In an effort to improve my photography, I am participating in the Donna Hay Styling & Photography Challenge 2012, hosted by Simone at JungleFrog Cooking. Simone is an incredible food photographer herself, and this is one way she helps the rest of us try to get better.
Each month, Simone selects a recipe from the Donna Hay magazine. Then, participants attempt to recreate the photo as closely as possible.
This month’s challenge gave us a choice of two images – Salted Rump Steak and Roasted Potatoes with Chimichurri Sauce (photos by Ben Dearnley). We could choose to recreate either recipe, or both. Here are the images we had to choose from:
As you can see, two very delicious looking pictures with lots of interesting textures, props and lighting. I had serious doubts my feeble photography skills could even come close!
But, I persevered. I decided to do the steak picture, since I have a round pizza stone that looks much like the stone in the picture. I don’t have anything even remotely like that rack the potatoes are in, so I wrote that one off right off the bat (well, the picture. Of course, I made the potatoes anyway. Yum!).
Making the recipes was quick and easy (my notes about the recipes are below the recipes,at the bottom of this post). Setting up the pictures – not so much.
I didn’t have anything like that marble-y looking background, so at first I just set my stone on my wooden kitchen table. A couple of shots immediately showed that that totally changed the whole color and feel of the shot. I pondered for a while, trying to find something to use as a background. Finally, I realized that my kitchen floor was about as close as I was going to come! So, I pushed the table out of the way, and moved the whole thing to the floor.
One major obstacle was the size of my baking stone, which is much larger than the stone in the original picture. This meant that my skewers were shorter than the stone (instead of longer), and if I just put the steak on there, it left too much stone all the way around. So, I moved everything on to the stone. That worked fairly well, I thought. Not exactly like the original, but close enough for government work.
After much tweaking and moving and cursing and trying to get a clean, clear, directly overhead shot without a tall tripod, I finally ended up with this picture. I tried my darnedest to get that little oil ring next to the jar of chimichurri, but the stone just sucked it up too fast. After the fact, I now notice that I’ve got the knife in the completely wrong place. But here’s the kicker – I was fussing so much with the steak and the chimichurri sauce and the knife and all that – I totally forgot to put the potatoes in the second jar!!
I still cannot believe I did that. Sigh. What a dork.
Oh well. For a first try, I think it came out pretty well and I certainly learned a lot, which is, of course, the point! The biggest lesson? I need to spend a lot more time before hand thinking about how I want my pictures to look and styling the whole thing. Usually I’m so rushed trying to get a decent shot before the food gets cold, that my pictures come out kinda lame. Huge opportunities for improvement! This was a fun and interesting exercise and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.