Saturday, October 17, 2020
I have been basically a food shooter since 1988. Over those years I have worked with all of the best food stylists in the NYC metro area. Only very occasionally have I been asked to be the photographer and food stylist. Well, Arla Brands asked me to shoot in my studio and send then jpgs and do the food styling. I can do this because I have seen my own stylists do it so many times. I don't know all of the tricks and I take much longer but it all worked well. It took me three days to prop and food shop, food style and shoot six main images. To just shoot would have been only one day. I began by shopping for both props (most from my own prop shelves) and the food needed. I had to shop 2 more times as I would realize that I had not gotten something (a real food stylist never has to do that). Food like toasted cheese sandwiches are tough but I got a nice cheese pull and think things look great. So were it not for covid I would have worked one day and instead I got to be a food stylist and shoot for three. Yea!
Monday, June 1, 2020
I can still recall the first image I ever did for Nabisco. I was handed a big box of products and told to shoot them as one image. I put up a 9' roll of brown seamless and began piling the products. I used anything I could find to hold up the ones in the back. I figured that this was a test to see how I would do. Well, they must have liked what I did because this image appeared on the back of Nabisco's calendar for 1990. Now here is the strange part. People who know me know that I shouldn't be handed a razor blade. Sure enough, after I was almost done I was cutting something, and myself, so if you click on the image above to enlarge it you will see a drop of my blood in the lower right edge of the seamless. I never said anything, shot 6 sheets of 8X10 film and that was that. When I saw the calendar, right there on the back cover was my shot... and my drop of blood right there in the corner. Today I would have just cloned the blood off the image but this was 5 years before I began to go digital.
Saturday, April 25, 2020
I am a man most blessed. While I, like others, have had to put off shooting for a while, I do have 2 new clients that came during this crazy time. To that end I am playing around with my newish Godox lights. It's just amazing. Three V1's fit in one little bag and the 400 w/s SK400 fits in its own small case. Compare that to the 2400w/s Speedotrons I used to lug around. These 2 shots were captured at 1/250th f/22 and ISO of 100. Just one V1 with a grid and the 400 over the top in an Octabox. The shot on the left is the bank on it's own and the one on the right has added the V1 with the grid. The way I used to do this was with an Elinchrom spotlight 3000 and a Speedotron off the ceiling. Even turned down all the way I often had to use a 2 stop ND just to get open to 22. It's good to know that this is all going to work out well. I'm ready (aren't we all) let go back to work!
Monday, March 23, 2020
Well, we'll see how all of this goes...
So I had a meeting with PANOS Brands who do healthy crackers and other food, to shoot images for a new package. That was 2 weeks ago before things got crazy.
Now I not only have to think about light and focus and other photo related things, but I have to convince my new client that we can do this remotely with things like Skype and Zoom. I am keeping in close (but not to close) contact with my potential client and I think I have them convinced to send me just the crackers to shoot first so they can see how I light.I sent them this contact sheet to give them an idea of the kind of lighting I do for cracker-type packaging. I know it will make their packages sell well. In this crazy time, we'll just have to wait to see what actually happens.
Friday, September 27, 2019
So I did some tests yesterday for a new client. The wonderful thing about shooting food is that you can eat it. All the food had sat out for a while but the cannoli was just yummy! So was the sfogliatella. Maria's Bakery in Saddle Brook NJ is awesome. Anyway, I did something dumb. I had 2 of my Godox V1 flashes in the 48" octabank and one from behind for "sparkle". I turned off the camera but left all of the light on over night. I was delighted to see that after 12 hours on, the ones in the bank (on full) were only 1/3 down in battery and the sparkle light (on 1/64th power) was still on full charge. I know that I should expect the flashes to hang out when not being used but Profoto doesn't. These cheap little Godox V1's are just... Awesome!
Friday, August 2, 2019
Well I didn't know if this would all work out but it has and better than I ever thought.
Since 1989 I have lit my commercial images with massive 2400w/s Speedotron strobes. I own 6 packs and numerous heads including 2 optical spot lights. I often had to shoot recipes with a 2-stop ND filter since I like to shoot wide open for limited focus.
This year I bought a terrific Nikon D850 as well as 3 Godox V1 strobes and a Godox 48" octabox. I wondered if I could fully replace my Speedotrons with the Godox strobes for studio food shooting. I shot a number of food product jobs in my own studio with 2 Godox strobes in the Octabank and a straight stobe from the back for sparkle. I was very pleased with the f/16-22 I was getting @1/250th and ISO 100.
