I recently had the opportunity to participate in my first photo shoot. We planned a day shoot and the goal was to capture a culinary shot plus three, possibly four, product shots. Once we received client approval on photographer and location, we had a pre-production call with the photography team. The team included the photographer, photographer’s assistant, food stylist, assistant food stylist, prop stylist and art director (in addition to our client, Greg and me). During the call, we walked through the plan that the photography art director had put together. We discussed each photo and planned out how we wanted the shoot to flow. On the day of the shoot, I was at the Charlotte airport bright and early. This was also my first trip to Chicago and I wanted to experience as much of it as possible so I made sure I had a window seat on the plane – I really enjoyed the view of the downtown area as we flew over Lake Michigan. After we landed, I took the ‘L’ train (as I learned from Allison, our admin in the Chicago office) to the nearest station to the photography studio. As I traveled the rest of the way to the studio, I noticed three distinctive things about Chicago: the ‘L’ train ran really close to some buildings (mainly houses and apartments), there were lots of really great murals and graffiti on various structures and that more people rode their bikes in this city than any other I had ever been to. When I arrived, the photo team was already preparing the food and lighting. I really appreciated the creative environment of the studio – it was open, with lots of natural light and easy access to the outside. As we waited for the client to arrive, we started setting up for the culinary shot. I was volunteered to be the hand model, so I put on an apron and stood behind the table as the prop stylist set up the location of all of the cooking items. I didn’t mind being in the photo because it gave me an opportunity to get a closer look at how the food was set up and how to take direction from the photographer. Once the food was ready, the food stylist carefully placed the meat sauce on top of the pasta that was on the plate. I held the skillet of sauce in one hand and a spoon full of sauce in the other and slowly moved the spoon back and forth from the pan across the late of pasta as the photographer took multiple shots. The rest of the photos were shot close up and in shallow focus. Lighting seemed like it was the most difficult for the team to set up – the main issue being the color differences in the products. We needed more light for the beef, but not so much that the details in the bread were lost. We used stand-in product to get the shot set up and then, once we had everything in the place we wanted it, the food stylist would come in with the best product and do her magic. She used paint brushes and tweezers and all kinds of other tools to make sure the food looked great (even if it wasn’t going to be edible when she was finished with it). I liked watching the stylists and the photographer as they set up before we took the final photo – the smallest tweak in lighting, camera location or placement of a prop could change the entire photo. I don’t think most people realize how much work goes into making a photo of a simple burger look so enticing. By the end of the day, we were able to get all of the shots in that we had planned on. I’ve worked with the planning part of the photography process before, but it was a really great experience to be able to have input while the photographs were being taken; not to mention how much easier it made the design process once the photos were complete. I think food photography is such an interesting thing to be a part of and I’m looking forward to being more involved in that process in the future.
There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to photography, and I never thought about what goes into a shoot until I started producing them. Producing a photo comes down to two very important things: preparation and detail. It all starts with a vision, and when everything goes according to plan, the vision is realized.
Producing photos is one of the most exciting responsibilities of my job. During a typical photo shoot, I’m running on pure adrenaline (which comes in handy during overnight shoots). Basically, I live for photo shoot days!