Nashville Hot Chicken

Background

One of the great things about living in Nashville is the variety of the local cuisine.  One of my favorite local dishes is Nashville Hot Chicken.  This is just southern fried chicken doused with an oil-infused mixture of spices.  How "hot" the chicken is depends on the mixture and amount of the spice applied.  As a Hot Chicken connoisseur, my favorite is from "400 Degrees Hot Chicken" located at 319 Peabody Street, downtown Nashville.  It's within easy walking distance from the Nashville convention center.  If you're ever in town for a convention, I suggest you give 400 Degrees Hot Chciken a try...one suggestion, if this is your first time, start with the 200 degree flavor...don't go for the max 400 degree...trust me on this!

Because I love Hot Chicken, I decided to make a creative image that tells the story of it's spicy and fiery flavor.  I primarily use Westcott continuous lighting, particularly Ice Lights and the Skylux LED, to photograph food items in the studio.  These lights are perfect for food photography because they provide soft and even diffused light that mimics natural light.  They are also easy to use and provide a constant color temperature that does not vary with different power settings.  It's never a worry to have to constantly white balance the set when you change the lighting levels.  I also wanted to make an image with fire and smoke in the background and these lights were perfect for that too.

Behind the Scenes

Below are photos that show the "Behind the Scenes" set-up for making this image.  I made the flames using contact cement that I bought at Home Depot.  I simply took the brush from the bottle and "painted" a couple of lines in the trough I made out of the aluminum foil.  I waited about a minute for the solvent to start evaporating and then lit it with the butane lighter.  This gave me a controlled burn that lasted about 15 to 20 seconds.  I made several exposures until the flames burned out.  I did this 3 times and got about 20 to 25 exposures of the flames.  There was a lot of smoke and soot in thestudio and I used a fan to clear the air.  Finally, I used the steamer to make a few exposures of "smoke" behind the set for masking in later.

Making the Final Image

I made the final image by selecting the base image with no flame and the best images with flames.  After some basic white balance adjustments and adding some clarity in Lightroom, I ended up with 9 separate images that were imported into Photoshop CC 2015 into a layer stack.

Once in Photoshop, I simply masked in the flames in the different positions until I got a good spread across the frame.  Next I added the "smoke" from the steam shot and used a lighten blending mode and masked the smoke the way I wanted it to look.  Finally, I made several adjustments to process the final image.

Below is a Lightroom screenshot showing the 9 images I selected for the flames and smoke and the Photoshop screenshot showing the final processing layers used.

Making the Hot Chicken image with flames and smoke was fun and a good Sunday project.  Fortunately, I didn't burn anything, including myself!  If you want to try this, be EXTREMELY careful and make sure not to use too much contact cement to make the flames.  I little goes a long way!

Please use the comments below if you have any questions or want more information.

2 Comments

  • Awesome, marvellous and mind blowing shoot. After watching this picture I got interested in buying Skylux LED lights for my future works.
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful technique of lighting.
    Sanjay Sagar

    • Thanks Sanjay. Yes, the Skylux light is awesome. I intend to get more too. You won’t be disappointed. The difference with the Westcott lights and others on the market, is that these LED’s have a very high CRI. That’s the important specification to look for if you want to render full-spectrum colors in your images. Best of luck and please keep in touch.
      Bob

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