2 days ago I packed my car. Just in case I brought one 2400w/s Speedotron and a box full of heads. I also brought a leather bag full of 3 Godox V1's, some Godox accessories and one Xpro trigger to control it all.
The images above were shot with 3 Godox flashes. I was able to go between f/32 and f/16 @ 1/250th and everything was great. I go back to shoot more next week and all I'll bring are the Godox flashes. I'll just have to remember to charge the batteries but they lasted all day. I shot 75 images and they never complained.
Friday, April 26, 2019
Before 2019, I had not shot photographic tests since the 1980's. That's because I have been very busy shooting for clients. I love being paid to shoot. I haven't seen a need to shoot tests in quite a while.
What changed? Well, maybe it was Martha Stewart, Instagram or maybe it's that I am older but I have been told that my images looked old fashioned. I asked around and was told that while I was busy making clients happy, people had begun to shoot food straight down. This makes little sense to me. Most people don't stand on a chair and look at their food. So that's why, after many years, I shot these tests. My website now has three images that were shot straight down. I like them but I don't really get them. Yikes! I AM old!
Monday, February 4, 2019
These images look simple enough but they actually took a full day and then some. It's not worth it to use a food stylist on these so I went to the grocery store to buy food. I came back and learned that my client had requested a dark background. My home kitchen just happens to have dark granite so I shot there (I have a very patient wife). That fact became moot after my client requested slate (as opposed to granite). So in the very end, I swapped out the granite for an image of slate that I already had. I set the shots up but actually shot all of the grapes, nuts and dried apricots separately. I stripped the cheese off the granite and added a shadow since slate doesn't make reflections. In the end we had three different versions of each of the two shots for a total of six images. My client was happy, the images were uploaded, the bill has been sent and approved. That's how a simple shot and take a full day to create.
Friday, January 19, 2018
It is such a blessing to be reconnected to one of Jason Cohen's businesses. Not only that, but I have reconnected with his art director Scott Foster. I have not worked with Scott since the old Kraft days. We spent a day shooting around 250 images of all kinds of products for packaging and another day stripping them out and retouching them to perfection. Finally I zipped the 5GB of images and put them up on my server. I am told that next week I may be shooting portraits of everybody at Halen Brands. I last did that for Geek Hive. 2018 seems to be looking better than 2017.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Food product shots make up some of my work lately. This one is for Daisy's Bakery who make yummy stuff. I had to shoot the cakes in and out of the packaging. Out was easy and I have a trick to shoot the cake under the plastic. What I do is use 2 hard lights, one left and one right. I have them plugged into two different strobe packs and shoot one image with the left light and a second with the right. Then I layer the 2 shots in Photoshop and change the blending mode of the top layer to either lighten or darken. One of those will make all of the super shiny reflections disappear! It's amazing!
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
I really hate to admit it but the saying is true: The camera you need is the one you have with you.
I was dropping off an early edit of a video when my client Rick said that he would like a product image for the ending and all I had on me was my iPhone. I set up a rough studio with a turned around poster for a background, crouched down and shot. I will be honest and say that if I had lit these in my studio I would have filled the golden type a little better but after some Photoshop work, the iPhone image ended up finishing the video. The image above is from a 51MB tif. That's what I ended up with... and all from a phone.
Friday, May 5, 2017
Well, Video just be crazy! I have been shooting and editing video since about 2011 but I have never shot 2 straight hours of a Power Point presentation. It all ended up being around a16GB file at 1080P. It told my client Rick that there was no way to make a 2 hour video email-able but I have gotten it down to less than 400MB @ 720P using the Handshake video app. It's pretty cool. I'm using both Premier Pro and Photoshop for the edit. 2 down and one to finish up. Video takes a lot longer to edit than stills...
Friday, March 3, 2017
Well, it has been confirmed. Michael Harris died as the result of a stroke one year ago. I've been searching for a definitive answer and now I have it. Before picking my son up from Laguardia airport, I stopped by his old apartment. The doorman didn't know Michael but a very nice woman told me that she would take my number and ask another doorman who had been there for years. She just called (thanks you so much) and now I know. My mentor, teacher who became my student has gone. Were I cannot say. Bye Michael. I hardly knew ye!
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Susan and Sophia: Two wonderful humans both creative and friendly that make working with them a joy.
