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Live Shoot: Plate #1

Lesson 25 from: Business of Commercial Food Photography

Andrew Scrivani

Live Shoot: Plate #1

Lesson 25 from: Business of Commercial Food Photography

Andrew Scrivani

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Lesson Info

25. Live Shoot: Plate #1


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How To Get Work As A Food Photographer


Understanding Your Skill Level and Your Market


How To Grow Your Business


Opportunities In Commercial Food Photography


How Do You Market Yourself


The Importance of Attitude and Communication


Understanding Insurance Responsibilities and Liability


Lesson Info

Live Shoot: Plate #1

Which of you is the first dish? So let's say this dish, that's your dish. Okay, so come on up. And your name again? Melissa. Melissa. This is Melissa and her dish is, you wanna tell me that? Yeah, this is a traditional Filipino food setup. Usually it's on a larger table. It can fill the whole table, it's called kamayan, which is eating with your hands. Okay. So the idea is to have different proteins, rice, noodles, that you can kind of eat with your hands, and you'll have a banana leaf plate where you can eat everything off it. So it's a way to kinda get a little bit of everything. So it's important to know that, right? If we're working, culturally understanding the food is a very important part of the process. So we're not gonna put any silverware on the table, right? Because clearly this is food that you eat with your hands. And if you did put silverware on the table, it wouldn't be culturally appropriate. So why don't we bring that out to set, and we'll start setting it ...

