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Wrightfood on KCRW 89.9FM Good Food Radio Show

Big news folks! At the beginning of December I got interviewed by the wonderful Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s Good Food. I am happy to say that the show aired on January the 2nd, and you can now listen online!

The interview was all about the process of curing meat in a basement at home. We talked about successes and failures. We talked about the meat curing setup, environmental factors, and the really stupid idea of planning a party around cured meat.

So, if anyone wants to hear this rather funky Brit talk about moldy meat – you can listen to the radio interview online here: Good Food Radio Interview

click either listen or download to hear the show – my section is at the 50minute marker.

Pretty soon I will do a big ole post about my meat curing setup, and how to get started curing meat at home.

Compact Camera Food Photography

Compact Camera Food Photography

(above shot taken with my old Canon 8MP compact camera)

When I did the blog posts about food photography, and food photography post production a while ago now, I got some emails and comments from people asking how this stuff relates to using a compact camera, instead of some flashy big digital SLR.

Truth be told, there are a lot of similarities. There are also of course a lot of differences.

The one thing that is completely key with both camera systems is knowing your hardware. Know the advantages, and certainly know the limitations.

So, without further a do, lets get down to the nitty gritty, and look at using a cheap old compact camera for food photography.

Click to see and read more about compact camera food photography, including an in-depth shot breakdown!

Storing Seafood at home

As anyone reading this blog knows by now, I am rather batty for cooking seafood. Over the years I have stored fish and shellfish a lot of different ways, and have finally settled on what I consider one of the best ways to keep seafood super fresh in the fridge at home.

The idea for this came about from a chat one day with my favorite local fishmonger. I knew there must be a reason that in any decent fishmonger the products get stored on ice – more than just the fact it makes everything look pretty, and our two year old son constantly thinks it has “snowed in the fish store”. Turns out to be something very logical indeed. Most fish swim in very cold water. Far colder than my fridge. To keep the fish in the best possible condition, it is best to try and keep the fish thusly as cold as possible, without freezing.

Store your seafood on ice” suggested Ron. “But be careful, because when the ice melts you end up with fish sitting in water, and that can be a little funky” (not quite word for word, but you get it).

Turns out this is the same advice as in the French Laundry cookbook too. And who am I to argue with Mr Keller.

Continue reading about Storing Seafood at Home

Food Photography – Post Production

Well, when I wrote that long post about setting up food photography a couple of weeks ago, I promised a follow-up post that talked about post production on your images.

What do I mean by post production? No, it ain’t making fence posts. What I mean is everything that happens to the image after taking the shot. It is really pretty rare these days that I get a shot off the camera and am 100% happy with the shot, and just upload it straight to my blog. In fact, that honestly never happens. I always end up tweeking a bunch of things with the image until I get something that I reckon is OK to show.

OK details. What EXACTLY am I talking about? I am talking about cropping an image. I am talking about adjusting white balance, exposure, color adjustments, sharpness and all that jazz – all in the computer ater taking a shot.

I have been known to say “screw it, I can fix it in post”, and at work I have heard that from a good many people (I work as a computer graphics artist) too. The reality really is that most of the time only a certain amount can be done in post. So, you put complete crap in, you are going to get what we call “a polished turd” out. Sorry for the crudeness, just a term that a few of us fling around.

Most professional food photographers I know try and get it bloody close to perfect when shooting (before doing any post work). This is honestly the way to go. Try to get your white balance right in the camera. Try and get your exposure pretty much perfect before hitting post production. This will yield a better image. Trying to fix bad lighting after taking a shot is almost impossible. Only so much can be done in those nifty software packages.

Lets talk about software packages that you can use here for a second… There are a great number of packages out there now that are aimed at “developing” digital photographs. There are a few that I really like, but unfortunately they aren’t free. Thankfully most digitalSLR cameras come with free software that lets you edit your pictures. Canon (the camera brand that I shoot with) has Digital Photo Professional, which actually can do a pretty decent job of most adjustments. It is a little slow and clunky to use, but it gets the job done (some things really very well indeed), and it’s free. I am sure Nikon has something similar.

If you are looking at spending some money, then there are three that I recommend. First off is Adobe Lightroom. This is a great piece of software from the boys and girls that bring you Photoshop. Aimed at the professional photographer, it has a really slick workflow, is easy to use, and very responsive. I like it. Next up is Capture One Pro, from Phase One. This is another high-end piece of equipment, and really does a very similar job to Lightroom. If you look on most photography forums you will find heated debates about which of these two is better. I ain’t going there people, save the drama. Finally there is Photoshop. We all know photoshop. It has some half decent tools for adjusting photographs – but it does lack some of the controls of Lightroom or Capture One, uneless you really want to jump into some of the more advanced modules in Photoshop.

If you are thinking about really getting into food photography, I recommend one of those three. Either Lightroom or Capture One would be my first choice, however Photoshop is a handy thing to have around for doing other image tasks, like removing dust, stray bits of chopped parsley and so forth. Whatever you choose, the basics are the same – you have white balance/exposure/color adjustments in all of them.

I am not going to talk about workflow in a certain package. Heck, I am not going to even mention what software I use (it is one of those three..) – because I don’t want to bias anything.

To demonstrate my workflow, we are going to take one of my previous shots through the image post production pipeline – and natter about it on the way. The shot is from the salmon crudo post I did a little while back. I shoot in RAW format (talked about before in that previous post on food photography) – and the controls that I am talking about here are available for RAW images, and (depending on the package) JPEG too.

Click to continue reading about Food Photography post production

Food Photography

Just recently I have got a few emails from people asking about the food photography setup that I use. I honestly find those some of the most flattering emails I have ever received, because honestly, I am a big time hack. BIG TIME. I don’t do photography as a job, and really have very little time to shoot the food I cook, before I eat it.

I don’t like eating hot food cold.. even if it means a good photo, and I generally (there are exceptions..) don’t like to piss guests off either by making them wait for theirs..

Continue reading about my food photography setup

Yielding the perfect Crispy Fish Skin

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So I have decided that every now and again, when something springs to mind, I would share some of the stuff I have learnt about seafood – whether it is purchasing, cooking or presenting. I have received quite a few emails about cooking fish, so why not share some of my responses with everyone, rather than just a single person!

Anyone that reads this blog knows that I am pretty nutty about fish. Lets face it, it’s fantastic. I can think of no other protein that has so many different flavors and textures, and can be presented in so many different ways.

(more…)