What to expect at a professional food or product photo shoot – Part 2

Many of my clients are entrepreneurs and have never been to a professional photo shoot before. So, I thought that I would write a few blog posts on what happens before, during and after a photo shoot as a guide for the newbies. Here is part 2…


Whether your creative team is just your photographer or if you have an ad agency, web designer or print designer, communication is key. Your photographer needs to fully understand your needs before the shoot. You and your creative team should communicate well in advance of the shoot.

So, what information will you discuss?

  • Whether the images will be used for print or Internet is something that is important for the photographer to know – the color space (some technical mumbo jumbo) for the Internet (RGB) and the color space for package printing (CMYK) are very different.
  • Whether you need squares, horizontals or verticals
  • The look and feel (clean white background, rustic look, formal setting etc.) Use examples from the Internet.
  • The type of background
  • The type of surface
  • Prop selection
  • Will you use flavor cues
  • Is there a need for a food stylist or a prop stylist.

…and many other questions need to be discussed before the shoot.  Have a Pre-Production meeting, either face-to-face, by phone or even by e-mail if necessary, before your shoot. Prepare a shot list – a list of all the products and the photos you need of them.  Once you’ve had your pre-pro (pre-production) discussions with the photographer, stylist, art director and/or designer you are now ready for the shoot. Now, it is up to you to bring the product to the photographer’s studio.

A term that you will probably hear in the studio is “Hero”. The hero refers to the product that looks so good, that it’s the one that is used in the final image. Before the hero is put on set, the photographer will often work with a stand-in, to get the background, camera angle, lens selection and lighting right.

If you are photographing packaging such as bottles with labels, hand pick the best ones. The labeling process often puts labels on crooked or scratches them. The bottle has a seam.  Try to get bottles where the seam is on the side rather than in the front. If possible, bring extra labels so they can be put on the bottles by hand.  If you have a bottle with a clear liquid in it, such as liquor, the back label will have to be removed. Check the printing on boxes and bring perfect ones. Check the corners of boxes to make sure they are not bent.

If you are selling a baked product that is frozen, try to get it before it is frozen…immediately before the shoot. Hand pick the best and treat them as if they are very fragile. Keep them separated from one another so they don’t collide during transport.

If you are using food in a recipe, you need to start with the best ingredients to end up with the best hero. I feel that the best way to do this is pay the stylist to shop for you. They know where to get the heroes and what to look for.

So, how should you prepare for the photo shoot? Have lots of stuff…I mean lots! Especially, if it’s food. The photographer or stylist is going to go through all of your products to pick the best ones (or the best pieces of several of them and put them back together to make it look awesome.) Don’t run out of product and have to compromise. Make sure that your heroes are as good as they can possibly be. Product is the least expensive part of a photo shoot so have lots more than you need.

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What to expect at a professional food or product photo shoot – Part 1

Many of my clients are entrepreneurs and have never been to a professional photo shoot before. So, I thought that I would write a few blog posts on what happens before, during and after a photo shoot as a guide for the newbies. 


So you’re going to have professional photos done of your product, creation or recipe. Congratulations, a very good decision indeed. However, this can be a cause for anxiety if you’ve never been to a professional photo shoot before. What is expected of you and what can you expect from all the people that might be there…the creative team.

It is of my opinion that the first thing you should do is search the Internet for photos that you like. Then try to figure out why you like them. Take a look at the backgrounds, the camera angle, the Depth of Field (sharpness or blurriness from front to back), the color palette and anything else you can think of. Do you like a rustic look on a wood surface or the clean look of pure white (required for Amazon.) This collection of photos is called a mood board. Share the mood board with your creative team and tell them what you like and why.

Use other images as inspiration only. It is very important that you don’t copy someone else’s image – especially if it’s unique. That is copyright infringement. Let your creative team create.

At this point, you should have a basic idea of what you want your image to look like. Now the questions begin. Here are a few common ones, have your answers ready.

  • Do you need horizontal, vertical or square images?
  • Do you need high resolution for print or low resolution for the Internet?
  • How many products?
  • How many shots of each?
  • What type of background and surface? (Pure white for Amazon?)
  • Is there a time frame?
  • Is there a layout to follow (for an ad or package?)
  • Is this an editorial or commercial photo shoot?

Editorial or commercial, what does that mean? Commercial photography is used for advertising or promoting something. A photo of your product on a label, package or in an ad would be commercial photography. Editorial photography is used to help tell a story. Photojournalism is editorial photography. So, you may think that all of your photography will be commercial. “It ain’t necessarily so.” Suppose you sell a product that can be used in a recipe. Photos of your product are commercial but, the photo of the finished recipe can be considered editorial because you are telling the story of how to use the product.

