Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse Perfection

If there is one key to success for a food photo shoot, it has to be planning. Planning and preparation save time and create perfection in a shoot on location.

Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse prides itself on creating a culinary journey to Brazil with their food and service. Quality and dedication is found in every step they make. I met with them before the shoot so I could fully understand their process and see their facility. I am very glad that I set aside time to do this because it really made a difference in executing the shoot. I was able to see everything they had done in the past, all of the new items and ideas they wanted in the shoot, and the story they wanted to share that sets them apart from their competition.

They have a gourmet bar that features many delicious salads from tomato-mozzarella-basil to salmon, potato salad, roasted beets, mango julienne, melons, prosciutto, breads, cheeses, roasted tomatoes, and salumi. We were able to brainstorm the best way to show the entire bar in photos so that the layers and visible planes are optimized for the viewer. The camera’s eye always has to be engaged! I was able to balance natural light with the light of my strobes.

There are many areas of the restaurant from an intimate couple’s table to a four top to a banquet table and all were shown in the best way. We used models to create a group dining experience on camera with great success.

The festive traditions for Brazilian meats start in the kitchen and were captured digitally but they also quickly come out to the table where diners can choose their favorites and we caught every menu item in the images. The breads are so unique and tasty and always perfect in texture. Diners can choose many drinks from beer on tap to wine, Champagne, or Brazilian favorites made with rum and fruit or mint or lime. The servers are very dedicated and quick on their feet. The restaurant is clean, gorgeous, and organized. The food is delicious. It is easy to provide a memorable journey to Brazil to the guests when you do everything right!

We planned every shot and made a full list of what we wanted to shoot and how we were going to do it. The shooting day went off without a hitch and every shot helped tell the story and show the advantages of this restaurant. The staff knew what to expect and they helped with every step.

The food is perfectly prepared and plated. The restaurant closed for lunch so it was easy to work the entire space and get each shot right without disturbing guests. The meat was cooked to perfection and each dessert was plated like a 5 star masterpiece. The drinks were varied and created with ease on a clean and up to date bar. The staff was engaged and on point for each task. The shoot unfolded with ease as we went from each area and scene for the restaurant. Everything is so naturally clean, organized, and authentic that it is easy to tell a great story! And we ended up with over 1000 photos for a one day shoot. They are output to two galleries, one for print and one for web, email, and social media.

Check them out!


Finding A Client’s Voice

It is so much fun discovering a client’s story and advantage in the market. Recently I shot for Curry Pizza House in Fremont, California. They wanted their photos to look like a national chain’s pictures. They had done an admirable job shooting their own photos but now it was time to update their extensive web menu for clients who order online and I got called for the task.

One of the easiest ways for any client to shoot a lot of great photos on budget is for me to go on location. We agree on the style ahead of time to save time and I come in with all of the right lighting and props. I can shoot as many items as they can produce, using one or more setups. In a day’s time this is more than a thousand photos on average. A half-day can usually produce all the items on a menu with a cohesive, professional look that is guaranteed to raise sales and eyebrows.

When I read their menu, the main advantage jumped out of the screen to me. This pizza house is not only a classical fusion restaurant but a flavor powerhouse. They are using Asian and Indian spices on their pizzas to create very interesting masterpieces, unlike any other pizza restaurant I have ever seen. The seasoning blends were very vibrant and unique. There were fresh herbs, potatoes, tofu, and many fresh vegetables. I set out to create a great set that would be simple enough to show their many flavors.

Even better still, was the opportunity to discover the second and greatest advantage they have in the market that I spotted on the day of the shoot. The kitchen staff was so committed to quality and every ingredient was prepared from scratch. The national chain they wanted to duplicate is certainly not this good. I wanted to tell the story right away. And while I was waiting for them to prepare all of the pizzas for our shoot, I spent time in their kitchen and captured video on my iPhone, staging as we went. There were over 15 videos that got made into a 2 minute story to show their process.

