How to Set Up and Photograph a 4th of July Barbeque Party
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In stock photography, you must cover all bases, as you need to have shoots for every major celebration in order to create images that are needed every point in the year. One of my favorites is the 4th of July, which is the holiday that I recently shot for. The 4th of July is one of the most popular celebrations in North America, so it’s always important to shoot (and celebrate) as much as possible for Independence day.
For me, the 4th of July is much more than a shoot- I like to celebrate, so I did quite a large shoot this year. Instead of making desserts or cookies associated with the holiday in the studio like I always do, I chose to do a large shoot with my back patio as my studio.
For decorations, I adorned all the fencing on the patio with American flag banners, and put red, white, and blue pinwheels in all the planters on my patio. I had red, white, and blue napkins, food baskets, and liners for all the food. All these decorations made the deck look like it was all set for a massive Independence Day celebration, and all that I needed to prepare was the food.
Before I started cooking, I made sure to make infused water that looked patriotic as possible, with half a cup of blueberries, a cup of halved strawberries, and a sliced lemon, then adding water and ice to a glass jar. This water will stay cold for the entire day, even in the summer heat, and only tastes better the longer that the water is infused with the berries. For additional garnishes, I used frozen watermelon cut into the shape of stars with a special cutter, so you could keep your water cold and have something to eat.
As for food for 4th of July celebrations, two things are important: being able to have plenty of food for many people, and being able to easily and quickly cook it. I decided to keep the food for this shoot very simple, and grilled hotdogs with many toppings and garnishes along with corn on the cob. This is a very easy meal to cook, and is good for both kids and adults. Having the grill outside made an issue of the sun quickly heating up all the garnishes and condiments, so I decided to fill a bucket with ice, to keep all the condiments cold, especially the cheese from melting. Every hour and a half the ice must be replaced, so the condiments don’t get wet. I chose a few specific garnishes like relish, cheese, and ketchup to really give the shoot a feeling of a genuine 4th of July cookout. For dessert, I had homemade vanilla cupcakes with red, white, and blue icing placed in a flag pattern.
When shooting outside, there are many variables that can make or break a shoot, opposed to shooting in the studio. The first and most important is the sun. Moving cloud cover and the movement of the sun makes for an unpredictable shooting area, where I can have shade one moment, and be shooting in full sun the next. Part of outdoor shooting is being light on your feet and being able to adapt to changing conditions, so I chose to use an ND filter when I was shooting in full sunlight. With this filter, I was able to shoot in full sun and still get good images and video, which would normally be impossible. I talk more about how this filter works and why it’s important to outdoor food photography here. The other thing that made this shoot a challenge was doing it largely by myself- I have no assistants to help me cover a shoot from the sun or prepare food, so I have to always be quick and efficient with everything in order to make sure everything goes smoothly.
July 4th party decoration list
Food photography props used in this photo shoot
Some of the props might no longer be available in stores. I selected props as close as possible to match those items.