So, why do we need to distinguish between these two? In commercial photography, we are more concerned with “Truth in Advertising” rules. The image should be, or at least appear to be, exactly like the product being sold.

This all began when a soup company was using marbles to keep the meat and veggies at the top of the soup bowl in their ads. When you made the soup, it looked nothing like the ad. So, we now have “Truth in Advertising.” Make sure that your ads accurately represent your products.

You may say that the burger you get at the fast food joint doesn’t look anything like the one on the ad. Rest assured that the things going in to the photo of the burger are the same things that are in the actual burger. They are just handled in a much more careful way and then prepared with the skillful hands of a food stylist. Sometimes it gets carried away. Major burger companies will have the stylist glue each sesame seed onto the bun to make sure that it is perfect for the photos.

Photographers and stylist do manipulate the product on occasion. Occasionally, we have to add a little more product to a container or do other minor changes to make things look awesome. But, use common sense, you can’t show a 1/2 pound burger in an ad, when you only use 1/8 pound of meat. Advertising images can look better than the real thing but they cannot misrepresent.

The product represented in an ad or package should not try to deceive the consumer. The photographer and stylist are going to take steps to insure this. Suppose you sold a can of soup. The stylist is going to open a dozen cans of soup and count the number of carrots, peas, chicken, beans etc. in each can and get an average ratio. Then if you see these components on the spoon in front of a bowl of soup, they will be in the same ratio. It sounds crazy but, that’s how we protect the consumer.

Did you ever wonder why images of cereal and milk on a cereal box never looks soggy in the bowl or spoon? If you are selling cereal, the cereal should be real, and the proportions have to be right if there is more than one component. But, that doesn’t say anything about the milk. If you are selling cereal, Truth in Advertising rules apply only to your cereal…not the milk or anything else that is in the photo. I guess that you figured it out already, that white stuff in the bowl is not milk. If you are selling ice cream cones, the ice cream doesn’t have to be real. But, if you are selling the ice cream…it’s going to be the real thing.

Now suppose you have a recipe for soup. Even though your recipe is being used,  everyone would make their soup slightly differently. In that case, it doesn’t matter how many peas you show on the spoon. It is just a guide to what the finished product will look like. Editorial shoots are usually easier than commercial. Many photographers charge more for commercial shoots than editorial ones and they usually take less time. So, this brings us to one of the first questions a photographer might ask in a PreProduction meeting. “What are the images going to be used for?”

 

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March Madness

EclairsMarch weather comes in like a lion and out like a lamb and it looks like this year is no exception. March is a month of transition. We all know about college basketball and “March Madness”. But, what I want to know is why there is “March Madness” in the photo industry as well?

This has been the third year in a row that March has been extremely busy. Not just March, but the last two weeks of March. Everyone is asking for those days. As you know, customer service is my prime directive but, unfortunately, I cannot accommodate everyone on the same days. It pains me to tell a client that I am busy on a day that they have requested.Spring Cakes

So, I guess that I will not be taking any March or early April vacations in the near future.

Speaking of vacations, my last trip was to Peru and Ecuador and it was AWESOME. If you want to see some photos, take a look at my vacation photo books…
Peru
Ecuador

Please visit my portfolio at www.photography-by-jerry.com and I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I did shooting it. My latest photo book can be seen HERE. You can always contact me by e-mail at jerry@photography-by-jerry.com. Thanks for reading.

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Peru comes home

This post is about two different events that have come together unexpectedly. With the exception of one year, for the past four years, a group of friends have hired my amazing food stylist, Chef Michael Giletto, as a private chef. He prepares the most amazing food and I have never had anything that he has made that I didn’t absolutely love. Well we just had our dinner and he has outdone himself again, this meal even more amazing that the previous ones.

Next week, I am going on vacation. It’s off to Peru and Ecuador. I’ve always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands and will finally have a chance to do it. Before that it’s a visit to the Amazon, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. I can’t wait, you’ll see photos here
as soon as I can post them.

Peruvian Purple Corn Low ResSo, how do these two stories meet? Chef Michael decided that he wanted to cook a Peruvian meal for us. What a coincidence, he didn’t know that we were on our way to Peru 10 days later. Well, this was some outstanding dinner.

 

_MG_8163 Low ResWe had a drink called Chicha morada from purple Peruvian corn and the rind Giletto Dinner00065 Low Resfrom the pineapple, apple cinnamon, cloves and sugar. It was boiled to extract the flavors and then cooled and filled with pineapple pieces. IT WAS AWESOME!

