Beautiful Food

When you get together with other food photographer, whether its for a workshop or a discussion, the topic of Ugly Food always comes up. “What do you hate to shoot?” It can be soup, potted meat, or curry. But whatever it is, someone always has something they struggle with. But what happens when the food is beautiful? This can be a problem as well, although it is a different type of problem.

When the food looks awesome, you want to keep shooting it. You want to do different angles, different sets, different lighting. The problem is, there is a shot list and a deadline and a client watching. I had that problem yesterday. I have a new client ready to launch a new Argentinian pastry business and the products were beautiful – Alfajores, caramels and lots of goodies. But, alas, there were at least 10 shots to get in 6 hours so, how much playing can you do? The playing is the best part of the day…we call it “Jerry Gone Wild.”

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Interview with a food stylist – Melanie Dubberley

This type-A has patience for minutiae, and she’s not afraid to use it. And yes, the girl colored in the lines as a kid. Some may call it OCD. Melanie calls it making things pretty. In fact, she has been making things pretty professionally for over 12 years. She styles primarily chocolate, cheese, recipes for kosher cookbooks, and alcohol–seems like anything with a “k” or a “ch” sound she works with, but in reality she styles all things food and yummy! Based out of New York, NY and Sacramento, CA, she happily travels to clients. She has partnered with Napa Valley Photographic Workshops for an upcoming Food Photography class Oct 27. Food Stories: the ABCs of Food Photography. Feel free to chat with her at contactme@melaniedubberley.com or visit http://www.napa-photo.com for more info.

chocolate cake1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) When you first started, was it different?

I find most assignments through my existing clients who are either freelance photographers or in-house producers.

2. Who do you usually book with; the photographer, an agency or the client? Do you have a rigid fee structure or do you negotiate each booking?

I love food and making people’s visions come to life. I primarily book directly with the client and work to meet the needs of the job.

3. Do you work with an assistant? If so, what is the role of the assistant? Are you teaching on the job or is that reserved for another time?

Everyday is a learning opportunity for all people; I don’t believe that we can ever know enough. So to me, even after 20 + years in the food industry, every day, every job is a learning experience for the whole team, from assistants to stylists to art directors. The day I stop learning is a day, I am probably not on this earth anymore. I have learned much from young assistants and I have taught much to experienced ones. I think ego doesn’t belong in the studio, and that the creative process needs a team.

Red Velvet Cake4. I am sure that there are some photographers that you enjoy working with more than others. What do your favorite photographers do to make the day more enjoyable?

The best day at work is one where everyone buckles down, gets the work done and laughs the whole time through. Life is too short to not love what you do.

5. There is a protocol when discussing changes on set. Do the photographers you most often work with prefer that you talk just to them or engage directly with the client/art director? Which do you prefer?

Of course the client has the last say, and it is best to hear from them directly what it is they want to see or change. It saves time not playing the “telephone” game. I enjoy these scenarios when all lines of communication between all parties-photographer-client-stylist are open, honest and without pretense.

6. What type of food do you find the most difficult to work with? Why? What type of food do you enjoy working with the most? Why?

I love working with anything sweet; so yum, oops, I mean fun! Difficult items would be pot roast. Though that is still fun because it pushes the boundaries on how to make a big brown lump look absolutely mouth-watering!

7. When do you feel most creative?

I feel most creative when the team is laughing, having a good time and each member feels safe and free to say what they think. And where there are baked goods involved.

8. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? If so, what?

All sorts of things, but mostly about lighting, and the way a camera sees.

9. What special concerns do you have when working on site at a restaurant? Are there any special concerns when working in the photographer’s studio?

Each job has a different requirement, what special concerns there maybe depend on job description. However, I do inquire about logistical things like parking, what door to unload through, and if there is a refrigerator etc.

10. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist?

Find a food stylist that you can get along with in and out of the studio. The creative process happens when there is a bond. And at the end of the day, the point is to make a pretty picture, whether it is a product shot on seamless or a full room set with talent, the art shines through if the team plays well together.

