Food Photography – How To Grow As A Portrait Photographer

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Daniel Hager 2017-10-08-brew-brothers-sb-coffee-drinks-advertising_3 Food Photography - How To Grow As A Portrait Photographer case study  learn photography grow as a photographer foodphotography food photograhy coffee advertising photography advanced product photography advanced food photography

Where We Shot And Why We Shot Coffee ImagesDaniel Hager 2017-10-08-brew-brothers-sb-coffee-drinks-advertising_2-768x1024 Food Photography - How To Grow As A Portrait Photographer case study  learn photography grow as a photographer foodphotography food photograhy coffee advertising photography advanced product photography advanced food photography

The Place we were shooting was the Ligatura Coworking Space. What does this have to do with coffee? Simply put, the creative spirits there attract likeminded people. It is a very encouraging place to inspire for trying something new. So did the Brew Brothers!

The Brew Brothers started their business growing from their passion for very high quality. Ligatura Coworking Space helped them out with their location launching the business as a pop-up coffee, selling from behind DIY counters. But it worked! Business steadily grew and the Brew Brothers now reside and operate in the coworking space for which the entrance had been modified so that the coffee can attract regular customers without interfering too much with the coworkers.

After just a hand full of talks I could finally convince them to make some time for us to take some higher quality product shots for them to use and for me to practice my lighting skills.

Testing is always a good idea if you are looking to build your portfolio. In such cases find possible clients to work on real projects and offer them a trade of their precious time.

My Challenges in Food Photography

Taking product images or product shots of food is nothing I do on a regular basis. I generally stick to portraits for the most part and for the reason how much I am drawn to faces.

On the other hand, in my personal life, I am super drawn to delicious food as well AND coffee! *omg*

The crux I find myself in is that I am not really good in styling food or sometimes run out of patience. Yes, working as a retoucher and at the same time not being gifted with much patience hardly goes well together. What I do like though is playing around with lighting and creating different moods. This skill also comes very handily in product photography which needs much more refined lighting skills due to the rather small objects compared to humans, the material properties which can be widely different from skin and the magnification factor.

What I Consider For Taking Good Product or Food PhotographyDaniel Hager 2017-10-08-brew-brothers-sb-coffee-drinks-advertising-1-768x1024 Food Photography - How To Grow As A Portrait Photographer case study  learn photography grow as a photographer foodphotography food photograhy coffee advertising photography advanced product photography advanced food photography

Product photography and food photography can be much more technical and demanding in terms of your lighting skills and all the hardware you are using. Sometimes that one little accessory you left at home could potentially help you solve an issue on set or bump up the overall production value.

Here are some considerations, not only on gear, what I found particularly useful when doing some food photography:

Gear

In terms of cameras, I would definitely opt for a higher resolving camera. Speed is not important here and the low light capabilities are usually also managing when using a tripod and additional lights. I have written a full list of camera and lighting gear which is typically used for food photography productions. Therefore I will shorten the list to the bare essentials here:

  • high resolving camera
  • good lenses. preferably macro or tilt-shift
  • studio lights and stands
  • tripod
  • big light modifiers and shoot through materials
  • tethered shooting setup

Food Styling

Food styling is a very critical part. Aside from your skills as a photographer styling a plate or a product will decide whether the outcome of your shoot is average or really good. Just think about beauty photography as shooting products, there is always a makeup artist and a hair stylist on set to make sure the presentation is top notch. At some point, we at photographers have to accept there are tasks better to leave for someone who is skilled.

If you are only shooting for yourself you, however, should always try styling yourself, look at well styled images and talk to chefs, pastry chefs, food stylists, not only to get better with it when you do not have access but your sense of what brings the product forward and what people want or expect to see in the field you are shooting will advance over time.

PropsDaniel Hager 2017-10-08-brew-brothers-sb-coffee-drinks-advertising_1-768x1024 Food Photography - How To Grow As A Portrait Photographer case study  learn photography grow as a photographer foodphotography food photograhy coffee advertising photography advanced product photography advanced food photography

Props are as equally important as the product itself. They give a sense of mood or environmental context and help frame the image.

Leading the eye over the image and keeping the beholder interested more than a second should be the goal of every image. Props can drastically improve the interest rate when placed right.

What a Portrait Photographer May Learn From Food Photography

Eventually all things – composition, lighting, atmosphere, product, styling, props,… create a sense of interest and familiarity. As all these aspects are critical, arranging each can be tricky and difficult.

I find looking into other disciplines of photography helps to grow as a photographer overall. The preciseness and much more complex lighting scenarios can be brought over to other disciplines and used in another context. What helped me a lot was being forced to slow down in my shooting process, to think and predict the outcome then followed by making a critical judgment and evaluating the outcome in order to find out if changes to further improve the outcome were possible.

After doing few projects with food and products it completely changed the way I shoot portraits now. I am much slower and much more concerned about the interaction of the subject than hunting for shots. Working on more complex lighting setups also immensely helped with getting things out of the way and to focus more on the person in front of me when taking portraits.

I hope this excursion was helpful to you or you might have found similarities to how you have advanced your photography skills as well. Let me know if that is the case or what the other disciplines were which helped you in another field of photography.

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