Another one bites the dust…

Instead of showing you some the of photos that are going into the book, I thought I’d show you one that isn’t.

This is a photo of Indonesian Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce. I do looooove the photo, however, I’ll have to re-shoot.

Let’s play! Can you guess why?

Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce

Photo Analysis

I purchased my my meat pre-sliced at the market – it was thin-sliced sirloin, and all I had to do was cut the slices into strips, marinate and skewer. However, the meat was sliced about 1/8″, which tasted just fine, but for the photo, it just looked too skimpy…kind of like beef jerky. The meat also gets lost in the photo – brown on brown on brown on brown. The satay looked lifeless in the end.

What do you think of the tray? I bought it at Crate and Barrel. I think its cute, but is it too cheesy?

As I’m shooting photos for the book, I’m learning so much about food styling and lighting and using my camera’s multitude of settings. But there’s one thing that my friend, RasaMalaysia reminded me, and it’s that I’ve gotten away from showcasing the beauty of the food. I’m concentrating so much on composition, the props, plates, mats and other styling stuff that it’s become a little too Food and Wine Magazine-ish? Too fake?

I think I need to go back and look at some of my early photography on the blog, where food was king. Some of my favorites are the clean, simple and pure photos, like these:

Sesame ShrimpGrilled Sichuan Prawns

German Oven PancakesSweet Yogurt Sundae

While those aren’t necessarily cookbook-worthy shots, these were all taken last year when all I focused on was the food. Do you kinda understand what I’m getting at? I love the lightness and textures of all these photos. So, my next batch of shots for the book will take what I’ve taught myself technically about photography and food styling and go “back to the basics.”

Would love to hear your thoughts.

***

More food photography posts:

My food photography lighting setup: Lowel EGO

Green Beans with Garam Masala Butter and Toasted Hazelnuts (light setup)

Kona Kampachi on Citrus Soy Soba Kona Kampachi on Citrus Soy Soba (see my step by step photo analysis)

Sparkling Ginger Lime & Mint Cooler Sparkling Ginger Lime & Mint Cooler (see my step by step photo analysis)

Escargot Escargot with Garlic Butter and Splash of Cognac (see my step by step photo analysis)

More in Photography Category

Comments 67

  1. Dani

    According to the Bread Winner, who is a whizz at photography. Your satay pics need more contrast and emphasised focus. Change the colour of the mat, angle the tray slightly and he thinks it would be much better. He also thought all the brown would translate badly to print. He likes your previous style of pics because they have tension and look more appetising.

    Me? I’m the world’s worst food stylist to my eternal regret and wish I could do half as well as your top pic.

    I do like the tray although it’s not great for that pic. I agree you are best to focus more on the food. Your food is beautiful and sells itself.

  2. wmw

    Was gonna say it was gobbled up by your kids before you got to it! hahaha…Beautiful pics lah nevertheless.

  3. Chuck

    Besides the brown, my issue with the first photo is the angle. It makes everything look flat. I like the wood texture of the tray, but not the compartments, which hides the food.

    I would prefer that you had a simple plate on top of a natural wood surface and shooting down lower at table level. Then you can style the skewers, rice and cucumbers to give it more depth and height. Style the food not the props.

    But what the hell do I know?!? Just keep it real and you’ll be great!

  4. Susan

    Hi Jaden, first of all…you are so “real” for even asking what I think…I mean you are Jaden Hair while I’m just another one of those food blog readers that only dreams of cooking and eating all that good food you all always come up with. I love the tray, if you angled the tray so the edge where the satays are, are closest to the camera, then change the cloth under the tray to something lighter (I don’t know, maybe light blue…sorry I’m a crazy blue and brown person), and either take out the cucumber and use colored bell peppers instead.

    As for Martin Yan, when I was old enough and smart enough to know what really good tv watching was I discovered Martin Yan. You get comedy, romance (the food of course) and handsome Chinese man all in one sitting! Now that’s entertainment!

  5. Mike

    I love your photos, but now that you’ve pointed it out, I agree with what you’re saying. For the blog though, I say do whatever is more fun for you (since the composition of the entire plate does make for a fun looking dish, I think). I have never put much time into the props, special plates, etc, but sometimes, I wish I did because it really would just bring things together a little more. I guess there’s a balance to be struck. I’m just happy to see well thought out stylings from other food bloggers with better sensibilities than I have as there’s definitely a lot to learn.

  6. luyanghapon

    The earlier photos definitely have more heart- am sure you know what i mean- you’re the expert- it looks like you have everything in control…you even criticize your own work- great job steamy!

  7. velops

    The rice is the brightest element in the picture, drawing the eyes away from the satay and peanut sauce since. I would replace the placemat and tray with something brighter so that the eye would instead be drawn towards the darkest parts of the picture (the satay and peanut sauce). I don’t think the banana leaf is working since there isn’t enough contrast to frame the satay and make it pop.

  8. jen

    i 2nd nathan’s request. I’d like to know about how Yan drops he accent off air, too! :)

    I also would like to know why “Yan can Cook so can you” doesn’t apply to me. :)

  9. Emiline

    Actually, I thought the pictures looked good! I enjoyed your post on what your “photo studio” looked like. I don’t have any sort of a photo studio. I just put the food on the table and take a picture of it. Sometimes even on the floor.

    I found your blog looking up “flatbread” recipes- so glad I did! I really like it.

  10. White On Rice Couple

    I prefer both and believe that both play an equally important role. The close ups and pure food shots are vital to highlight the food’s textures, flavors and overall drool factor. All the other styling stuff can tell a story about the culture and history of the food, through the use of the local and ethnic silverware.
    My most favorite magazine is Saveur and their photography incorporates both, simple close ups and great table set up to show the story about the food, it’s people and culture. My motto is to show the food and tell a story about where it came from and it’s environment- real food from real people. So, I prefer to show all different styles of food shots, both close up and from a distance.
    You’re right, there is a-lot of brown in your photo, but it’s still darn good!

  11. oi812uc

    The first thing I noticed was not the brown-ness, but the out-of-focus rice, cukes, sauce and back of the tray. That can work well for some images, but for some reason it’s not working here. If that is your intent, that’s fine…but to me it looks like you need a larger depth of field….longer exposure time and a higher f-stop….say f-16?
    By the way, the last image of the scallops works well for me because the foreground and background are both unfocused, thus emphasizing the center.

    You do have some very nice images…

  12. FlaNboyantEats

    hey girl.. what are those scallops made with?

    and, i happen to like the tray, though yeah, the beef needs
    to take up much more space? what about a tighter shot?

    did you end up eating anyway!? better have!

    cheers!

    b-

  13. Dr. Biggles

    Hmmm, my thoughts? Really? Are you SURE ???

    While your observations of the original shot are perfect (I caught none), I now have a different take.

    Ya know how you follow a starlet of some ilk? Movies, Sound, Stage? And they’re spot on? You’re one with them, you want to be with them, hang out and see what happens? Then, one day, years down the road they’re buying giraffes, speaking faux dialects and dating junkies?

    Listen to you. The cookbook is about you. The reason we’re here is because of you. If you begin to attempt to please others? You’re doomed. At least you’re cute, you’ll recover.

    xo, Biggles

  14. Debbie

    While viewing a food site I StumbledUpon the other night, I was commenting to my guy about how yucky the site owner’s photos were.
    “Look at this! This isn’t food porn! He needs to visit Jaden’s site & learn how to take better photos!”
    It’s amazing how often you come up in my food-related conversations…

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