Friday, December 3, 2010

Food Styling with Photoshop!

This was quite an involved job. The lighting was pretty typical for me. I use an optical spot strobe from the back to cross light toward the front. This light is moved slightly from shot to shot to bring out the most contrast and detail. Next a large light bank goes overhead to fill all of the shadows so the images can be printed. Like I said, the photography part of this job was normal for me and all three shots could have been done in a quick day.
I offered to do the food styling. Adding tricky food styling to shooting turned this into a 2 day job.
For the pizza, I bought a Digiorno frozen pizza. I pulled off most of the cheese but left the sauce and slightly under cooked it. I then added my own cheese (the client) plus wedged tomatoes and black olives and broiled the pizza to carefully melt the cheese. Finally I ran downstairs to the studio and shot the slice. After I uploaded the image to my client, I used Photoshop to extend some of the cheese over the edge to the exact amount that the client desired.
The panini sandwiches was styled in a similar way to the pizza since it also needed melted cheese. Before I sent an image to the client, I cut the top bread off each piece and lowered it since my bread looked too fat for a panini.
Finally there was the salad. This shot was difficult because the NYC area was super windy and rainy so everything was slowed down considerably. I would email my salad image (shot on a tiny saucer) to the client for approval but have to wait an hour for a response. Salad wilts while it waits. In the end, I combined an early lively salad with the front of one that showed the cheese very well and the result was approved! It is wonderful to work with a client who appreciates Photoshop and knows what it can do.
If you are a photo student or enthusiast in this digital age, a good handle on Photoshop is absolutely necessary. In this case it helped me make more money as a photographer/food stylist.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crazy busy

I am fond of saying that commercial photographers are crazy when they are super busy and crazy when they are super slow so they are always just plain crazy! While I have been busy shooting products and jewelry for a catalog printer, I have been super busy shooting for my own clients as well. This is an image of a round of Romano for a label that will be applied to the whole rounds and most likely wedges that would come from them. The cheese is imported from Italy so I tried to give the image a painterly renaissance feel. This is one of maybe 8 different images that I have done lately for this client and that has kept me crazy busy during the summer season which is normally slow. Crazy busy is much better than crazy slow. Making money with a camera is just wonderful.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pretty Cheese

Once again it is wonderful to have clients that come back to you time after time. That is really the only way to stay in business. These two shots were images for packaging for the Arthur Schuman cheese company. For this company I am often the food stylist as well as the photographer as I was for these shots. After so many years of shooting food for different companies, It just takes a little courage to go ahead and try styling the food. My favorite stylist Alyssa Alia is usually booked when I need her. I would always prefer that we let her do the food and let me control the focus and light but when we can't I am happy to step in. I think these shots are yummy and help make you hungry. That's always my goal in food packaging. So thanks Melissa, this job was fun to do!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Somebodies watching over me

I have a good friend who just lost almost half his billings because one of his clients was bought by a private Japanese company who needs no annual report. This is a typical situation I have seen in my last 2 recessions. Companies buy companies and the artist is often the loser. Having just learned about my friend, I was informed that one of my favorite clients had just been bought by another company as well! I was all set to see a huge chunk of my income go away when I got a call from said client and was booked for a job! Wow! That was close. The company I just shot for was Sensible Portions. I have written about them before. I just love them. They have been bought by Hain-Celestial. Hain-Celestial is one great company. The owner seeks out healthy companies, buys them and leaves them alone to do what they do best. Trust me: a company like that is very rare. If my year turns around I may just have to buy stock in this rare, awesome company. It's always better to work for nice people. I'm thankful Sensible Portions is still a client.