The rhythmical sound of a French-fry cutting machine in their kitchen was dicing up ripe, fresh tomatoes. Cheeses were being freshly grated on machine versus being opened up from a plastic bag. All of the vegetables were sliced by hand from peppers to red onions to cauliflower. It was amazing in this era of processed food where you usually find canned or frozen foods being used to save time and money. The dough is even mixed fresh at each meal period. It is formed by hand into balls and then artistically and deftly created into the most beautiful crust by one of the cooks. He could put any TV chef to shame with his speed and dexterity. I simply had to capture it!

When it came time to style the hero shots, they fell into place. Out came the mango-yogurt drinks, the freshly crisped potato chips, the chicken wings, the beautiful bread sticks, the seasonings used to make them, and all of the beautiful pizzas. Curry Pizza House makes both American pizzas and the most amazing India-spiced concoctions. I used back light and a neutral background with a maple-wood board to really bring out the colors and flavors of the pizzas. A dark stone showed the chicken wings and all of their seasonings.

Check out a few of the highlights from this shoot:

Restaurant Open Table and Web Marketing 11-Point Checkup

If you are a restaurant owner, manager, chef, or marketer, you might want to take the time to compare your Open Table page and or website to those of your competitors. If a guest is looking for a restaurant in your area at 7:00PM don’t you want them to grab a reservation at your establishment first? A photo tells a thousand words. And customers make an instant decision and judgement based on a quick glance of what they see in 1-2 seconds. Can you really afford to use the photos that someone took with their smartphone?

Consider this Open Table, web, social media, and print advertising checklist:

  1. Does the establishment show its best side or view with beautiful light in your photos?
  2. Are the photos white balanced so that the food looks appetizing and not too blue or yellow?
  3. Is the food in good light and focused so everyone can tell what it is?
  4. Is the food arranged so that complementary colors are used and an abundance of color shows a story of graciousness and generosity? Customers can tell in a minute if you care. The right photos can set you apart quickly.
  5. Is the staff smiling? Are your customers having a great time in your photos?
  6. Do you have a representation of the diversity of your staff and customers in your photos?
  7. Are there closeup shots of the food that are so enticing people want to click “reserve now” without flipping through your competitor’s sites first?
  8. Is your menu up to date?
  9. Do your photos show your chef’s best and current work?
  10. Is there a cohesive style to the photos?
  11. Is your best foot forward in your photos and story?

It is a worthwhile investment to hire me to shoot for you for a quarter, half, or full day. You can have my food styling, planning and story telling talent, along with all of the pictures I can shoot in your timeframe. I aspire to deliver a lot of great photos for your every use. Download ExpressionFood brochure with story questionnaire and shoot planning list

I am dedicated to planning, developing your best story, and delivering an amazing aesthetic on the images I produce for you. When you win, I win. It’s that simple.

A new marketing director client was considering me (story coming up soon!) and she did pick me out of all of my competitors. Why? Well, for one thing I took the time to listen to her story, view her website, and then come up with a Pinterest board showing her the images I thought would be best to tell her story. Then I took a physical tour of her restaurant, developed the style, story, and props along the way. She was smitten. My vast culinary experience, artistry, and sense of style were engaged to pre-style the shots while we talked and toured every inch of the restaurant. We came up with new ways of seeing and showing the restaurant. New ways of showing the staff preparing the food. And a clean, exciting, modern way of showing the best part of their restaurant. The uses of the images will include Open Table, website, social media, email, brochures and an airport banner. The shoot is now scheduled.

Her comment was that she could not wait to set everything up like that every day including the day of the shoot. It is this vision and talent that I wish to share!

Why would I give away this time before the shoot to consult for the project? Because I want us both to win! To serve the customer with nothing less than the best is always my motto. The devil is always in the details and the preparation and the ultimate goal is to help us all look our very best. The time spent finding the right shot examples, discussing the shots, developing the props, light, style, models, and image samples is well spent. It means that we can set up fast, develop a beautiful shot you can see on my computer, and then fly to create the maximum amount of beautiful shots in a day.

