Fstoppers Original: Lee Morris Shoots Oak Steakhouse

When we launched Fstoppers back in February, we were working hard to create our own original video content to help kick off our website. After shooting this video, it got buried in my computer before I had time to edit it because we were also working to complete multiple other videos at the same time. I finally had enough free time to finish up this quick food shoot.

I assumed that this video would be very straightforward. We show up, shoot a few plates, and then get out. Little did I know that I would learn a lot about food and even more about business from the well known restaurant owner, Chef Brett Mckee.

We showed up at about 8 pm and Brett showed up a few minutes after us. I asked him what we would be shooting that night and he responded "Whatever the hell you guys want to eat." Brett treated us like we were old college buddies. During the interview, Brett talked candidly about things that most business owners try to keep secret. The Chef told us his ingredients in every dish, tips on managing his employees, acquiring and retaining customers, etc. As the night went on, I slowly started to realize that Brett was going to be the star of this video and that I just needed to let him do his thing.

I left Oak that night with some great food in my belly, solid shots for my portfolio, and another Fstoppers video, but I knew that getting a chance to sit down with Brett was far more valuable. What so many photographers fail to realize is that running a successful photography business has very little to do with photography. Brett also mentions the same thing in the video; "I am a great Chef but better businessman." Whatever product or service you are selling always has some room for improvement, but there is always a huge amount of room for growth in terms of marketing.

Brett has worked to make a name for both himself and his restaurant at the same time, so that when you hear one - it is impossible to not think of the other. As creative professionals, we need to remember that people are hiring us personally. You may have great pictures, but if people don't feel comfortable working with you then they won't hire you. Brett made an impression on me that I will never forget. Even though we will never be able to convey the hours that we spent with him in an 8 minute video, I bet he has made an impression on you as well. I bet that when you are in Charleston, you will eat at Oak and it may not have anything to do with the food. It is because you feel like you now know the owner. What type of first impression do you make on people, especially your clients? I know that I have a lot of room for improvement.

Oh yeah, and remember to light food from the back.

Fstoppers Original: Lee Morris Shoots Oak Steakhouse from FStoppers on Vimeo.

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bret mckee owes yall big for this! good job on the video, and its the best music you've had in any of your videos. cheers

love how much the chef swears at the beggining

An awesome showcasing of one of Charleston's premier eating establishments. Great job!!

Brilliant video as always Lee

Love your video style! Excellent tips!

Nicely Done! Could you post the finished photos?

This is probably the best video I've watched from F-stoppers. The chef was awesome, I learned something new (70-200 for food photogarphy, and using a birds eye view), and overall it was engaging. Nice!

Great video! A caution on lighting... I shot food once and wasn't using strobes. The modeling lights I was using generated enough heat to begin cooking some of the meat we were shooting. ooops.

Great video. Learned. But really want to point out that the hot girl at the bar really drew my eyes away :P

Great video! The guy seems like a nice person to work with!

Nice video! Just wanted to say how important the F-Stopper original videos are: they are great because they are made with intention of really passing on knowledge and that they do :D Please keep making more!

Damn! You did it... I'm hungry now! ;) Thanks for sharing your techniques!

Excellent and well done.
Thanks for the posting.
We check your site everyday.

I was surprised at how involved Brett was in the photography. Great client/business person. This video makes me want to eat at Oak.

I see that Brett is shy on opinions. I would think occasionally this would be good to have a client that really knows what they want and works with you on a collaborative effort. Fun. Awesome video Lee!

Ha! That guy's a badass! I'm definitely going to check his place out next time I'm in SC. Those final shots were really great too Lee. Clean, sharp, and soft at the soft at the same time. Made me real hungry too. Hungry as f#%$!!!!

Sounds like it's not Brett's first food photoshoot. Really nice character, gotta have his own TV show (Hell's Kitchen-like).

Good video, nice pictures (love the ones from the top) and, as usual, good music choice !