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Back in the author business again

I’ve been involved in a community of food photographers on Facebook. We critique each other’s food images. The community is made up of about 1700 food photographers, stylists and bloggers from around the world at all different levels. I find that there are several things that less experienced photographers have in common. They are good photographers but lack the little details that make their images awesome. So, I decided to put my thoughts into a book that I have published on Blurb. I titled the book “Fine Tuning Food Photos”. It is not designed for the beginner but, instead for those that have have started their journey in food photography and want to bring it to the next level. I envision this book as being a great guide for food bloggers…those that do food images all the time but need a little push. Please check out my preview…

Fine Tuning Food Photos by Jerry Deutsch

blurb Food Photography

Fine Tune Food Photos

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Interview with a food stylist – Lulu Soubhi

Here is another food stylist, Lulu Soubhi that is also a food photographer. Lulu is located in Cairo, Egypt. What I am finding in these interviews is that, no matter where the photographer is from, most things are quite similar. One distinction is the question on the food that you find most difficult to shoot. Lots of different answers for that one :)

1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) When you first started, was it different?

When I first started; it was the photographers who would contact me for the job, because most of the clients didn’t realize nor understood the role of the food stylist as they thought the food looked good enough for shooting as the chef presents it. But, in the past couple of years things have changed, and now the client knows the importance of the food stylist in a photo session.

2. Who do you usually book with; the photographer, an agency or the client? Do you have a rigid fee structure or do you negotiate each booking?

I usually book with the photographer, but only after meeting with the client. Each booking is different, it really depends on the items we are shooting, the direction, the props… etc.

3. Do you work with an assistant? If so, what is the role of the assistant? Are you teaching on the job or is that reserved for another time?

I’m very lucky to have a very detail-oriented organized assistant. He helps me purchase the ingredients and material, and on location he assists me by preparing the contents of each plate, i.e. he cuts the vegetables, prepare the mashed potatoes, he is literally my third hand on site. It’s certainly an asset if the assistant learned on set; this could be very useful for both of us in the future.

4. I am sure that there are some photographers that you enjoy working with more than others. What do your favorite photographers do to make the day more enjoyable?

I prefer to work with photographers who don’t treat food like any other product. I love to work with those who know what it means to show the texture, freshness and not to be afraid to take close ups. And mostly I love to work with photographers who have a passion for food.

5. There is a protocol when discussing changes on set. Do the photographers you most often work with prefer that you talk just to them or engage directly with the client/art director? Which do you prefer?

Usually I talk to the photographer only.

6. What type of food do you find the most difficult to work with? Why? What type of food do you enjoy working with the most? Why?

Meat, as it loses its juices quickly and once that happened, it loses its visual appeal. It’s a challenge but I love it

I love working with vegetables, sandwiches and desserts

7. When do you feel most creative?

When the client is open to new ideas and when I don’t have to work with clients branded plates or corporate identity

8. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? If so, what?

I’m actually a food photographer when I’m not a stylist

9. What special concerns do you have when working on site at a restaurant? Are there any special concerns when working in the photographer’s studio?

On site in a restaurant, if the restaurant is providing the ingredients, my main concern would be the freshness and condition of the items. In the photographer’s studio my main concern would be having enough backup or test items.

10. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist?

I believe every photographer should read about food styling, and try to watch how things are done. Also good communication is very important. It’s a mutual thing.

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Happy Holiday indeed.

I interrupt this Food Stylist Interview series with an important message. Truth be told, it’s not an important message but, I just couldn’t wait to show you this…the Astor Chocolate 2014 Holiday Brochure was just released and it looks Awesome!

Here’s a link to view it online.

Truth be told again, I did not take ALL of the images…some were done, before I started working with Astor and some were done by another photographer – but very few.

 

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Interview with a food stylist – Sefa Firdaus

Besides asking the stylists that I have worked with or communicated with for various projects, I put out a request on Facebook to find food stylists from all over the world. I was curious how the stylists outside the US relate with their photographers.  I received several replies. What I didn’t expect was that some of the food stylists were also photographers. One response was from Sefa Firdaus  Sefa is a food photographer and food stylist from Indonesia and currently getting a Masters degree in Germany. Here are her responses.

1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) Directly from the client (or their agency) as they searched for a food stylist through the net. 

When you first started, was it different? When I did my first food stylist assignment, I got it because I was the food photographer. The client searched for a food photographer, when we met, they were asking for a food stylist. It was totally different from what I did as food stylist for my food blog.

