Food Photo 101: Shooting BBQ

March 25, 2008 in BBQ, Food Photo 101

Another view of BBQ pork butt

(Dark and delicious BBQ’d and smoked pork butt)

I am sorry that the next class in this series has taken so long to produce.

Today I am going to step away from technical and aesthetic foci, be a bit less formal and try to tackle some of the challenges of shooting BBQ’d foods and scenes for your blog.

Some of you, like Curt, may have a preference (or obsession) for BBQ so many of your images are going to have similar BBQ related needs.

Whole trout with asparagus, key limes, and grapefruit

(Whole trout with asparagus, key limes, and grapefruit)

When I think of BBQ I think of my backyard and mostly grilling, which is not BBQing at all.

Charcoal for grilled fish

(Charcoal for grilled fish)

Grilling is, I think, much easier to shoot because the grill can be better lit and you are not trying to capture the unctuous depths of a pit smoker.



Mozzarella stuffed blue cheese and basil hamburgers

(Mozzarella stuffed blue cheese and basil hamburgers)

Whole trout on the grill with asparagus

(Whole trout on the grill with asparagus)

Pit Smoker

B.T.'s BBQ: Boston Butt Pork Slow roasted pit BBQ

(B.T.’s BBQ: Boston Butt Pork Slow roasted pit BBQ)

Both cooking methods can give you similar problems – mainly dark, lumpy chunks of delicious meat that is mostly not photogenic or not nearly photogenic enough to equal the beauty of it’s flavor.

BBQ pork butt

(BBQ pork butt)

It is also hard to “food style” away the essential darkness of a perfectly smoked BBQ’d pork butt because that, in person, is what is so arresting in its beauty. In a photo, the pork butt looks like it has been burned and dried to inedibility (when, in fact, its smoked and moist).

BBQ Pork Ribs

(BBQ Pork Ribs)

Another problem with BBQ and grilling is that its a shame to lose the context by focusing too closely. If you show just the BBQ’d rib you miss the dramatic smoky grill, pit, or smoker. This means you might want to shoot outside and then lighting becomes less predictable (but exciting too). To do any sort of ambient outdoor shooting you need to master your manual settings, shoot lots of shots from many angles, and be patient!

BBQ beef ribs

B.T.’s Smokehouse: Slow roasted pit BBQ beef ribs

Go for detail, interesting point of view, drama, and emphasize context whenever possible.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: Slow roasted pit BBQ beef brisket, pork butt, chicken

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: Slow roasted pit BBQ beef brisket, pork butt, chicken)

Did I mention that you should be patient? Be patient with yourself mostly because you need to take the time to capture many alternative shots but you need to also take the time to go through all of those shots and asses which ones work, how they happened and also identify those that didn’t work. Those that didn’t work can be helpful teaching tools for you so that the next time you will know what to avoid (not that you would take any fewer shots, just that the ones you do take will likely not repeat too many of the previous mistakes).

Slow roasted pork butt

(Slow roasted pork butt)

I have been including various shots above from my own grilling and BBQ. Next I am going to show some images from a shoot a couple of weeks ago that I did at Brian Trietman’s B.T.’s Smokehouse (see these two blog posts: An improbable meat nirvana in a BBQ wasteland, Criminally Good Smoked Salmon and Bacon – B.T.’s Smokehouse). I was shooting inside of his mini-restaurant and I had no special plates because I wanted the location and the non-fussy nature of the BBQ to show through.

I took a flash head but did not end up using it. Below you can see a shot of the set up – a table by some windows and a fluorescent light overhead. The light coming in from the windows was super-bright bluish light bouncing off of the snow outside. By far, the most dominant light was from the windows.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon - setting
B.T.'s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon)

I wasn’t that happy with the light in that location and my attempts to bounce didn’t give me much sparkle as you can see below.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insane smoked bacon

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: insane smoked bacon)

I did some other shooting in the mini-restaurant/service window but didn’t do much outside because the snow was just too much for getting much of a shot. I used my Canon 30D kit lens for the general shots below.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: smoked beef jerky

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: smoked beef jerky)

B.T.'s Smokehouse: bacon for smoking - seasoning

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: bacon for smoking – seasoning)

B.T.'s Smokehouse: ribs for smoking - seasoning

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: ribs for smoking – seasoning)

Your Task

Using everything you have learned in the past Food Photo 101 classes, go out and either shoot your own BBQ (I am sure Curt will because he has quite the set up and I am looking forward to seeing it!) or perhaps find an event where some real pit BBQers are doing their thing.

Post it to your blog and send us your link or post it to the Food Photo 101 group on Flickr.

Thats it! I am looking forward to seeing what you all submit.

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Criminally Good Smoked Salmon and Bacon – B.T.’s Smokehouse

March 19, 2008 in BBQ

B.T.'s Smokehouse: Brian and smoker

[Obviously, this is a new theme. Seems the other one was eating comments. Please let me know if you have any problems reading, navigating, or leaving comments. I will customize it over the next week or so. Thanks for your input!]

Today I am going to talk a bit again about B.T.’s Smokehouse, a BBQ Mecca of sorts here in central MA run by CIA trained Brian Treitman.

For those of you who already travel long miles for Brian’s treats, please note that he is moving into more permanent and larger digs at the Hyland Brewery in Sturbridge, MA (map). Be glad too because this will mean that he can offer even more of the nefarious ideas he has like his own smoked sausages and his award winning chili, amongst other things.

I wrote about Brian’s BBQ Adventures (An improbable meat nirvana in a BBQ wasteland) in a previous post after I visited him something like 3 weeks after he had first opened last year.

I wanted to give you an update on Brian and the newer things he has been up to. First off, he is still consistently smoking and BBQing heavenly pork butts, pork ribs, beef ribs, beef brisket, chickens, and such.

The good news is that now he is also smoking and BBQing up at least three new things that will knock your socks OFF.

Smoked Brian-made bacon – handcrafted from raw pork bellies.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: bacon for smoking - seasoning

B.T.'s Smokehouse: bacon for smoking - curing

He shared a bit of the process with me on my last visit. This bacon is rubbed and cured with his special rub and curing spices. He then smokes those bellies into a divine slab of goodness.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insane smoked bacon

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insane smoked bacon

I got to taste some of this bacon and let me assure you, its all about thick slices of smoke and spice that will outshine any eggs you may be eating the bacon with.

Secondly, Brian has added what I consider a lethal (to my bank account) offering – smoked hot cured salmon.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon

He has been very careful to not overcook this smoked salmon. When you slice it you can see that it retains some translucence and it is so very moist. The smokiness pairs with an enhanced salmon flavor. My family and I can NOT get enough of this salmon.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon

I could probably sit here and write whole fawning dissertations on this salmon but I think I will simply recommend that you find a way to visit Brian’s B.T. Smokehouse here in Brimfield, MA and later in Sturbridge, MA.

Finally, Brian is now making beef jerky that will satisfy the most truculent of jerky lovers.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: smoked beef jerky

He does sweet ones, spicy ones, and smoked ones. He goes through a lot of the jerky, salmon, and bacon each week so if you are traveling a long way, be sure to check in with Brian to see when its best to visit.

You can visit his site B.T.’s Smokehouse to learn more about Brian and the smokehouse!

The only potential drawback of stopping by at his BBQ shack is that your clothes will capture and retain the smoky goodness for a bit.

It’s a drawback because it will make you hungry!