Turkey Jerky and Turkey Carcass Soup – Thanksgiving Leftovers

My last couple of blog posts, I struggled to try to build this blog into something that would help me teach and share what I do behind the scenes to capture my food photography. Always seeking the perfect shot, the perfect lighting, improving my art of food styling, I wanted to capture the essence of each dish as it was created or to capture a shot and show you how I was taking it. Too many photos and too much work for me, but I had to try it to see if I could find the best process for you.

Well, now here it is, plain and simple. I’ve been posting my photos on instagram, facebook, twitter, but it was too much work for me to hold a full time job, grow my business, and also keep up with two blogs.

But now that I’ve been using more high tech tools, like Google Drive, I can capture my thoughts and collect my photos for you to see once a week when I am committed to posting.

I am going to try this again and get it right – I love it so much. Food photography and eating good food, that is. I am not one to follow a recipe exactly from beginning to end. I know what I like and I try and be as resourceful as I can. In and out, that’s what I want. So, I will share recipes with you that I can capture quickly – it might be with my DSLR, it might be with my iPhone, and forgive me if I happen to capture a photo with my iPad2, as I’m composing a blog post with a really cool easy breezy recipe for you. I am back.

So this past week, I celebrated Thanksgivings at my sister-in-law’s house in the Rockaways. It was such a special Thanksgiving as last year they were displaced temporarilly after Hurricane Sandy flooded their entire basement. So I am very thankful that they are back in their home and that we could all celebrate together.

Recently, my mom bought me a dehydrator – a 9 tray dehydrator. I love to try new things and we are all trying to eat healthier. I have been dehydrating everything I can, to practice with. So for Thanksgiving, I brought with me one of my new creations.

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Dried tomato chips (with hummus)

Then when I left, I took with me the turkey carcass, and the extra turkey leftovers (there wasn’t much, but there was enough)

I made the turkey jerky by cutting the pieces uniformly (so they would dry evenly), about a 1/4 inch thick. I put them in a ziploc bag and poured a bottle of Stubbs barbecue sauce in the bag, mizing it all up, enough to cover each piece evenly. I laid them out on trays and 4 hours later, I had turkey jerky bites.
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They filled the house with a wonderful aroma. When they cooled I put half in a ziploc bag and made a care package to mail to my sister-in-law, with a feedback survey for the kids (just trying to make it fun and get them involved).

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Leftoverr Turkey Jerky

We completely finished the jerky today, and it was even better with a more developed flavor.

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Turkey Carcass Soup

The turkey carcass soup was very flavorful, too. And I am not the only one who thinks so. My tabby, Jazzy, is waiting by patiently in the wings.

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So forgive me if I’ve neglected my Digifood blog, but my passion for food photography has NOT died. It is fueled even more with even more need to be resourceful in not only my cooking time, but I’ve also picked up two new exciting tools:
Video Marketing
and
A brand spankin new iPhone 5s.

I appreciate your time and thank you for stopping by – there is much more to come, so stay tuned

Raspberries. A Behind the Scenes Photo Shoot.

Raspberry-Food-Photo (3)Raspberries.  For this shot, I looked at quite a few raspberry photos on the internet to get ideas and see how I might want to capture this little red summer fruit that is being depleted from produce sections in New Jersey.  I wish there were fresh red raspberries on the vine to shoot at a local berry patch, but nothing around my neck of the woods could be found.Raspberries in a bush

The only raspberries locally I could find were at the local supermarket.  No berry patches here,  So you make do with what you’ve got right?  I shopped for them the night before, so I put them in a Tupperware box specifically for fruits and vegetables.  But, by that time, they had ripened even more.  There were a few salvageable raspberries that I could use for a small closeup shot, so my tool of choice for food styling was a chopstick.  This is how I delicately placed them on the plate:

Raspberries from box to plateNapkin does the trick for food stylingBecause my subject was a little overripe fruit with some red liquid leakage, a napkin gently dabbing the spots away (or even a q-tip), does the trick.  Always clean your plate so the subject’s eye is drawn in to the subject.  With the camera, you have the ability to make some minor adjustments that have a big impact.