Our next course was Aguadito de Polo – Chicken and Cilantro soup. I think he kept down the spices because a feGiletto Dinner00016 Low Resw members of our group (including me) don’t like hot spices.

Our third course was Causa limena, It was a beautiful presentation of mashed potatoes Aji Pepper purée and chicken salad made with cumin, celery and mayo. The dish was layers of potato, chicken, potato and topped with finely diced red  bell pepper. It was served with Hucactay sauce (aji pepper, milk, feta, garlic, salt and pepper, lime, saltines) purée.Giletto Dinner00032 Low Res

Our fish dish was traditionally made of a variety of fish but, our guests couldn’t all agree on what they like. The only one they all could agree on is shrimp, so shrimp it was. The dish is called Jalea. The breaded shrimp was served with yucca, lime, _MG_8164 Low Rescilantro, Concha (which is a cooked, large kernel corn) onions, tomatoes and lots of goodness. This was definitely the best shrimp dish I have ever eaten

Giletto Dinner00073 Low ResOur meat course was Lomo. The hanger steak was cooked to perfection. It was served with plantains, Concha, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions…lots of red onions.Giletto Dinner00111 Low Res

I was warned by my friends that have been to Peru, not to expect this level of 5 star dinning during our visit but, I’m glad that I got a taste of some delicious,classic Peruvian recipes.

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A New Year’s Resolution of a Food Photographer

Thanksgiving is gone and Christmas and Chanukah are right around the corner. So, what’s next?

It’s time to make a New Year’s resolution for 2016. What can that be? What do I need to do – professionally speaking that is. (Personally, I’ve got tons to do. I can even use the same ones as last year since I didn’t really accomplish them.)

pickled beet salad

So, here’s what I resolve. I am going to shoot more local restaurants on location. Normally, I would do a full day shoot at a restaurant with strobes and an assistant. I’m going to change things up. I am going to offer a 1/2 day shoot, using natural light. jars close from 955-2This will enable me to offer a professional food photography shoot for less than 1/3 the cost. That could include plated dishes, head shots of the chef or even the room itself.

IlPunto Hi Res-52That was easy. Now, how do I accomplish it? Here is where the work begins. I am going to get online and get the names and addresses of all of the restaurants in central New Jersey and let them know about this great offer.

IlPunto Hi Res-9So, if you know a central New Jersey restauranteur, send them a link to this post. If you are a central New Jersey restauranteur, then visit my website at http://www.photography-by-jerry.com, send me an e-mail or give me a call.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, to all of my chef friends that have allowed me to photograph their art, I want to wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.The Best of NJ

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

This week is a week of cooking…strangely enough for a food photographer, something that I don’t particularly care to do. Perhaps I should photograph tomorrow’s turkey. Not if it looks like last year’s 🙂

That is why I always prefer to work with a food stylist. As someone has said, “Shooting food photography without a food stylist is like making a movie without a make up artist.”

I am thankful for many things in my personal life. Professionally however, I am thankful that I work with wonderful clients – both food and product photography clients – and that I have found extremely talented food stylists that make me look good.

So, I am taking this moment to say thank you. Have a great holiday.

Please visit my portfolio at www.photography-by-jerry.com and I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I did shooting it. My latest photo book can be seen HERE. You can always contact me by e-mail at jerry@photography-by-jerry.com. Thanks for reading.

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Chocolate – a topic that is dear to my heart.

ToH Chocolateday is National Chocolate Day. Whether it’s milk, dark or even white, I wish you the chocolate of your dreams. Chocolate Swirl

Chocolate is a topic that is very dear to my heart. I am a chocoholic. At least I was until my health told me I have to cut it out. I found out that I am diabetic. So now, I am limited to sugar free chocolate. Now don’t get me wrong, I CHEAT! Every day I have a square of dark chocolate and I have sugar free chocolate as often as I can. Another health issue was that I have GIRD, also known as reflux. If I have chocolate at night, I will suffer that night…even with all the meds.

White truffle Hi Res Color CorrectedSo, what does all this have to do with my photography career. I’ve always felt that it was a punishment that my biggest clients all have to do with chocolate. I work for two chocolate manufacturers and two baking companies. I am surrounded by chocolate and some of what we don’t shoot sits in my pantry…taunting me. Can you taste it?

I have to take solace in the fact that not only do I love to eat chocolate, but I also love to photograph it. Chocolate is tough! It is amazing what you don’t see with the naked eye that the camera picks up…every scratch, blemish and fingerprint. A food stylist works wonders in preparing chocolate for the camera. What is left is give to Photoshop. The result is a beautiful portrait of something delicious. I love my job!

H ruggie tray Chocolate Line Up Ver 2
H Dark Cnoc Alfores0169 H Choc Bars

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