Monday, June 7, 2010


This is the third recession I have endured as a commercial photographer in the NYC area. I came to NYC directly after college in the midst of my first recession. I left NYC and took a job with Nabisco in NJ in the midst of my second recession and now I am living through the third. It is during these times that you need to have all of your overhead cut to the absolute bone and have clients that you have cared for over the years to keep giving you work. I have done both. I really appreciate Arthur Schuman for giving me work of different kinds especially during this difficult economical time. All of these jobs require the ability to light well, retouch and then assemble the images in Photoshop.
I have to laugh a little when an article about a photographer crows about how they have lasted for over 10 years! That's funny to me. I often said that a commercial photographer's career usually lasts for 20 years. The first five years is for developing and growing the business. The next ten years are spent shooting, building relationships with creatives and making money. The last five years are waining as your art directors become creative directors or leave the business. Each recession has seen art director friends get fired or laid off. A recession as deep as this one effects everyone above us. I have a friend who just lost a big client because the company he did the annual report for was bought by a private Japanese company who doesn't need an annual report. If he loses a client, then I lose work as well. The way I have lasted for so many years is that at time like these, my overhead is cut way down and I have clients that still use me. I just have to hold on and realize that "this too shall pass".

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wife as food stylist

I have a favorite food stylist that my clients are very comfortable with but she is VERY good and VERY popular so when my clients are in a hurry, we have to look elsewhere. My wife Barb has been married to this food photographer for many years so between the two of us we had no problem creating three salads that would show off the client's cheese. Barb slightly undercooked the pastas so they would hold up, cut up the veggies into tiny pieces and then we carefully hid them among the different pastas. You would never know it but the pastas are sitting on a pile of paper towel to keep it from weeping onto the plate. I now have a happy client and my talented wife got to find one more thing that she is good at. Once again, nothing but fun.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter

Just a note to say Happy Pesach (Passover) and Happy Easter to everybody out there. This is not a new image but one I did for a 1993 calendar. Doing a calendar or recipe book is always an enjoyable time because it usually involves a writer, art director, prop stylist, food stylist and me! That kind of group working long hours late into the night can get crazy and that is when the fun begins. I won't go on here. I just wanted to wish you all a happy holiday and eat some chocolate and Easter bread for me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


This was a very long day....
In the end we had 137 final images but we shot a lot more than that. This job took one full day to shoot (on location at the Baker's Perfection offices) and then an additional 2-1/2 days to strip out and retouch. In the end, I think all of the finals look great. I try to light these desserts with an optical spot for a hard kick coming from the back side and then a front light that I either bounce off the ceiling or the wall depending upon how much contrast and direction I feel I need from the main light. Since my Fuji won't tether to CaptureOne Pro, I use Fuji's Studio Utility® software to tether the files to a folder on the computer as I shoot and then Adobe Lightroom® to watch the folder and display them large on the screen. It's not as fast as CaptureOne but it works pretty well. I backed all of the files to a 250GB external drive as I shot and made a quick flash website in Lightroom® for the client once I had selected the finals.
So there you go: to do this job I needed to know Fuji's Studio Utility®, Adobe Lightroom® and Adobe Photoshop®. That's what it takes to be food photographer today. Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Pennsylvania for a pharmaceutical shoot. I guess I'll write about that in the other blog. See you then. Remember: this is supposed to be fun!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why I love Shooting Food Packaging

I've been shooting food packaging for many years now. These boxes are my latest example from the Sensible Portions company. I worked with an art director friend who is a principal at One Flight Up Design. There are images on 2 or three sides of the packages and I think they look great. Now here is why I love shooting food packaging: I need to shoot a couple days per week to live comfortably. That means that I need clients who require original images. In the world of art directors with digital cameras and the ever lower cost of stock photography, we who make our livings from photography need to find clients who need a continual supply of original images. Food packaging fills that need for me. Since food packaging represents a companies "in the home" advertising, a renewed packaging version becomes a new advertisement for a company. Therefore food companies re-do their packaging on a regular basis and I get to shoot often. Add to that the satisfaction of shooting beautiful images that help a company grow and you have a win - win situation. Repeat business, good money and constant work = one happy photographer and that's why I love shooting food packaging! By the way, when you shoot food, you get to eat the yummy food. My current favorite is the Sensible Portions Apple Straws!