Monday, January 20, 2020

How to be a Food Photographer

You’re only as good of a food photographer as the people that you’re working with.

It’s a team effort and professional food photographers never work alone. It’s vitally important to seek out and find teams of talented, friendly and good natured people to work with. If you’re a photographer and you invest your heart and soul into a photoshoot but the chef brings out poorly plated food your photograph can only be as good as the chefs work. But the reverse can be true that the chef can bring out the most beautifully arranged plate of food ever plated that will make you want to burst into tears and if the food photographer isn’t bringing their A game to the shoot it will reflect on everybody’s work. Your team is essential and extends to everybody whose involved in the shoot. Whoever is producing the shoot, the people who prep the food for the chef or food stylist, whoever’s transporting everything to the set, even the accounts payable people who pay the bills to the poor people who have to wash the dishes. Never forget to show your team love and appreciation for the hard work that they do. Be the person that everybody wants to work with and the food photographer that they’ll want to have back again next time.

Surround yourself with people who make you look like a better photographer than you really are.

The single best piece of advice that I could every give to anybody is to surround yourself with people who make you look like a better photographer than you really are. Even if you’re #1 on the call sheet that day you’re just one part of a bigger team. And that team can really make or break the shoot even more than you ever could. You're never going to become one of the top food photographers working alone. You're going to need a dream team.

Often during a photoshoot the food photographer is one who sets the tone for the shoot. I always welcome having an art director on set who can help me direct the photoshoot so that I can focus more on getting amazing shots. But even in that situation you’re still the center of the action and you’re mood, the tone that you set and how you interact with others is vitally important to the photoshoot’s success. If your heart isn’t in it everybody will see it written on your face even before you open your mouth.

There was a short period before I became a food photographer when I photographed women’s purses and shoes for a fashion brand in NYC. I could never pretend that I loved what I was doing. I don’t secretly go home on the weekends and dress up in women’s clothing, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it just wasn’t the right job for me and I could never pretend like it was. I couldn't engage with the things that I was photographing on an emotional level. As a food photographer I can genuinely come to work excited to be there. I love what I do. And everybody around me can sense that I love it and it helps them to get engaged and excited for the shoot.

The food photographer is often just the last step in a long process that begins long before the photoshoot. When the original concept or idea is conceived for a product that somebody wants to sell, to all the many steps and tiny actions that go into building that brand to the moment when they’re ready to shoot and hire you to shoot it. But even after the shoot is over how those photographs get used to market and sell that product is just as important as the photographs themselves. As great of a photographer as you might be it’s important to take a moment of humility and show appreciation to the hard work of everybody around you. Without it there wouldn’t be a photoshoot and you wouldn’t be a professional food photographer.

Be Grateful. Be Humble. Show your Appreciation.

Interested in reading more? You can find my guide at How to be a Food Photographer

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