Perfect summer dish elote Mexican grilled salad
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During the summer months, I like to do shoots that compliment the warm weather and the gathering of friends for a good meal. For this photoshoot, I made Mexican corn salad (or Elote).
Cooking the Meal
Mexican corn salad is great for an appetizer for large groups, for a family lunch, or even as just a quick snack, as making it is an extremely easy process. Starting with the corn, I like to grill an ear of corn on a grill, but frozen corn pan-fried works just as good, but I prefer the taste of the grilled corn. Grilling the corn also gives me a chance to get some nice outdoor shots on the grill. The recipe calls for the use of traditional Mexican Cotija cheese, but I just used parmesan or goat cheese. The rest is as easy as chopping up onions and peppers, and mixing everything together with the sauce and preparing the meal with chips, tortillas, or even just as a side dish.
The Importance of Props
During shooting, I always like to use a wide array of props to establish a theme shared with the food or re-create a sense of place or holiday. For this shoot, I used brightly-colored Mexican plates and a purple sarape, a Mexican blanket, to accompany the corn salad. I also used margaritas to create a real sense of a Mexican summer, and other utensils and ingredients used to make the salad. Having the perfect set of props for any kind of shoot is a double-edged sword- it’s extremely convenient to have props for any time, holiday, theme, or ethnic food pairings, but there is also a bad side of having so many props. Whenever I find a perfect prop for a shoot, I believe that I’ll be able to find infinite uses for it, but I only end up using it once or twice. Food styling is much more than just making the food look good; it involves using all props to their fullest potential and in the right place at the right time.
Pre-Planning & Using Two Cameras
During this shoot, like many other of my shoots, planning out the shoot was extremely important. After switching to using two cameras about a year ago when moving to a new studio, planning became even more important than with only one camera, as I could better improvise with one camera. I used a Sony as my overhead camera and a Canon as a side camera, which caused some problems. The Canon would lose focus in the middle of videos, which I explained in an earlier blog post. I also have to be careful when maneuvering about these cameras, if I bump into one or shake an area it will ruin the video I’m shooting. I tend to plan out the entire shoot the day before I even begin to take photos, as I set up my table and prepare to cook. No amount of pre-planning can help having to be the photographer, cook, and model all at the same time, so making everything else pre-planned is much easier than attempting to do everything on the same day. Since my current studio is in a basement area, I cannot possibly do any grillwork in my studio, so I have to make a few transitions between the grill outside and my studio, which also means taking all of my equipment and the food between the areas. This is a worthy tradeoff, as I get to shoot videos and get nice shots of a real grill, which worked well with this photoshoot. Getting out of the studio is always nice, as getting outside always is, but shooting outside is a whole other environment than in the studio. In the studio, I have all my lights set up perfectly with my backdrops and all my props to my disposal, and my camera set to be perfectly in-tune with my studio. However, shooting outside does not allow for such luxuries, as the weather conditions will always be unpredictable, and you have to change your camera’s settings manually. Getting out of your comfort zone and being quick on your toes will make you a better photographer, and help you learn your camera’s abilities better. Getting to shoot outside is always a nice way to spend time with family and get me out of the studio, and keeps work interesting.
Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Shuckle corn and butter lightly and grill it until corn starts to char. Let the corn cool and cut corn from the cob. If using frozen corn, let it thaw it first and cook it with olive oil on a skillet over high heat by stirring for 3-5 minutes.
- Remaining ingredients chop into small cubes.
- In a large bowl add all ingredients together and stir until well combined.
Food photography props used in this photoshoot
Some of the props might no longer be available in stores. I selected props as close as possible to match those items.
Wood serving spoons https://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20235639/