The reason I love this job is because of people just like this. The work may be long but it's always fun when the clients are great people. Almost all of my clients have become friends, so often my work involves playing with friends... as long as the work gets done and everyone is satisfied in the end, it's a great way to make a living.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
I worked as a photographer for Nabisco in Parsippany NJ from 1989-2000 (Kraft bought us then and I worked there until 2004). This is an image of my studio within the corporate offices. You have to realize that the rule everyone followed was: no personal images within your cube. Looking back, I think I did everything I could to see if I could piss off the bosses but I never could. I grew a pony tail for a while, wore cowboy boots every day and covered every square inch of wall with images. I never heard a word from anyone... until Kraft bought us. While Nabisco was a wonderful creative company, Kraft was a process driven machine. All this fun went away when Kraft moved us to the main building and put the hammer down. Those were 10 great years and we all had nothing but fun.
Friday, May 13, 2016
I never expected to get a call from my friend at Finlandia but here it came and with it was 2 days of pretty food shots. Some were icon in-sets like the one above but others were for the website. I chose to show this one because I have been shooting food for many years but this is the first time I have seen Black Garlic. The pieces of garlic look like charcoal but they seem to work wonders in recipes or as in the case here, mixed into a soft cheese. I guess there is always something new to learn...
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
My former beloved client Melissa moved companies. I was a tiny bit concerned that maybe I could lose her. She assured me that she was talking me up but who knows what a new company might think?
Well, they must trust her because last week I got an email (from someone I didn't know) and it was from her new company! Yea! That email resulted in 1 1/2 days of new work. I carefully sent image pdf's to the Art Director as I shot. I carefully explained the Photoshop work that I would be doing and finally, carefully explained the download procedure for my server. It's great to land a new client and this one seems great!
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Thursday, August 6, 2015
This is my beloved cheese client with a shot for Costco. The recipe includes white Albacore tuna, Asiago cheese, spinach and onions. The bread was fried with butter and grated Parmesan cheese.
I shot the job a few different ways, and worked about half a day and uploaded the image and sent the bill. No time to book a food stylist so of course I had to shop and style the sandwich. Then it was just light, shoot and clean up with Photoshop.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Still or video, beautiful food photography requires beautiful control of light and focus. However, I think everyone would enjoy seeing the behind the scene videos from a food shoot. Here is Marie Haycox hard at work. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 14, 2015
More for the same money... That seems to be the mantra these days. Once again I have been the grocery shopper, food stylist (I baked the burger and faked the grill marks with a hot skewer), and photographer.
The product is cheese, and I think it stands up pretty well. The burger looks yummy and the whole grilling experience seems to be there.
You can't have shot with food stylists for so many years without having learned something. My apologies go out to my food stylists. Let's hope things turn around soon.
Monday, April 27, 2015
More and more these days it seems that clients expect food photographers to act as food stylists. I'm not talking about the really difficult jobs like ice cream or packaging shots but smaller clients will hand you a job and expect it to just get done. The image above was one such job. I was duplicating something that someone else had shot with new product. My first job was to go grocery shopping. I needed to hit 2 or three stores before I found similar breads to the original image. The only thing I could not find was the third from the left. The original was some kind of cheese bread. I thought that baked shredded parmesan would look better so I made some. The rest of the job was made up of selecting, slicing and daubing until things looked good. Of course, the final work to be done was all in Photoshop. My client asked me to bend the herb around the salami: Photoshop. She asked for less fat and more meat: Photoshop. Thicker almond slices: Photoshop and corrected angles for the pecans: Well, you get the idea.
In the end this job required a food stylist, photographer and retoucher. All me. I did get paid well though. And it was all just fun!
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Belmont Foods is rapidly becoming my favorite clients. Not only have they been sending me jobs to shoot but all of the food they send to photograph is absolutely yummy!
The hardest part is making sure that I have enough product to shoot before I eat it all.
I just kind-of fell into food photography 25 years ago but it's got to be the most fun of any photography out there...
Friday, March 6, 2015
One nice thing about shooting food is that you get to eat products that are absolutely yummy. These new products are called Sweetzells. They contain chocolate, caramel and salty pretzels. They must make giant pans of this combination and then cut them into yummy rectangles. My biggest problem was not eating them all up until I had final clearance from the client. It won't be long now...
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
It's as nice as you can imagine when a new client comes to you because they love the way you light food. These images are for a company called Buenos Angie. They will go on the boxes of cookies and show how good they really are. Angela was a 2014 Martha Stewart finalist. She makes traditional Argentine cookies. One is shortbread with Dulce de Leche centers and coconut, the other is with chocolate cookies enrobed in yummy chocolate. Ummmmmm. By the way, Angie is a great client who makes great cookies.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
I guess I'm getting old...
All of the photographers I used to assist have now passed on. The last to go (I assume) was my great friend Michael Harris. I can't find him anywhere. We were friends long after I was his assistant.
