In the fall of 2010, I decided to shoot my dream assignment. I knew that no one was going to pay me to go out and tackle this subject matter, and I had not seen any photographer do what I wanted to do, so I did it. At the time, I had no idea what the assignment would turn in to or how it would change me as a photographer and a person. Here is what I learned from photographing 35 College Football Tailgates.
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If you are a professional, or an aspiring professional photographer, you rely on your photographic work to bring you financial rewards. Self satisfaction alone, won’t pay rent, put gas in your car, or food on the table. If you want to earn money from your pictures, then you will have to find someone to pay you for them. Here are a few strategies that you can implement to start selling your food photography!
"Oh, I can just fix that in Photoshop® after the Shoot." Have you ever heard a photographer say that, or thought that yourself? Yes, Photoshop® is an amazing program that can fix almost anything, but the time it takes to do so is often longer than just fixing it on set. Worse than the time it takes, what if it is something that you just can't fix? Having to tell your client that you need to re-shoot something when you could have easily fixed it on set could be an expensive mistake to make. When shooting food, many solutions to retouching problems will costs less than $5. Here are a few of my favorite items that will save you time and money on post-production.
What do you do when you find yourself in a restaurant without a decent window to shoot by? You will have to create your own light. If you are new to food photography and never had to use artificial light to light a dish, you may find yourself unsure of where to start. You don't need multiple flashes and a bunch of modifiers to create a beautiful shot. All you need is a flash, a light stand, a large diffusion source, and a piece of white foam board. Here is how I use these tools to create a beautiful backlit shot.
Food styling can take place in the production kitchen and in front of the camera. How do you know when and where to style your food? The answer will depend on what food you are shooting. For food with long shelf lives, like cupcakes, the dish will generally be camera ready when it leaves the kitchen. If the dish involves a sauce and a variety of garnishes, the styling will occur both in the kitchen and in front of the camera. Here is a behind the scenes look at a dish that involves styling in both locations: The Meatball Sandwich.
A stone background provides a great look for many food shots. The only problem is the weight that comes with it. Spend a day hauling around large stone tiles and you will understand the price that comes with this great look. There is a solution though. Let me show you how you can still have the same great stone look that is easy on the back and the wallet.
When shooting an ingredient shot, shadows can make or break an image. Sometimes you want less noticeable shadows while other times dark shadows can add a lot to an image. In the case of this pomegranate, I shot it both ways. Let me show you how playing with the shadows will have a dramatic effect on your final image.
Every finished dish in a restaurant or final recipe shot is made up of different ingredients. These ingredients can be a wide range of things. Some ingredients, like fruits and vegetables, are equally delicious as a component in a dish or as a meal on their own. Other ingredients like flour, salt, and sugar, are best used as the building blocks for that final meal. When your are assigned to shoot a series of recipes or plated dishes at a restaurant, it is very common that your Art Director or client will want to include an overhead shot of just the common ingredient. Here are a few examples of when this shot is useful.
The film industry has the Oscars. The music industry has the Grammys. Broadway has the Tony Awards. The annual awards that celebrate the best and brightest of the culinary world are the James Beard Foundation Awards. NYC based photographer Landon Nordeman set up backstage at the 2013 awards with just an iPhone for a camera. The results are a captivating black and white series of shots that each capture the range of emotions of the night.
Saint Patrick's Day celebrations in the United Stated revolve around one thing: lots of green booze. In working with a recipe developer for a St. Patrick's Day beverage, we both wanted to steer clear of the common green beer and food coloring based cocktails. The result was a beautiful green sangria. Here is more on how I created this subtly St. Patrick's Day themed shot.
What is "perfect lighting?" It will differ for every style of photography and every photographer's style. For my food photography, I think the perfect lighting is the soft, beautiful, natural light found from a large window with indirect sun coming through. Unfortunately, most of the locations where I have to go and shoot food don't have this light that I am looking for. In order to get the shoot done, I have to to create the light. What if I could create this "perfect light" and have it for every assignment?
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Photographers may scream when they hear that ice cream is what the client wants. Ice cream is not easy to work with. Once it starts melting, it is done and you need to move on to the next dish. Unless you are shooting in a freezer, the working window for ice cream isn't very long. There are many different ways photographers and food stylists will approach ice cream. For this series of pint-sized sundaes, I let the ice cream's container be the guide for the styling.
A tripod is the go to device for photographers who want to stabilize their shots. The three adjustable legs do a great job at keeping a camera supported and in one position. However, these three legs create a huge problem when shooting in a small kitchen or busy restaurant. Let me share with you a piece of equipment that will stabilize your camera with no legs at all!
Broiling, braising, blanching, roasting, smoking, sautéing, and frying are just a few of the cooking methods that can be done to food. Do you know how they will visually change the appearance of your food? Did you know that some parsley has curly leaves, while other varieties have flat leaves? Would you be able to tell the difference between a julienne, brunoise, or a dice? The culinary world has a vocabulary all its own. Knowing these terms and how they effect the look of food is a necessary skill for every food photographer.