Styling food for photos: The burrito project.

I have worked on a number of food photography and food styling projects in Phoenix and Los Angeles. All of them very challenging for a variety of reasons. Some foods are relatively easy to shoot, some others not so easy. But I can say that Mexican Burritos are among the most difficult and intense I have ever experienced. I would like share some of what I did in my most recent shoot just in case you ever want to try it.

With the power of social networks and smart phone apps it is easier than ever to reach the general public when they’re looking for something to eat. However, the use of High Quality Food Photography to advertise your restaurant or catering service is critical to creating a good first impression and standing out immediately from the rest. It is well known that people are more likely to buy when they can see your product. Many are willing to pay even more for it if it is advertised using great looking photos.

When I was contacted by Chef Scott Wedge from Mi Comida – Latin Fusion Foods (latinfusionfoods.com) to shoot for their new catering menu and website, he told me he had a tight budget to work with and would not be able to bring in a food stylist, which is always ideal when doing food photography. However, I saw it as a unique opportunity to really get my hands dirty and do some heavy food styling work myself. 

Chef Scott Wedge is a family man who inspires when you hear his story about going from a mortgage broker, to being broke with the fall of the housing market, and then successfully reinventing himself to be now known as The Burrito Man. With a wife and seven children to take care of, Scott decided to turn what many people have seen as a devastating financial situation into the opportunity of his life by coming up with a line of burritos made from his own recipes that now sell throughout Phoenix, Arizona and will soon be available around the country.

Scott went to Scottsdale Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School and graduated before starting the company. Without any prior working experience in the kitchen and only a passion for food he developed over the years, he had to totally reinvent himself to start his new journey. It was while at school that he created his Chorizo mixture made fresh with Italian Sausage, Poblano & Jalapeno Chilies and Pepper Jack Cheese that inspired the creation of Mi Comida – Latin Fusion Foods.

I have always respected hard working people who can turn their lives around during difficult situations. Specially when having a family to support. So I was not only excited about shooting some food, but also about working with someone who is living proof that what many see as the end of the road can be turned into the beginning of a new path. In this case, a much better path than the one he was in before.

But we’re here to talk about food photography and food styling techniques.

The first thing I did was to study existing photos of burritos and other Mexican food to see what worked and didn’t work. Doing a bit of research to learn what’s been done in food styling is always extremely helpful. Burritos are normally wrapped in a large flour tortilla and you cannot see what’s inside until it’s cut it in half or you take a bite. Since Scott’s burritos are very unique he made it clear that what he puts inside had to be shown in the photos. A burrito cut in half unfortunately does not show all the goodies the way you would expect. The reason: when the burrito is put together everything inside gets mixed up and becomes far from visually appealing.

Another problem with burritos is that when they’re being wrapped the tortilla gets smeared with salsa and other ingredients that make the tortilla look almost dirty. Not good for photos. Also, the surface of the tortilla is not round and smooth because of the different chunks of chicken, egg and whatever else is inside. So as you can see, I had a few problems to solve.

First, I asked Scott to separate all the ingredients and layer them to keep them from getting all mixed up as it normally happens. Then I asked him to fill most of the burritos with cotton or paper to have better control over the shape of the tortilla and its color. Next we would cut one end and literally sculpt the food coming out of it piece by piece.

Using a combination of tools that can be found at any art store, I was able to build a structure that allowed me to keep all the components in place. Eggs, chorizo, pork, chicken, tomatillos, beans, cheese and other types of slippery ingredients just won’t stay where you place them. It all falls apart very easily. You need a solid structure that you can hang the pieces from to have absolute control and make it look all “pretty” for the photos. That’s what real food styling and high quality food photography are about.

 

Food Styling And Photo By Andrew DeCarlo

I learned later from the best food stylist in Phoenix and Arizona, there’s a much more efficient way to build burritos, but I will talk about it in a different article.

Selecting the right color of plates, place mats and veggies to put around was a big part of what had to be done to make the photos look great. It all has to work together. Fortunately Scott and his wife had spent time selecting many of these elements prior to the day of the shoot, which really made a difference.

Food Styling And Photo By Andrew DeCarlo

We still had more food to photograph, so we had to do it all over again the following week but with a new group of burritos and other delicious food items Scott has added to his menu. Of course, I got to try all of them and I can say that they are some of the best burritos I’ve had in my entire life!

Besides all the hard work and having a great product, I admire Scott for having the vision and initiative to push his marketing and advertising material to a level that most companies in his category will never bother to do.  He understands the importance of using High Quality Food Photography to reach his market and make the best first impression he can possibly achieve. I invite you to become a fan of Latin Fusion Foods on facebook (www.Facebook.com/LatinFusionFoods). I really see a bright future for The Burrito Man, his family and their company. Just like the burritos they make, they are full of great stuff inside.

To learn more about how Andrew DeCarlo Studios can help you produce excellent food photography to market your restaurant or catering service in Phoenix, Los Angeles or Miami areas, contact Andrew DeCarlo at 818.925.4715 or andrew@andrewdecarlo.com

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One comment on “Styling food for photos: The burrito project.
  1. Dee says:

    As a fan of burritos I can tell you that they are not the most attractive food but you have done a great job at making it appealing yet totally natural. Good job!

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