At the time when I was struggling with the question what I want to be when I grow up, food photography wasn’t on the list of things I want it do for living. In fact, I wasn’t interested in photography at all. I didn’t play with my father’s old film camera at the age of 9. I wasn’t a high school newspaper photographer nor was I impressed with photography art. I was just an ordinary kid spending my childhood days playing with friends and getting in trouble for doing kid’s stuff. You know what I’m talking about … 🙂
This article intends to reach those who are planning to immerse into food photography, especially making a career out of it. As far as I can tell, there are three different groups of people out there. The first group are absolute beginners, folks who are pretty new to photography but they love food and everything that orbits around it. The second belongs to kids who’re actually in school, learning and getting trained for this profession. In third and the biggest group, you’ll find many advanced hobbyist who wants to dip into food photography or just expanding their photography horizons.
First and foremost, I think photographing food is really challenging and it could be a bit more complicated than you think … don’t want to scare anyone or to underestimate difficulty of fashion, landscape, portrait, wedding or any other photography profession. The phrase “If you know to shoot food, you can shoot anything” really stands as a compliment to all food photographers but also as a reminder that it takes a lot experience, practice and skill to become an expert in this field. Overall, there are three types of food photography. These are fairly unique fields but many times differences are rather marginal.
This is a wholly grail of food photography. The most demanding and difficult way of shooting food … every photographer will tell you this. Generally, packaging photography is all about presenting food in most realistic and flattering way. This is nerve wracking, very technical and quite tedious type of photography. You’ll spend most of your time talking with art directors, trying to understand what they want and naturally figuring out how to get there. No detail is discarded (even the number of water drops on tomato). Every photoshoot is planned ahead and there is very little room for changes and modifications. Your job is to match clients/art director’s expectations … don’t waste your energy and time “suggesting” things ‘cause most likely they won’t listen to you. Everyone from prop and food stylist to art director and assistants has their own role and you simply need to fit into all this.
Food photography for advertising is more “loose” and down to earth compared to packaging. There are still some strict rules you need to follow but generally you’ll enjoy this one much more than boring packaging projects. As you can imagine, your product might end up as a food ad, restaurant menu or a product brochure. You still need to deal with Art Directors, food & prop stylist and assistants but this time your input might be helpful and appreciated by entire team. Lighting is quite important but you will have more freedom to incorporate supplementary sources or to approach the subject from a different standpoint.
This type of photography is definitely more artistic than first two. Editorial photographer needs to make food look really good and appealing … as simple as that. Food styling and props are so essential that if you don’t do it properly, don’t bother going anywhere further. Besides styling, editorial work is all about extraordinary lighting … I will repeat this one again, lighting needs to be stunning! You screw this one and the whole effort goes down the drain. I would say that most food photographers including myself prefer shooting editorial stuff. After all, it is much easier to create stunning photo without art director breading on your neck.
to be continued … Part II coming soon.