How many recipes do you have that involve grilling food? It’s summer time, so chances are you’ve got several. I’m going to show you how easy it is to get the grilled look without busting out the grill for your photo shoots with these food styling tips. Then I’ll show you a super quick and easy trick for making beautifully curved bacon.
The “grilled” peach salad was made by food stylist Marcella Cappasso. Marcella styles for editorial work and for advertising work. You can see in the salad there are several peach pieces with grill marks on them.
There are two ways to get grill marks on your food without a grill. The first way is by using a grilling pan on your stove top.
You can get very nice consistent grill marks on your food with a grill pan. Of course this depends on your food and how dense it is. Marcella put a little oil on the peaches so they didn’t stick to the grill. Remember we are creating a salad to photograph, not eat, and make it as quickly as we can. These tips are to save you time styling your food for your photography. This is a different way to think about your food photos.
Ok, so the next way to grill food when a pan won’t work for you is by using this tool:
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This is called an electric charcoal starter. I found this one on Amazon for about $16. For some reason it has a ridiculously short cord so you’ll have to use an extension cord with it. The metal heat element gets extremely hot. We usually let this rest on a baking pan that is turned upside down so it doesn’t burn the counter.
If you’ve never used one of these before on food, it’ll take a little practice. You do not need to press into the food hardly at all. Just a light touch with the heated element is enough to make a perfect “grill” mark.
Every stylist has their own preferred way of working, but often what I see the food stylists do is get the majority of the grill marks from the grilling pan, then with the charcoal starter touch up the grill mark lines that were not dark enough, or that were not complete from top to bottom.
The trick with using this on food that has not been on a grill pan first, is to make the grill marks evenly spaced on the food. As soon as you show a grill mark that is not parallel to the others, you’ve ruined the food. No grill would leave a crooked mark like that.
After Marcella has put the peach slices on the grill pan, she touches them up with the charcoal starter. Now we have a pan full of perfectly “grilled” peaches that only took a few minutes to make.
While Marcella is working on the peaches, her bacon ribbons are in the oven baking to a perfect color.
There are several ways to make bacon ribbons. Here is one very easy method.
Marcella made a large corrugated aluminum tray. Then she laid the uncooked bacon across the peaks and valleys of the foil. While baking, the bacon will form beautiful curves around these peaks and valleys. This contraption is placed on a pan that is also covered with foil to catch all the bacon fat. It is baked in an oven set to 400 degrees and baked until Marcella likes the color of the bacon – about 15-20 minutes.
And that’s it! Easy, perfect looking curly bacon. So much nicer looking in photos than flat pieces of bacon.
Here is my natural light set for the salad shot.
Marcella is pouring the dressing on the salad before we shoot the final shot with the white cup in it. She makes sure to put the dressing on the salad where we need it to show for the image, then for the final pour shot, she holds the cup very steady and continuously pours in one place, while I shoot lots of shots to get the final image we like the most.
I am using my Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 100mm macro lens. There is a large fill card to the left of Marcella. My studio garage door is wide open to the right of the set for natural light.
If you like the wood background and surface, please see my post about how to make them called, “How to Make Distressed Wood Backgrounds”.
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