Table

I used my snack table base that has become my staple , whichIn-home Studio Food Photo Set Up-1 is much like a saw horse, only very portable and lightweight.  This snack table has a tray that sits on top that can also be used as a table, but I just use the legs that open up to create a stable platform for my foam core.

The foam core I use has become a staple for my in-home  “studio” food photography..  You can’t have food photos that make people want to sink their teeth in without good lighting.

Reflector

When I shot In-home Studio Food Photo Set Up-4this, it was a cloudy day.  The reflector card worked nicely to bounce back diffused light so it gave it a softer cast, not hard studio lighting.  Because I like to shoot in natural lighting as much as I can, it is great for filling in some shadows (when I don’t want them – they can be a great tool for showing depth, contrast and feeling).  For this shot I used the foam core piece that I cut and wrapped using the soft side of aluminum foil on the outside, taped with packing tape.

And the V clamps that I use can be bought from home depot for a couple of bucks.  They make taking those food shots a that you want to take a possibility when everyone else can’t wait to dig in!  They are an extra set of hands that won’t melt or spoil, and when you’re done, they won’t even take a bite of your subject!

Food Styling

I plated the raspberries by hand delicately.  I chose the only one in the box with a green stem.  I looked to the middle of the box for the plumpest fruits that were surrounded by other raspberries and were able to retain their moisture.  I did use a spray bottle to finely mist the raspberries to retain their moisture.  I didn’t know how long the shot would take.  So in this case I didn’t need tweezers to place delicate items, but I did use a spray bottle to mist.

Surface

In-home Studio Food Photo Set Up-3Using a cutting board I found worked well with some interesting knots, that can change depending on what angle you shoot at and how the board is placed.  There is always nice contrast, which varied depending on what kind of reflector you use (white or black foam core give it a different effect).

Camera

My iPhone always sets up the shot for me from a variety of angles, so I could see where I would want my vantage point, and also to see what the best placement for my raspberries would be.  I have more control with my DSLR, but in a pinch, if I want a really simple shot, my first camera that I grab is my iPhone – especially to set up my composition.  A lot of instagram photos of mine are iPhone, because I couldn’t wait to share them and maybe get some feedback before I did my final shot.Instagram behind the scenes food photo

Final Photo

This time I didn’t know what my end result would be until I kept shooting.  It’s nice to use my weekends (I work a full time during the week and by the time I get home, the natural daylight has pretty much become a memory).

My everyday lens is not my ideal lens to shoot with for food photography (my next investment is a 50mm F1.8), but on a budget, it does a pretty good job, especially of picking up more details than a smartphone camera ever could.

Raspberry-aFood-Photo (1)I shot this in RAW, and imported into Lightroom.   With very minor adjustments, including tinkering with the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks and some cropping, I was happy with just one shot.  Then I exported it to my Blog Food folder after keywording, all ready for consumption.

Another view:

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Final Notes

As this blog continues to evolve, I’m searching for the content that is easy for me to share and that I’m passionate about (which makes it easy, right?).  The last three blog posts this week have been sharing food photos of me showing how to create something to eat.  Roasted brussel sprouts were on the menu, including sauteed gray squash with red peppers and onions.  My last food photo was the blueberry shot, which I had a lot of fun with, and moved into sharing how I actually take the food photos I do.

About Me

Vickie Siculiano, Marketing PhotographerFirst and foremost, I am a marketer, and took up photography to help me use visuals to help get people interested in wanting to take an action, whether it’s filling seats at a restaurant, buying a product that just needs a strong visual.  When you have a limited budget, you just don’t have the resources to always get a great shot that people want to sink their teeth into.

