Food Photography and Product Photography

cookie0042-low-res-squareI advertise myself as a food and product photographer, but mostly I push the food photography. I LOVE food photography. Shooting food has special challenges and therefore special intrinsic rewards when you get those awesome images. (And the food left over from the shoot is an added bonus.) I like to think that I justerwyn00478-small do food photography and that is what I say in my elevator pitch (which I have yet to use in an elevator.)

The truth be told, I do as much or more product photography as I do food photography. As a matter of fact, the number of product photography clients is growing rapidly as a product photographer, from my neck of the woods, has moved away. Many of these shoots are simple products on a white background. erwyn00309These usually have to be clipped (also called silhouetted.) This means that they are cut out of the background, leaving the pure white background often found on websites and required by Amazon.

acandleco00048-low-res-banner-pixelsMany of my product images are from food clients that manufacture and sell food in bottles, jars or boxes. Many of those stello-0087-pinks-2-low-resalso create recipes from their products and we shoot the recipes as well. I’ve got a great team which includes a food stylist and a recipe developer.

My latest two clients are very different from things that I’ve done before. One of them produces scientific lab equipment and the other produces supplies for hotels. The scientific equipment presents its own benchmark00069-hi-resinteresting challenges. Often there are lit up displays that need to be shot with the rest of the image properly exposed. Thiserwyn00387 requires the blending of two images…one of the product and one of the glowing panel. In one case, the light was ultra violet (black light) and it created a purple glow.


If you have never been to a professional photography shoot and anticipate that you will need to do one in the near future, take a look at my four part post: What to expect at a professional photo shoot and don’t forget to look at my website, send me an e-mail or give me a call.

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Cranberry Muffins My family never did this but, as I watch families on TV, they have a tradition of going around the table to say what they are thankful for. I would have a hard time with this one…too many things to be thankful for. Family, friends, health, comfort, travel, and freedom to do what I love.

What I love to do is photography. It started as a hobby back in high school, became a part time job in college as a wedding photographer’s assistant, a part time career as a wedding photographer and then I gave it up. Wedding photography is difficult work.
During that time, I spent three summerIn Thyme White BG 2014-05-21 Low Res-28s as a commercial photographer’s assistant. I fell in love with commercial still life and wanted to become a professional food and product photographer. But, unlike wedding photography, you can’t do that on weekends so I just did photography as a hobby again.

When I retired from my career as a chemistry teacher in Brooklyn, NY (no, don’t feel bad for me, I was in a great school and I had the best students) I began my career as a commercial still life photographer specializing in food. And believe me, I am very thankful for that opportunity…I love it. I still travel (going to Vegas soon and then Cuba) and I still do photography as a hobby but, the challenge of food photography is what keeps my juices flowing. So, I am really thankful for my clients, my team and my wife for giving me about 1/4 of the house to do this.

Please visit my portfolio at 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 Thanks for reading and have a great holiday.

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If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I am diabetic. My personal hell has been that many of my clients make high carb products. I do lots of chocolate, cakes, cookies, eclairs and all delicious things that diabetics must avoid. But, there is one high carb food that I cannot give up, and that is bread. I LOVE bread. So, of course, I have a client that bakes the most fantastic bread. The wholesale division of the bakery is going national and I photographed their brochure. We did product shots of each bread and then, working with my food stylist, Michael Giletto, we did beauty shots for each type of bread. One word comes to mind every time I look at these images…YUMMM! We are discussing doing a retail catalog. I can’t wait!








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I advertise myself as a food photographer. Food photography is my passion. Food photography gets my creative juices (as well as digestive juices) flowing. But, food photography is not all I do. I also shoot lots of products. I get product photography jobs for a wide variety of products from women’s lingerie to manufactured parts for perfume bottles. I even do headshots occasionally. But, just once in awhile, I get a very interesting product photography project.
Recovered balls
The last shoot that I did was something out of the ordinary and at first sounded a little weird. It was for a metal recycling company. OK, I know that sounds fairly normal. The interesting part was how they get their metal to recycle. It comes from the remains after cremation. Did you ever wonder what happens to those knees, shoulders, and hips that people have replaced? Or the metal rods and screws to hold bones together? They are all recyclable metals, including the bridges and crowns. I have to admit that there were some very interesting shapes, colors and textures in these products and they made for some very interesting images. Here is a small sample.

SSS00120Recovered joints

Recovered implants Hi Res

For those interested just in food photography, I’ve updated my photo book with some new projects. Take a look by clicking HERE and tell me what you think.

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What to expect at a professional food or product photo shoot – Part 4

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 the final  part of this 4 part post.

What are you expected to pay for at a photo shoot? There are lots of pieces. Hopefully, your photographer has given you an itemized estimate before the shoot.  Here are a few of the items that might appear there:

  • Creative Fee – the photographer’s day rate or per shot rate
  • Usage Fees – some photographers charge these based on the usage
    • US only
    • Time limit
    • Web or specific print job only (i.e. use the image for package label but not ads)
  • Prop purchase/rentals
  • Reimbursements for
    • Materials (i.e. special backgrounds, props)
    • Food used to create the image (remember, bring lots)
    • Catering (if food is provided for breakfast, lunch etc.)
  • Stylists’ Fees
  • Studio and equipment rental (if applicable)
  • Sales Tax – In New Jersey – digital images are not subject to sales tax but prints are

If you order or go out for lunch, you are expected to pick up the tab.

So, there was a lot of information in this 4 part post and it may seem pretty daunting. But, rest assured that a professional team will make the process go easily and without any issues. Just remember to keep the team informed and have fun at the shoot….it really is fun! And don’t forget to tell the team how AWESOME the images are. Its a good thing to hear, even for seasoned professionals.

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What to expect at a professional food or product photo shoot – Part 3

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 3…

You will get the best images if you are on set and voicing your opinion. The photographer will set up the the surface, background and lights on the set, using a stand-in to get the lighting correct. The team will set up the props. Discuss props beforehand. A “PROP STYLISTS” may be necessary if props are an integral part of the shot. Props can tell a story, point to a hero or frame the image.  Props are supporting actors to the hero. Only props that support the hero should be used. Avoid unnecessary clutter.

The camera should be tethered (cable or wireless) to a computer or other device with a larger screen. Please make sure you are viewing the image straight on…if you are at an angle, you may not see the correct brightness and contrast. While the image on the screen should be good, it is unedited. If you think something is too dark, too light, too blurry, not blurry enough or whatever, now is the time to speak up. Be confident that if the photographer says that he or she can fix the in post (post processing), it can be fixed but, remember what you want them to do since they may forget. And if they do forget, a gentle reminder wouldn’t be a problem.

With the aid of the creative team, the photographer/stylist will find the best angle, adjust the composition, re-position the food, re-position the lights, move crumbs around over and over again until they feel that it’s the best that it can be. When the photographer shoots something that you like or something that you don’t like, let him know. He is there to please you but can’t do that if you don’t provide input. On the other hand, the creative team has a lot of experience doing this. Allow them to make the suggestions.

When the shoot is finished, images must be processed…not like in the days of film but, a digital process. Post processing may adjust color, contrast, brightness and retouching of the final image…This could take a week or more if the team is busy.  Ask when to expect the finalized images but, be patient.

One more thing to keep in mind. Sometimes, it is just impossible in a particular circumstance to get things the way you want. Let’s say you like napkin in the image but, it is reflecting in the glass dish. Ask the photographer to take it with and without the napkin and composite the two images together. Be aware that there may be an additional charge for that so ask if that is a concern.

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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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