coffee like a donut. But after the shoot when we showed that photograph to the owner of the restaurant who grew up in Rome the answer was just “No. No way. No real Italian would ever dunk the cannoli.” Fortunately we had photographed the cannoli in other ways but it’s important to be respectful to the traditions of a food that dates back to the Middle Ages. But if this was an Italian American restaurant they probably would say “Hey, knock yourselves out.” Mostly you just have to listen. I almost always advocate listening more than you talk. When you’re a food photographer on the job you often have very limited time to make a good impression and understanding the culture of the food your photographing is vitally important.
ethiopian food with a side of injera
My Chinese friend said a hilarious thing that the secret to young beautiful skin is chicken feet. Mmmm… mmm… chicken feet. Chicken feet are actually high in collagen which is good for your skin so it does check out. I personally am not a big fan of chicken feet. I don’t like human feet either and I think I’m just not a fan of the idea of feet in general. But I will always try them anyways hoping that this time I’ll like them. And I never want to put off my hosts who often insist on trying the chicken feet or the crawfish or that weird undersea mollusk. For many people who grew up in China chicken feet are a treat that they remember fondly from when they were kids. And they’re proud of that tradition. But for somebody who is Chinese American that’s not necessarily the case. I’m not saying that if you’re a food photographer you absolutely have to try the chicken feet but why not? If you don’t like it thats ok but at least be open minded to the possibility. I can eat tripe all day long and once had lambs face stew at a photoshoot. But I was disappointed that they left the eyeballs out of it.
Hands pulling apart crawfish at a Chinese Restaurant
I also love grasshopper tacos but I struggle a little when they leave too many of the feet on and one gets stuck in my teeth. They are pretty crunchy and delicious. I love them with a squirt of lime. In the same way that you want to keep an open mind about trying new weird foods and traditions try to keep an open mind about how you view the world and your approach to photography. If you always photograph everything overhead try a new angle. If you always pull the same soft box out of your lighting kit try shooting with just a bare bulb. I’m constantly looking at the work of other photographers to get ideas and inspiration for what the latests and greatest trends are. There’s a trend in food photography lately to make deadpan flatly lit photographs. There’s one food photographer in NYC in particular who makes these visually striking photographs. I would describe them as minimalism meets a deer in headlights. The way that she does it makes me not want to eat the food. In particular when she photographs meat I find her work off-putting as if I’m looking a cadaver in the morgue and not a steak in a fancy restaurant. And because of this I secretly suspect her to be a serial killer, I mean how could anybody photograph food and I don’t want to eat it? But I still notice her work and it makes me pause every time I see it. She makes powerful images and I think this aesthetic works better as an editorial photograph as opposed to product photography. but to each their own and sometimes I take inspiration from her work and try to work some of those ideas into my own. Try it sometime. You might like it.
grasshopper tacos from at Tolache

Read more at How to be a Food Photographer

Monday, February 3, 2020


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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

How to photograph food with a Ring Light

If you’ve seen any of my behind the scenes shots you might notice that I frequently shoot with a ring light. I like to call my ring light my not so secret secret weapon. When used effectively it’s a handy tool for creating a bright floaty aesthetic that will set your work apart from other food photographers. It’s a handy tool that can immediately shine light anywhere that you need it but learning how to effectively use this tool can be tricky.

The number one reason that I use a ring light is to fill in the shadows. In my own personal work I like dark moody photographs with striking contrast and selective focus. But thats not necessarily the look you want to go for when selling breakfast cereal. Nobody wants their breakfast to be dark and moody, a little depressed and having a bad day. When I did a job for Kellogg's NYC cereal only restaurant I didn’t dare give the food an attitude problem. I did everything I could to make that bowl of cereal look like it was floating on a cloud. And when you’re on a job your clients are going to want you to shoot in a style that more matches their brand as opposed to your own personal aesthetic. While dark and moody might work for some bars or restaurants the majority of clients are going to be interested in a more bright light aesthetic and a ring light can help you to capture that look.

A ring light is a light that circles around the lens of the camera in the shape of a ring. Because it’s coming from almost the same place as the lens it ‘sees’ and shines light to everywhere that the camera ‘sees.’ Because the light goes everywhere that the camera sees it fills in any areas of shadow with nice bright clean light. I typically have my ring light turned down approximately 1 stop below my main light. This is because I want my ring light to be subtle and not overpower what I’m shooting. Too much ring light will flatten out what your shooting and not enough and it will cause it to be dark and moody and finding the right balance can be tricky. This all depends on the aesthetic that you’re going for too. Sometimes you want everything to be flat and even and sometimes you want everything to be dark and moody. But if you want to capture a nice well lit eggs benedict I recommend starting at having your ring light set at 1 stop below the main light and adjusting from there. You’re light level will also vary depending on how far your ring light is away from what you’re shooting. If your plate of food is perfectly lit at a distance of 2ft at 4ft it will only receive half as much light. At 8ft it will receive a quarter as much light and so on. Where ring lights get tricky is when you’re shooting objects that are reflective. The light from the ring light will bounce off shinny things and can cause unwanted highlights or weird sheens. This is most pronounced when shooting either cocktails or steaks. In these cases I typically will either turn my ring light way down or turn it off completely. Steaks can be an issue because of the oil on the steak will reflect weird funky highlights. But not enough oil or not enough highlights and your steak will look dry and flat. It’s imperative when shooting steaks or any other kind of meat to get an even level of shine and this can be accomplished by carefully positioning your main light so that its not coming from directly behind you or directly in front of you. Ideally it should be off to one side or the other at approximately a 45 degree angle. Subtly is key to a well lit steak and often when photographing food moving your light or your camera an inch to the left or right can result in a dramatically different photograph.

When shooting cocktails with a ring light the light will reflect in either the liquid or the glass. This can be an undesirable effect for clients who want to see the product that they’re selling as clearly as possible. But fear not. Highlights when used effectively can cause your cocktail to lighted up and shine. I like to refer to this as an electric feel when the reflection is just perfect. I try to take it on a case by case basis and evaluate how the ring light reflection looks in each individual shot. When shooting bartenders making cocktails my main focus is the bartender and lighting them up clearly and evenly and the ring light is effective in this. Typically in this situation I’m shooting quickly and don’t necessarily have time to reevaluate every single shot and will opt to retouch the reflection out if it is an issue in post. If I’m shooting just the cocktail on it’s own I’ll often either turn the ring light off and use more fill cards to illuminate it or I’ll change my angle slightly. When pointed directly at a cocktail glass the ring light reflection will pop off the glass. But typically if you shift about 15 degrees up or down the reflection will either minimize or vanish completely.

I own two different kinds of ring lights. One is an Ikan LED ring light and the other is a Profto strobe ring light. I vary my lighting setups depending on what the needs are for the photoshoot that I’m doing that day and switch between using strobe light and LED. Strobe is great for freezing action shots or when my clients have a project where I think that I’m going to need a lot of light. LED can be great for creating more subtle lighting effects or for when I’m shooting video. Always when shooting with a ring light I recommend using a lens hood to shield your lens from any unwanted glare. 

Whenever I’m interested in trying at a new piece of gear I’ll rent it for the day to get a feel for how it works before I commit to buying it. I always prefer to own my photography gear so that I can develop a relationship with it and get to know it’s individual quirks. Often you can get a deal on renting equipment if it’s a long weekend or a holiday and I would check with your local rental house. If you explain that you’re just trying it out they might even give you a discount for an overnight rental if you bring it back first thing in the morning.

Read more at How to be a Food Photographer