LAST week I had a chance to talk to an old friend, Food Photographer, Mike Perez. We were both working in the advertising industry back during the late 90’s. I asked him if he could share some of his techniques in shooting food which he gladly agreed.
I’ve been wanting to expand the coverage of this column to other experts in their respective genres so we can all get inspired and learn from them.
Immediately, I asked Mike the difference of shooting food compared to a model and consideration in lighting setup. He gave me a smile and said “the answer is simple, they’re both yummy but the other one doesn’t complain”. That’s exactly true. Unlike food, Model will get tired and can add pressure for you to press the trigger. I don’t know if anyone can stand up or pose for hours without tiring.
He also said that just the same as you apply your principles in lighting for model, the same principle applies to food. The bigger the light source the softer and the smaller the light, the harder it becomes. Just like a model, you light them differently based on their profile and concept. Food is no different. There are textures, colors and element of food that you need to highlight through your lighting setup.
Mike also emphasized that to be a good food photographer, you should be able to control the shadows. Food photography is the play of highlights and shadows. Lighting it is easy but there’s also a good chance that’ll you’ll light it too much and you lose your shadows in the process. Shadows creates texture and helps define the dimension of the dish while the highlights create an excitement of taste.
In our conversation, I asked him if most of his clients are ad agencies. According to him, it’s a mix of direct clients and those coming from ad agencies. He pointed out that during the shoot, it is important that a representative from the client should be present to approve the shot before you move on to the next dish. A good pre shoot meeting will also help you plan your shot and probably would give you some time to experiment before the actual shoot.
As to styling, I asked Mike if he does his food styling when shooting food. He told me that he leaves the styling to the Chef or the food stylist. He believes that both can do a better job than him. He wants to focus on his craft and leave the other things to be done like graphics design to the right person to do the job.
Food photography plays a vital role not only in selling the product but also in triggering the appetite of the diners. The photo will suggest the mood and the initial taste is created in your mind even before tasting the dish. That’s why as a photographer, it’s important to understand what the chef is trying to create and it’s your responsibility to communicate it through your photos.
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