I have spent my life with food and have an amazing vision that makes the food shots look like no other. My vision wants to make everything clean and simple with dramatic light that is sculpted to show the food. When you buy Expression Food services for a quarter, half, or full day you get the style and the photographs. By doing the work before the shoot you get a great deal of pleasure with the photographs that we produce as a team effort. Heaven help your competitors!

Spring: A Fine Art Portfolio

I’ve just completed my latest fine art portfolio.

Would you like to see some of it?

And here’s my artist statement to go with it.

Spring beckons flora to burst forth from the earth. In the context of California farmers’ markets, spring brings new and bright greens, fresh young tubers, and juicy citrus fruits.

My work celebrates this transition from winter to summer. In my photographs of produce I hope to inspire people to choose locally grown fruits and vegetables.

In the farmer’s markets, farmers become entrepreneurs while buyers gain access to fresh and nutritious foods, creating a community.  Accompanying my photos of produce is a tribute to the farmers that grew it.

The offerings of a farmers’ market change each week and month as the seasons ebb and flow. This is but a moment in time during one season’s passage.

A Chocolate Story

I did all this chocolate work for California Organic Pantry, a company that uses all locally-grown organic fruits and nuts along with organic California chocolate.

I decided to tell their story with arrangements that show the ingredients used right beside the chocolate.

As you can see, I’ve made hero style arrangements and used the finest Italian white and gray marble.

The results were spectacular! We used the beautiful organic fruits and nuts to tell the story of how the chocolates are made with the highest quality ingredients. The chocolatier has very high standards for her ingredients and she makes all of her chocolates by hand with a great deal of love and creativity.

We spent the time in advance of the shoot date selecting the right image style. The idea was to use a lot of white along with high quality marble slabs to show off the chocolates, fruits, and nuts. Mulberry and Swiss papers were added along with beautiful porcelain cake plates and stands. A list of whole ingredients was extensive but organized as a collaborative effort between the photo team. Large computers showed everyone the shoot right as it was coming out of the camera.

The photos take us back in time to the era when everything was made by hand using only the finest, local, organic ingredients. We want the viewers to sit down and enjoy every bite and remember the comfortable way they feel when they have a wholesome ingredient in their hand.

All of the pre-shoot planning helped make the shoot day go smooth. The style of the photos was decided in advance so the first shot went off without a hitch. Lists of props, ingredients, and shoot products were followed to the T so nothing was missed. The client got the maximum amount of high quality photos in a one day shoot. Right on time. Right on budget. Right on style!

The Fremont Juried Exhibit

I am so pleased to announce that four of my recent photos have been accepted into the Annual Juried Photo Show put on by the Fremont Cultural Arts Council.

Two of them have even won awards!

The first of my award winners is “9 Oranges of Fresno.” Check it out!

The second is “Figs.” I think these tasty fruits really speak for themselves.

If you’d like to see more, don’t miss the the exhibit, which runs from April 29 through June 3. There’s even going to be a special opening night gala on Saturday, April 29, from 6:30-8:30 pm, with entry through the Fremont Main Library’s Fukaya Room.

Use a Thermometer for the Most Beautiful Meals

How did we get this turkey so crisp and juicy?

With a thermometer!

It’s amazing how beautiful your food can look when you cook it to the proper temperature, and a thermometer is an essential tool for ensuring that nothing gets over- or undercooked.

Now, on to the bigger question: why was I cooking a turkey in April?

I’ve just finished the photos for Konnected Widgets, a company whose mission is to “create affordable connected devices for the masses that solve real world challenges and drive user engagement.”

One of my favorite devices is their thermometer.

I took the photos for this site and created an elegant kitchen theme with an Italian white marble slab. Then I threw in filtered natural light with sculpted shadows and reflected highlights to complete the ambiance.

I want to wish Zin Thein Kyaw and his team much success with their great thermometer — it really is fantastic. To learn more about this great kitchen resource (and see more of my photos), visit