So. I’m taking an online photography course with CreativeLive.

iPhone with ocean

The Photography Starter Kit class is designed to help me step out of my comfort zone. Translated to mean — stop using auto, put on my red lipstick and start using manual!

Fortunately, I have an iPhone. Because I haven’t quite figured out the fine line between the correct shutter speed, ISO and the F-stop and what all that means.

All of this when taking photos for a cookbook are, ahem, important!

Since I’m currently doing a few additional salmon recipes for forthcoming Eating Salmon, I’m not terribly worried. I have a few weeks to cook, write and take pics. Plus sockeye salmon is a beautiful reddish-orange color.

But I’m also working on a few sponsored posts for American Shrimp Processors Association and The Bacon Jams. Which means photographing white and brown food.

Warning! If you didn’t know, taking photos of white and brown food is HARD!

I thought I’d practice a bit before going live with my sponsored shrimp posts. Take this Pan-Seared Grouper with Bacon Jam iPhone snapshot.

Florida Grouper with Bacon Jam mcb

Now I know I could have paired this grouper with a bright green salad, but sometimes, making food for lunch and eating leftovers is what I have to work with. And while last night for the first meal, I did toss a gorgeous summer salad, I don’t always like to stop the momentum of sitting down to eat while Elvis and Reggie wait for me to fiddle around with a staged photo.

So today lunch was the same preparation for the fish. I reheated the cauliflower puree — cause Elvis LOVES it! I’d steamed edamame yesterday and had a fennel bulb that was begging to be on the plate. Plus I don’t always want to eat a full mid-day meal. Think size 8 is my daily mantra.

But let me take you back to yesterday and how Florida grouper got in my kitchen in the first place. Cause you know I’m all ‘bout the seafood, ‘bout that seafood.

There are many fish in the sea, but buying and eating great sustainable fish species can still be a little daunting. Especially if you live in the middle of the country, a food desert, or let’s face it, nowhere near a reliable, trustworthy source. As you might know I live in a small rural town in western Kentucky. I normally rely on FedEx to bring seafood to my kitchen. Normally.

Yesterday I was in Evansville, Indiana, my go-to town for all things big-box shopping. I was there to buy picture frames at Michael’s and organic blueberries from The Fresh Market. Well. I can’t not check out the fish display, right?

I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh Florida black grouper in the case. Fresh in italics because most fish in the display is flash frozen, but more on that in another post.

The grouper fillet looked firm, smelled clean and didn’t have that pinkish glow to indicate the product had been blasted with carbon monoxide or nitrogen. But. $21.99 per pound? I swallowed hard. On impulse, damn impulse shopping, I bought a pound and a half for my family of three. I would stretch it for two meals I reasoned. Besides um, hello, who doesn’t love Florida grouper?

Pan-Seared Florida Grouper with Bacon Jam

I dusted the grouper lightly in flour, salt and pepper. Then pan-seared it in a hot skillet with a teaspoon or so of canola oil for three minutes. Flipped once then and finished it in a 350 degree oven for about eight minutes. But before I slid the pan in the oven, I plopped a healthy spoonful of a Bacon Jam (recipe is coming in the next post) on top.

Oh yeah. Amaze-balls.

But that’s where I could/should have stopped and just enjoyed the meal. You know. Sometimes less is more.

Or I could have remembered Molly Yeh’s advice when I asked her at a recent conference, “How do I make seafood sexy?”

She replied, “Photograph the mise en place.”

So my lovely seafood enthusiast’s, here’s my sexy fennel.

Fennel mcb 2015

And now I’m headed back to that photography class.

Do you have any white and brown food photography tips for me? I’d love your help. Shoot me an email or tweet me @maureencberry.


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Up next #ontheblog:

  • ASPA & Bacon Jam sponsored shrimp recipes
  • GreenPeace Tuna-Chaser Lauren Reid Interview

Maureen C. Berry


Maureen C. Berry is the author of forthcoming Eating Salmon (Storey Publishing) 2016. She is a sustainable seafood advocate, cook, aspiring crime fiction wanna-be, nap-taker and lover of all things flamenco guitar and wire fox terriers.