How long have you been passionate about cooking? And what do you love about barbecuing specifically?
I have been really passionate about cooking for about 4 years now. Before that, I had a few good dishes in my arsenal, but didn't find a lot of joy in cooking at home. To be honest, I really enjoyed eating at restaurants! But we got a smoker grill for a wedding present, and that piqued my interest. I am an elementary school STEM teacher and when we registered for gifts, I really wanted a fancy smoker on the list.
My wife thought I was crazy, but it turns out that my colleagues at school threw me a "shower" and all 42 of them pitched in to get us an amazing smoker. It was a great group gift, and I totally credit that present with changing my opinions about cooking at home. Now, we cook 5-6 nights a week at home, on the grills we have that live on our patio. I love the change of pace that grilling provides in my life. Being an elementary school teacher is non-stop crazy from the minute I get to the parking lot until I crawl home. Spending time outside, making something delicious and learning new techniques has been a great thing for me. Plus, the BBQ community is amazing and I have met some incredibly kind, fun and interesting people. I spend a lot of time on my Instagram page sharing tips, tricks and recipes with people, which I guess ties back to being a teacher. I'm all about helping others get better at their cooking, too!
What is your go-to Lume Cube product when it comes to taking photos of your recipes and showcasing them to your huge community on Instagram?
The Panel Mini is definitely my go-to Lume Cube product right now. It's so versatile- I use it to add light when I'm on Instagram live, and then bring it in the house to illuminate my finished cooks. The light it emits is strong and consistent, but with the filter it's not too harsh and helps to bring my pictures out of the shadows. Photographing food is hard-- and I'm definitely still learning. But having Lume Cubes to help with lighting has made a huge difference for me. When I look back at my first pictures on my Instagram account, I cringe a little. I definitely needed lighting and plating help!
How important has proper lighting been for your culinary experiences?
Obviously, having good lighting when cooking is important generally. But when you then take what you've cooked and photograph it, I've found that lighting is critical. As I mentioned, some of my early posts were cringe-worthy-- dark, not in great focus, etc. As we started getting more into this crazy Instagram foodie world (it was not intentional-- I just wanted a platform to share what I was learning while cooking!), we realized that lighting was going to be super important. So it began with pieced-together things-- like the lamp off my wife's desk. That was an improvement, for sure, but things have gone up another notch with the Lume Cubes in my arsenal. I've found that LED light really helps in food photography, so the Lume Cube Panel Mini does the trick.
Any tips for beginner food photographers out there?
If you're getting serious about photographing your food, I recommend you invest in a couple things that will make your new hobby more fun and successful. I shoot all of my content on my iPhone 11 Pro Max, which has a great camera and you'd be surprised to find out that most amazing food content on Instagram these days is shot with just an iPhone. The camera is great. Certainly, get yourself some high-quality lighting that will help remove shadows and brighten your pictures. I also think a steady hand is a must-- and my content improved a lot when I got a simple (and cheap) tripod with an iPhone mount.
It's amazing how just a little movement can really mess up a picture. And for overhead photography and video, we got a goose-neck tripod that attaches to the counter. It helps get consistent shots, and relieves my wife from standing on a step stool trying to hold the phone still. It's also important to have a clean workspace, so you don't end up with stray things in the background. For some shots, we move the cutting board over against our white subway tile backsplash, which provides a super neutral background and lets the food pop.
What is your favorite recipe?
To me, there's nothing as delicious as a reverse-seared steak. You get an edge-to-edge perfectly cooked bite, with a little extra flavor coming from the initial slow cook in the smoker. Check out my website for instructions!
Want more? Be sure to check out Adam McKenzie on Instagram, but also check out his website here to get inspired for your next BBQ!