Baked salmon with pistachio crust was my student project for a food photography and styling workshop. Taught by Denise Vivaldo, Cindie Flannigan, Matt Armendariz, and Adam Pearson, it was an information packed two-day experience.
Day One – Making Food Camera Ready
Day one focused on food styling tips and making food ready for the camera. Food styling is about control. We learned about color and movement in food that is going to be photographed. What your eye sees is not what the camera sees. It’s amazing how looking through the lens changes everything. Because your eye moves but a camera lens is still you have to create the movement. It's challenging to make food look good for the camera.
While professional chefs are trained to get hot food to the table, the reverse is true for most food photography: cold food works better. Professional food stylists on commercial shoots are paid to make food look beautiful. It's different when shooting for a food blog, because most bloggers eat what they shoot.
Tips from the Teachers
A few tips from the teachers:
- Pick good subjects for the camera in terms of shape and color
- Food must be identifiable to the camera
- Consider contrast, elevation and texture
- Think about your garnishes
- Keep props simple, remembering that utensils create movement
- Every picture tells a story, so decide on the story you are trying to tell
- Please yourself and develop your own style
- Shoot tethered with cable attached between your camera and a computer so you can see the results of shooting instantly.
- Use a tripod for stability and clearer images
Day Two – Every Picture Tells a Story
Day two of the workshop was about putting teaching into action. Our teachers guided us through a day of food styling, shooting and implementing what we had learned day one.
My Student Project: Baked Pistachio Crusted Salmon
The challenge at the end of day one was coming up with a dish we wanted to shoot as our project. Everyone arrived early armed with groceries to prepare and then shoot their chosen project. Our worktables were large boards covered with heavy felt on sawhorses. An ironing board and steamer were ready to press linens as we set our scenes. We prepared in the studio kitchen and chose props from Adam’s huge collection.
It's All About the Light
Matt explained what makes for a great food photograph:
- light quality
- how to diffuse light
- how to change the light
Light, light, light. It’s ALL about the light. The right light makes all of the difference in the world between an average photo and a breathtaking one.
Details Make a Difference
As each project was a work in progress, we gathered to learn about the small changes that would eventually result in a professional looking food photograph. It was exciting and educational to watch each student’s project from beginning to end and the beautiful photographic result.
More Salmon Recipes
For another easy salmon recipe try my simple seared salmon. If you like food photography, here are a few more tips.
- 4 6 ounce salmon filets preferably wild, skinned
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ cup unsalted shelled pistachios toasted and finely chopped
- ¼ cup Japanese Panko crumbs or unseasoned breadcrumbs toasted
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 lemon wedges
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Carefully turn the salmon skinned side up and with a very sharp, thin knife (like a filet knife) trim out any dark purple areas. This is the blood line and it can be strong tasting. If you don’t mind that, skip the trimming. Place filets on a foil covered rimmed baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix the mustard, butter and honey into a smooth paste. Set aside. In another small bowl, mix the pistachios, crumbs, parsley and chives. Season the salmon filets with sprinkles of salt and pepper. Spread a little of the butter mixture on top of the filets. Coat the top of the filets with some of the nut-crumb-herb mix, patting lightly. If you have extra of the herb crust mix it keeps for a few days refrigerated.
- Place the salmon in the oven and roast for 12-14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.