A really nice video. Good audio, lightning and editing (only one cut was very obvious 0:29), just one thing is missing, the content to learn from. I know this shooting was "just" for the portfolio, but it´s better to call things by their name. ;-)

These are the great mistakes:
* everyone is touching plates/crystal/ ... without gloves
* did somebody know what a Stand-in is? ;-)
* grids on the softbox and the striplight (which is in the video also described as a softbox) creates (logical) unwanted grid-reflections in the crystal, have fun cloning them out in post
* 70-200mm great lens ... for sports -> 100mm/150mm MACRO or even better (but also more expensive) a 90mm tilt-shift lens

Other things that bugs me -> too much lights/too complicated
* The softbox on camera left could be replaced by a white reflector card.
* Three lightsources + bottle of wine + wineglass + candle in crystal = a lot of reflections to handle -> less is more, the picture with the steak has too much elements (bottle of wine, wineglass, candle in crystal, spaghetti ...steak)
* If somebody don´t own such a nice boom stand, take the flash and shoot it (from outside) trough the window and a diffusion panel, for that real windowlight. :-)


one softbox, one reflector, there we go :-) less gear, more brain ;-)

The quality of Fstoppers original BTS video is unmatched, if you could now add some helpful content and not just show the whole studiogear for some plate shots (real foodphotography looks much better, sorry guys), everything would be great. :-)


In my humble--admittedly amateur--opinion, you’re tripping. I think the photos in this post look much better than the ones in the ‘less gear, more brain’ shoot that you linked to. And I think they are right up there with any of the professional food photography out there. Feel free to enlighten me.

-The guy eating the food.

I love Food Shoot!!! very nice work.

Kennie - thanks for posting. Nice one

Lee Morris's picture

@kennie: I am always down for some constructive criticism and I do agree with some of what you are saying but I do have a few issues. I am on a cell phone before a wedding this morning so o can't type much and excuse my spelling errors.

First of all, I am not a food photographer. In the future we will do videos like this on the top guys in a field. But, all excuses aside, I think these pics turned out pretty good. And for the average shooter there is still good info to learn.

I don't think that you can say I used all the wrong gear and needed gloves an then tell me I should only be using a single light. Real high end food photography does not use 1 light. Did you see the dominoes pizza video we posted?

Trust me, I know that I suck compared to the high end food guy, but I don't think I agree that there is only 1 way to shoot food and that is with 1 light and gloves.

Lee!! i looked up the dominoes video and the hand model in the video looks like she has some screws loose.

Very cool food and photos.

I came out of food from the last 6 years doing it professionally in September 09 to pursue music photography and it's working out just fine.

Glad to hear Travis took the plunge aswell :)

@Lee: Great to see, that you are a good sport. Of course there is not just one way to shoot food and there are more people out there, that suck on food photography. ;-)

The single light is a misunderstanding. Just because the guys in the video used only one lightsource, doesn´t mean there is just one light, the reflector is a second light. What I´m trying to tell you is this:
Compare both setups and the results. Your results look better, okay, but you use three lightsources, which could be bounced/reflected to 5,6,7 lights total and don´t use this opportunity. The guys in the video made at least two lights out of one lightsource. This was meant with less gear, more brain.

Learn how to master your lightsorces (keyword ...Dean Collins) MORE efficiently.

One light in food photography is not common, but with the help of fill/bounce cards AND a light-panel you could make 2,3,4, ... lights, out of just one lightsource. ;-)

Which site collects photo BTS videos? ;-)

One thing about the gloves. Everytime when glass/metall/shiny objects get moved, fingerprints are there, believe me. There are no gloves (except the crazy hand model) in the dominoes pizza video, because there is no glassware and whinebottles which get move all the time. ;-)

Mr. Glove ;-D

No comparison, Lee's shots look 10x better than the La Mansion shots.

Great video and advice. Keep it up!

Great video, chef seems pretty cool too. Interesting point about using back lighting will need to remember that one. Cant help but think some of the pasta/rice dishes looked a bit dry and congealed, not really fresh. I use to work as a restaurant manager in top UK restaurants and I know the chefs would never send food that looked like that to a paying customer.

Lee Morris's picture

@ James. The food didn't look like that when it wad made. We got really backed up shooting so I will take the blame for that :)

Another great video from you guys.
And not only the video was great the discussion on the comments also very constructive.
We are learning a lot in this fstoppers community :)

Pierre Foisy's picture

Strange, I see the same video as the one above, Martin builds a crane.