What foods are the most challenging for you to shoot by yourself? I think this varies for every food photographer, but for me it’s definitely sandwiches. If you’re not working with a professional food stylist, it can take several tries, extra ingredients and a lot of patience to make a sandwich look GOOD for the camera.
I decided to face this challenge at my home studio (without a food stylist) and wanted to share some food styling tips for sandwiches that helped me get through it. I’m also sharing this Garden Greens Sandwich with Green Goddess Dressing recipe at the end of the post. It’s delicious!
1. Work with Fresh Ingredients
This may seem obvious, but I’ve tried grabbing what’s on hand in the fridge and it just doesn’t work out. It’s very obvious when ingredients are not FRESH in food photo shoots. And, if the food doesn’t look good, the images won’t look good either.
Whenever I’m shooting by myself, I either buy ingredients the night before or get up extra early on the day of the shoot to buy the ingredients I need.
2. Get Really Good Bread
For styling sandwiches, it’s important to be selective in the type of bread you choose to use. I chose a multi-grain bread (for texture) that was pre-cut into thicker-than-normal slices (for height). You could also pick up a variety of bread options to see what will shoot best.
3. Build “Ingredient Layers” for Extra Height
The goal with sandwiches is to highlight each ingredient so you can see them. I used extra of each ingredient as I layered and although the sandwich looked huge in person, the extra height made it look extra appetizing in front of the camera.
Here’s how I approached the layering of this sandwich:
1) I chose a thick slice of bread for the base and placed it on top of a small cutting board for additional height.
2) I added room temperature goat cheese so it was easy to spread smoothly and made sure extra was towards the front of the sandwich so you could see it.
3) I layered in some curvy lettuce greens and thicker avocado slices.
4) I added a thicker slice of tomato and a slice of fresh mozzarella.
5) I added thinly sliced cucumber (I used my mandoline) for some additional thin, curvy layers.
6) I added some green pepper slices.
7) I added some pickled red onions towards the front of the sandwich to make sure their vibrant color was visible.
8) I added more curvy greens and finally topped it with some broccoli microgreens.
9) I used an eye dropper to carefully add the dressing.
4. Lighting the Sandwich
Lighting the sandwich is really important to make those pretty layers and colors actually show up and not get too dark.
For this shoot, I used natural light, set my camera on my tripod and adjusted my camera settings to let even more light into the shot with a slower shutter speed. I set up my sandwich next to a large window where there was lots of natural light hitting the side and front of the sandwich.
I used a diffuser on the window to slightly soften the light on the ingredients without taking away the light. The window and diffuser were on the left and I used a white V-flat (two pieces of white foam board taped together) on the right to bounce light back to the other side of the sandwich.
Studio lights would definitely come in handy as well if you didn’t have enough natural light to work with.
5. Use Styling Tweezers Instead of Your Fingers
Styling tweezers are an important tool to have on hand for food styling. It allows you to move little pieces without disrupting the other pieces. I have this food styling kit on hand at my home studio which includes a variety of tweezers and special spoons for manipulating the ingredients. Having a food styling kit on hand (or just some styling tweezers) will help you be much more precise and careful.
I always say the real secret to awesome photography is PRACTICE – no matter what you’re shooting. I have struggled with styling sandwiches by myself for a long time and they rarely make it on my blog because of it. This sandwich is far from perfect, but it was good for me to practice and share some tips with the food photographers out there who don’t have a food stylist to partner up with.
This recipe has been a nice change from our typical ham and turkey sandwiches. The veggies are crunchy and fresh and the green goddess dressing, goat cheese and pickled red onions add so much delicious flavor amongst all the greens.
GARDEN GREENS SANDWICH WITH GREEN GODDESS DRESSING
For the Green Goddess Dressing:
- 3 tablespoons dairy free greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
For the Pickled Red Onions:
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
For the Sandwiches:
- To prep the dressing, mix the dressing ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
- To prep the red onions, whisk first 3 pickling ingredients and 1 cup of water in a small bowl until sugar and salt dissolve.
- Place sliced onion in a jar and pour mixture over.
- Allow to sit for about an hour.
- Drain onions before using.
- To prep the sandwiches, slice the cucumber, green pepper, tomato, avocado and mozzarella.
- Spread the goat cheese on one slice of multi-grain bread and layer with cucumber, green pepper, tomato, avocado, mozzarella, green goddess dressing and a sprinkle of microgreens.
- Top with the other slice of multi-grain bread and enjoy!
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2018.