Gary Gross died in 2010, Jimmy Moore died in 2009, Joe Toto 1998, Tony Petrucelli in 2010 (I still have one of the Gitzo's I bought from him). I guess Bill King was the first to go back in 1987.
Well, Michael, I miss you. God speed where ever you find yourself.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Ah the life of a food photographer. Most of my clients have come to realize that in addition to my lighting skills, I also have some food styling skills (after watching them style for the last 25 years). That is why for 3 days of this 5 day shoot I was both the photographer and food stylist. For the last 2 days I had Marie Haycox do the really difficult food and all I had to do was light, focus and shoot (just like a photographer). Doing so much is still nothing but fun. I have dug ditches for a living so I know that photography is a much better way for me to go. If you desire to be a commercial photographer, know that fashion photographers need to know how to steam clothing and food photographers have to know something about styling food.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
It really is all about the light. Way back in the late 70's I fell in love with realistic hard light. I loved the way sunlight broke through the trees and bounced off the sidewalk. I began experimenting with a bare Calumet strobe tube. Back then it was tough. Most of my shots were on 8X10" film and with the head maybe 6 feet from the subject I had to pop the strobe 6 or 8 times to get the right exposure. Polaroid helped but I never really knew what I had until I saw the first test sheet of film.
Back then commercial lighting was all about soft shadows made with light banks. A product sitting on plexiglass back lit by a light bank was all the rage way back then. Nobody was experimenting with hard light back in 1980.
I was fortunate to have some younger art directors at some of the larger ad agencies who were willing to give me a chance. You see above an ad I did for Weight Watchers, one for ABC TV's North & South mini-series, a Gold Toe sock brochure and a Black Book self promotion piece.
Each one was lit using the bare strobe tube.
In 1989 I joined Nabisco as a photographer and made them buy me optical spots. By 1994 we were digital and the combination of optical spot strobes (which replaced the bare tubes), and digital's instant imaging so I could tweek the lighting on the fly, made this light perfect. I would say that today, I shoot 80% of my work in this same hard light way. Most of my clients hire me for just that reason. The chicken parmesan is one I did recently. I guess the lesson here might be that if you stay with what you like, eventually it just might be popular.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Another great day. Life is so much better when working with friendly people. Aren't they more fun than jerks? This day was a job at Split Image Studios in Fairfield NJ. The guy in the hat is Dwight, art director for B&G Foods and the gal in the apron is Marie Haycox: awesome food stylist. We did a lot of shots that day, salads with trail mix sprinkled on top, salads with croutons on top and then three trail mix bars. Still because everyone is an expert in their field, we ended at a very reasonable hour. Making money with a camera and playing with friends is a great way to make a living.
Friday, May 30, 2014
While this is a new company for me, the woman I am working with is someone I have known. That is why it's good to shoot for friends because you never know where they will work next.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
2014 so far is one strange year! My favorite beloved clients have been pretty slow. What is saving me is that I have new clients! You all have to know that I don't actively promote Bill Truran Productions. I have always depended upon my clients loving me and my work enough to keep me busy. Each of these new clients came as a result of a recommendation from one of my normal clients. It's a good thing. I know that every freelance person is having a rough time in this economy. I spent 4 days shooting for Daisy's Bakery. They had a very bad experience with a different photographer (he sprayed baked goods with water). Well, we had 4 great days and shot a lot of products. Let me tell you, the stuff is absolutely yummy! Hey, new clients... who expected that?
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
When you rent studios to shoot for big clients you need to bring everything to the location that you just might need. In this economy we rarely have assistants to run out and pick up forgotten items. This Big Red Nabisco Crate travels with me on the photo-gurney and has saved me many times.
Here is all it holds:
Here it is sitting strapped to the gurney:
While some of the things in the the Big Red Crate are used on a regular basis, fill cards and mirrors come to mind, some have been a special savior for a special time. For instance; as I walked into a rental studio in New Jersey just after super storm Sandy, the power went out. Total darkness for over an hour. The LED flashlight was right there so I had light for my food stylist to unpack while we waited for the power repairs. Wire ties have been extra handy shooting outside on location to secure wires and weights against the wind. I was on location shooting fashion in a very expensive house. I put the light bank up high on a stand and when I took it down, the location scout was terrified to see black marks on the white ceiling! Magic Eraser to the rescue. A few wipes, a little scrubbing and the marks were gone and a pristine white ceiling remained.
I guess the Big Red Crate is just filled with all the little crazy things I've come to realize I sometimes need when I shoot.
You can download the list here: PDF List Download
Hey, it's just this photographer's experience talking.