Especially when I was working at a restaurant without any food photos…by the time I was finished a few months later, my work resulted in the restaurant receiving a National Restaurant Association Award, Media Coverage and a Zagat review (not to mention over a thousand facebook fans, regular events and specials).  Marketing was the foundation, but the photos I took and shared through social media and the newly redesigned website really drove it home.  You can see my work at Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant in Montclair, NJ here.

I am passionate about  taking food photos and I love to educate and show people how they can do something.  So I turn my attention on this blog to helping the average person who might be a foodie, or a food blogger, get better at taking those food shots.  With a little light manipulation and thought about composition, you can help get people to want to sink their teeth into your photos.  Let’s face it, I am not a cook, nor do I enjoy the parts and pieces of cooking a recipe and then photographing it as much as I do helping to educate you on not how to make a winning recipe yourself, but how to share the image of it with others.

When I created Digifood, I didn’t know what it would evolve into.  I just knew I was addicted to taking photos of my food.  So now that I have picked up a DSLR for the first time almost a year ago, I use my camera to tell a story at work where I am a Marketing Manager.   I take photos of sometimes very large trade show displays, and try to capture the employees as I much as I can and they are willing to let me share, and events.  I am the eyes and ears using social media, the newly redesigned website, blog, e-mail marketing.  There is a ton of stuff I do with as a Marketing Manager that uses photographs, and I am very lucky to have the chance to capture it all with a really great tool and tell a story that would make their people want to “sink their teeth in.”  After this week’s vacation that I took to just catch up with my photography, blog, website and my own brand (to sort it all out), I look forward to sharing this blog with you to tell the “story” of how I do my work as a marketer AND photographer.  Let me know what more you would like to see here – tweet me at @vickiesicnj, or post a comment right here.

So let’s dig in together, and let me know what you’d like to see here, I’m interested to know, and I might use it as an upcoming feature post!  Thanks for reading.

Red Potato Salad – Recipe plus Food Photos Behind the Scenes

Red-Potato-Salad wirh Red Onions and Green Peppers (1)Today’s the day. Our annual Labor Day Barbecue. The smoker and grill fill the air with that tangy sweet aroma you can only find at food barbecue. And good friends will devour it all, along with the side dishes I prepare. A favorite tried and true red potato salad. Also a new one this year – Southern-Style Collard Greens with Ham Hocks.
Both recipes and food photos follow (with some behind the scenes extras for other fellow food photographers at the end of this post):

Red-Potato-Salad wirh Red Onions and Green Peppers (2)

Red Potato Salad

Prep Time:
5 min
Inactive Prep Time:

Cook Time:
10 min

Level:
Easy

Serves:
8 servings

Ingredients

12 cups cubed red potatoes
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Cook potatoes, covered in boiling water, 10 minutes, or until tender; drain well and cool.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, bell pepper and onion.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over potato mixture, tossing gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate.

Food Photography Section:

I photographed this near my usual north facing window – it’s very cloudy today so I needed to warm the temperature and the cloudy setting worked quite nicely.  Especially with a white plate, it looks too blue if you leave it on Auto White Balance (or custom white balance if I have the time, but the Canon T4i does a pretty good job of figuring it all out.

For this shot, I wanted to get in close and show detail.  These are the settings I chose for the photo above:

 

For handheld with my lens (18-135mm), I want to achieve a 1/125 shutter speed.  The red potatoes in the background seemed kind of dark and too contrasty.  I used my silver reflector – I could have used the white, but I think it would work better on a sunny day – the light was already diminished by the clouds.  At a 5.6 light meter reading, I had some more flexibility to up the shutter speed and choose 4.0 if I chose.  Using a light meter is my personal teacher that’s always handy to teach me about the relationship between light sensitivity (ISO), shutter and aperature.  And I choose to shoot in manual most of the time (or AV / TV).  I’m the boss, applesauce!  It’s too much fun!

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Red-Potato-Salad with Red Onions and Green Peppers (6)  These photos are straight out of the camera with very very minor editing, if any, on contrast.  In this final photo below, I chose to leave it just as it was.  I would dig in!Red-Potato-Salad (5)