2. Who do you usually book with; the photographer, an agency or the client Most of times were directly with the photographer, or agency.

Do you have a rigid fee structure or do you negotiate each booking? I have my standard fee but I did negotiate for each booking, depends on the load of the work.

3. Do you work with an assistant? For a small project, nope, but for the big one, yes.

If so, what is the role of the assistant? My assistant role is to provide everything that I need during the assignment, like garnish and props. When the assignments are including cooking the food, she helps me to prepare the ingredients and cook.

Are you teaching on the job or is that reserved for another time? I did both. Have a meeting before the D day and on location.

4. I am sure that there are some photographers that you enjoy working with more than others. What do your favorite photographers do to make the day more enjoyable? I enjoy working with the photographer who let me explore my creativity but at the same time give me feedback on my work.

5. There is a protocol when discussing changes on set. Do the photographers you most often work with prefer that you talk just to them or engage directly with the client/art director? Most of the photographer I’ve worked with let me to talk directly to client/art director.

Which do you prefer? I prefer that we talk to the client/art director together.

6. What type of food do you find the most difficult to work with? Indonesian foods. Why? Indonesia foods are tasty but they do not look good on camera. For example is the infamous rendang.

What type of food do you enjoy working with the most? I love to work with soup. Why? I think because soup is my comfort food.

7. When do you feel most creative? When the deadline is near J

8. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? Yes, for sure. If so, what? Studio lighting, as I am a natural light photographer.

9. What special concerns do you have when working on site at a restaurant? The chef. Normally I have a chat first with the chef to have some connection. Are there any special concerns when working in the photographer’s studio? So far my concerns are only with the refrigerator to store my garnish.

10. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist? To give each other space in doing their job but at the same time advice each other. It is better for the photographer to meet up with the food stylist before the D day, to discuss the concept that the client wants.

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Interview with a food stylist – Denise Vivaldo

Denise Vivaldo is one of those food stylist that is well known in the food photography community. Based in California, Denise’s team is called upon to style all over the world. Denise is the author of The Food Stylist’s Handbook as well as several other titles. She is also a contributor to the Huffington Post. When Denise talks, food stylists, food photographers and recipe developers listen. Here are Denise’s responses to my interview questions.

1. Where do you find most of your food styling assignments? (Photographer, agency, clients etc.) When you first started, was it different?

Currently, from repeat clients, referrals and through my website. In the beginning, through my catering clients and photographers.

2. Who do you usually book with; the photographer, an agency or the client? Do you have a rigid fee structure or do you negotiate each booking?


Client usually books me directly.

3. Do you work with an assistant? If so, what is the role of the assistant? Are you teaching on the job or is that reserved for another time? 

I work with several assistants and other stylists, depending upon the scope of the particular job. We often use interns. Teaching on the job is something I leave to the stylists who work with me as I no longer have the patience for it.

4. I am sure that there are some photographers that you enjoy working with more than others. What do your favorite photographers do to make the day more enjoyable?
 

Good mood and appreciative. Provides coffee, snacks and a nice lunch. Clearly states suggestions and opinions. Good control over their clients and managing their clients’ expectations.

5. There is a protocol when discussing changes on set. Do the photographers you most often work with prefer that you talk just to them or engage directly with the client/art director? Which do you prefer? 

They prefer that I engage with the client.

6. What type of food do you find the most difficult to work with? Why? What type of food do you enjoy working with the most? Why? 

Frozen yogurt is awful. Very difficult to have a the right temperature for photography if using the real thing. Seafood is my favorite. It’s naturally beautiful to the camera.

7. When do you feel most creative?

When I can style food that I have also written the recipes for.

8. Have you learned anything about photography from working on set? If so, what?

Way too much to put here. But I will say this, photography is hard, lighting is hard, and it’s a joy to work with talented photographers.

9. What special concerns do you have when working on site at a restaurant? Are there any special concerns when working in the photographer’s studio?

Restaurant concerns are adequate space and an area to work without disturbing the business of the restaurant. Studios are all different. Some have full working with kitchens with lots of prep tables and refrigeration. Other studios only have a sink in the bathroom and a microwave.

10. What advice would you give to a photographer in terms of their relationship with a food stylist?

Make sure the stylist knows what equipment and space is available at the studio or location. Include stylist in all relevant email.

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