Photographing The Most Epic Burger You've Never Eaten

Once upon a time at brunch in Santa Monica, I created the biggest, most complex cheeseburger anyone had ever even attempted to ask a chef to make. I basically picked my top 10 things off the menu and asked the chef to put it between ciabatta bread. Then I ate the entire thing. It gave me severe meat sweats and rendered me unconscious afterwards, but it was the most delicious thing I had ever created. It's my single greatest achievement in life. I learned a lot about myself that day and will tell the Epic Burger story to my great great great great grandkids.  

FStoppers_©RGG EpicBurger GaryMartin

RGG Photo & Phlearn Team Up To Make One Epic Burger

Today I am proud to share with you a photography tutorial inspired by my brunch shenanigans that highlights both the production and lighting side of commercial photography as well as the best photoshop post production tutorials on the Internet via Aaron Nace. We partnered with Phlearn on this tutorial to show what a typical commercial food shoot looks like in our studio and how we prepare for it. This is by far the most comprehensive tutorial we have ever made and one of the most delicious images Rob Grimm has ever shot.

This tutorial highlights an entire day of behind the scenes food styling from a full time Chicago food stylist, common lighting, file management, set building, problem solving, and over 2 hours of photoshop post production broken down into five separate parts. We take you from initial concept to final image in just under three hours of video tutorials. The best part is, we are using equipment that is easily accessible by any photographer.

The best part of this tutorial is that the photoshop knowledge transfers to product, beverage and even people. The same tools and techniques are used in many other types of subjects. The compositing is broken down into easy to follow steps that highlight the proper workflow when attempting to create an image from numerous files. Aaron does a terrific job explaining Photoshop techniques while Rob Grimm breaks down our complete workflow.

Epic Burger Trailer Food BTS

List of Ingredients

  • Grass Fed Beef
  • Crab Cake
  • Organic Chicken Breast
  • Red Onion
  • Bok Choy
  • Heirloom Tomatoe
  • Arugula
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Organic Tomatoes
  • Proscuitto
  • Ham
  • Fried Egg
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • PepperJack
  • Applewood Smoked Bacon Slab
  • Pretzel Roll


Here are some additional highlights of the shoot taken from

On Set with a Commercial Food Stylist

For this shoot we brought in commercial food stylist Mary Valentin who does an amazing job styling the food as well as explaining her career and techniques. Our exclusive interview with Mary will help you understand what a food stylist does and when you may need one for your own shoots.

Rob Grimm Interview

Rob discusses the many challenges involved with creating an image like the Epic Burger. You will be able to see a real world example of this shoot and what is discussed during a shoot. We talk about the time it takes to build and shoot the burger and each step along the way.

The Shooting Process

Join Aaron and Rob on set during the shoot and see what it is actually like on the set of a commercial job. We discuss the relationship between the photographer and the retoucher and provide suggestions back and forth.

Working with Food on Set

For this shoot we had so many different ingredients stacked together that gravity really started to effect the burger. It is important to do what you can “in camera” to make your subject look as good as possible but you can’t exactly eliminate gravity. That is where Photoshop comes in. In this tutorial you will learn how to transform the burger so that it looks as good as possible. These same techniques can be used with people as well.

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Only one fried egg? : /

Gary Martin's picture

Phil, I agree. 1 egg was a bit rookie but I assure you the original had a fried egg, soft boiled egg, and a Moon's Over My Hammy Omelet.....just trust me on this one Phil

David T's picture

What I want to know is what is that big circular octabank-type light modifier?! That's beautiful!

Gary Martin's picture

That's the Broncolor Parabolic. It can easily be replicated with 1 1600 watt alien bee and a roll of Rosco Diffusion.

David T's picture

The Alien Bee I have... But I am confused as to the roll of Rosco Diffusion... How would that work? The shape, I think, makes it one of the most beautiful light modifiers I have ever seen!

David T's picture

EDIT: I realize that tools are tools... I don't mean to hijack this thread and make it about the tools, because the images are dang beautiful... BUT man, that is one beautiful light-modifier. :O

It better be for $11K

Gary Martin's picture

I agree that the light, in many way, is irreplaceable. The use of very large piece of Rosco diffusion can create even softer light that just the parabolic with a silk. Especially when coming from 2 directions with plain old cheap alien bees' behind them. That's all I meant. I know this because I've compared the two and gotten the same result.

Key light is over cooked

"Meat Sweats". ahahaha, awesome. I get those every time I visit the Salt Lick in Driftwood TX. MMMMM!