up. Do you need this too? Um, yeah. Maybe? Okay, so... Let's see... So I'm working in a program that doesn't afford me the opportunity for live viewing the camera, I mean in the monitor, so some pieces of software have the ability to both control the camera and view live remotely. But I don't have that for this particular one, so I have to frame it up in camera and then we can take a test shot and then we can adjust it from there. So I would need that to come back down a little bit. Keep coming, keep coming. All right, Nick, can you do me a favor and pull a test shot out of that? See where we are. So I'm gonna come back over here. I'm gonna check in with Nick. And a lot of times we're standing here and we're just kind of whispering to one another. So I don't have enough height to cover the size of this plate right now. So what I need to do is kinda make this go up. So, John, would you do me a favor and get that framed up so we're a little higher? And can you get a pair of chopsticks or some kind of styling equipment so that we can... So what we have over here is also a styling kit that normally a stylist would bring on set. But since our chefs are not normally used to working with those types of tools, we have them, and then if you need to move anything around on the plate, you could always use that. Because we don't really want to use our hands on a plate of food that's gonna be photographed because you'd be surprised how many times I've seen a fingerprint on food. So, the other thing that what chefs are great at in this situation is knowing how to balance the plate and also keeping the plate clean and making sure that that thing is spotless. Because when you're in a restaurant, the expediter looks at that, makes sure that plate is perfect before it goes out to the diner. That's very similar. So that's something that we can build on in the relationship between the photographer and a chef stylist. So we're adjusting. Could we have gone up here, John? Andrew, can you explain what expediter is? Yes, an expediter is the last line of defense between the kitchen staff and the line and going out to the floor. So when the expediter calls out the food to the chefs or the line cooks and then that food comes back through the expediter and is checked before it goes out on the floor. And at the highest level of restaurants, that's a very, very important job. That accurate? Did I get that right for all the chefs in the house? Yeah. So when I'm looking at a plate of food like this and I've already determined that at some point I'm gonna maybe break this down and do it somewhat differently, right? But I want to show the entirety of the plate right away. I wanna basically make sure I get at least the food. It doesn't have the encompass the entirety of the propping. I wanna make sure it gives me the sense of what the food is. So once I've gotten this overhead shot, I may or may not take anything off that plate. My instinct right now looking at it is I won't. But what I will do is I will get in and photograph different pieces of it and show it in a different way from a creative perspective. Okay, so that whole thing has to come down towards center camera. So let's just center it up completely square. And this is, you'll watch me looking at monitors as I'm here because I'm gonna be giving instructions and looking at monitors to make sure that things are happening. So the relationship between me and John in this situation is that I am definitely trusting him to do those things and I am watching and I am gonna ask him to make subtle adjustments. So we're still, we gotta go towards here. So, if we were on a camera stand, and this is one of the reasons we have one, this adjustment is a three second adjustment. So this is one of those things you have to be aware of in building into the timing of a photo shoot of this magnitude is that if it means that I had to spend an extra five minutes every time I wanna readjust the camera, that's a bad waste of time. So you have to budget into your shoot the ability to have a camera stand if possible. Now, we probably couldn't get a camera stand into a restaurant, so we have to also consider what does that mean for the timing of how many dishes we can shoot? So that's really important. Okay, is that our latest? That's our latest. Okay, I can work with that. So, are you comfortable with the garnish here? Is this representative of the way you would garnish this dish, and what are these other things on the side here? Is this additional garnish, or is this... It's if necessary. If necessary on the plate? On the plate. Okay, so this is part of, these are all components in here? Mhm. Okay. So as the person who created this dish, are you comfortable with the way it looks? Is this representative of the way you would serve it in the restaurant? Not quite yet. Not quite yet, okay. So what I would like you to do is try to make it as, feel free to do it the way you feel it would work well. Okay. Okay? And that aspect of the relationship is how you speak is just as important as what you say. Because it's important for me to recognize that she has ownership here. This is important to her. This is something she serves to her customers on a regular basis, and wants to be represented in a way that's really important. See this is different than a cookbook. It's different than an advertising shoot or even a magazine shoot, or I mean newspapers. But being that this is something that one unique person has ownership over usually in a restaurant setting, you have to be sensitive to the fact that you want to represent it in a way that is accurate. Now, then maybe that doesn't work on camera, but you start there. You start there and work backwards from there. We're gonna need to make an adjustment in light as well in this, 'cause I'm looking at it and it's definitely a little under. But before we change the camera settings, can you just go maybe give me a little bit more exposure on it, pull it, and then maybe drop in a little extra shadow after we've pulled it up. Yes? Oh, you got the mic. So how are they going to use these shots? They're gonna use these shots on their website, and this is part of promotion for the restaurant. So that would have been part of that negotiation. So beyond that, that is our main focus is making the food look appetizing for the website. Okay. Yes? You go the mic? Yeah, from a photography standpoint, is it up to you or the client why you're choosing not to use natural light right now? Well, we're assuming that we couldn't use natural light because we don't have any in the restaurant. And our timing didn't work out to where we could bring everything up to the front windows of the restaurant because that's during service. So that would be a normal kind of course of action. So like if we were in a situation where I had my druthers and the client was willing to say, "We'll shut the restaurant for lunch today "so that we can do the photo shoot," I might move out to a daylit part of the restaurant and be able to make my pictures there. But that's not the case, so we are here and we're using what I, this is a very typical setup for me. And, again, if this was a technical photo shoot where I was teaching you all the technical things that go along with this, some of these things might change a little bit. But in the interest of time, we're talking really more about the setup and the relationships that we're trying to establish here. How 'bout you point out that it's a manual focus lens? Right. We have not focused yet. Okay, so that is a manual focus lens and we have not focused yet. (audience laughs) So if it looks odd on the... Yeah, okay. So let's take this out now since you're happy with the styling. And give me one more test shot where we can make sure we're all squared off. (camera beeps) Okay. So now I'm gonna do that just a little bit. And can we check focus? Okay, so... That still looks a little soft to me. And with a manual focus lens, this actually is another thing. This is a really nice lens, but we gotta make sure we have really tight focus and without being able to just push to shutter to get focus, that's... We're going old school. (audience laughs) Let's give it another one. (camera clicks) And this is the kind of timing, this is actually very accurate in how long these kind of things work though. Now, some of the equipment stuff is a little bit harder, but is definitely accurate into how long it takes to get one shot. Now we're sharp. Good guess. (audience laughs) Nicely done. Okay, so again, that for me is okay as far as exposure is concerned because I know I'm underexposed on purpose. But if I walk over here and I look at client monitor, that has... So, in the nature of the relationship between what the digitech would be doing normally and where the client is looking, that's more in line with what she would see and that's more in line with what I would see. So that is obviously underexposed, but that has a little bit of a different profile to that monitor. But we can also assume that the tech was the person who made that happen for her. So that would be that relationship. So that's okay. So good. Now we have that, and I'm saying... Hey, Leigh? Yes? What I would love to see is the rest of that garnish that we have in small bowls around our dish. Now, that might not be the way you serve it, but it might add more to the idea of the package. So we're gonna go do that. So my prop stylist now, they're gonna work together to get me some little bowls filled. 'Cause Leigh and I have already discussed the kind of propping we would like for these things. So they're working together to find some little bowls that are appropriate for the garnishes that are part of the plate. And I want to kinda scatter those around to give a little bit more dynamic look to what we're doing. We also don't have any linen in this picture. Now, this is rather large for us. This would be something that I would use as a table runner. But since our surface is so nice, now, of course I'm not gonna do what I would normally do in that situation, which is I would start to tear that into pieces and put it where I want it. But I'm not gonna tear that up, 'cause it's really nice. But this is actually kind of a nice accent to this. So just for argument's sake, Nick, let's just for the audience' sake, I'm gonna take just a little piece of this and just kinda drape it there and take a test shot just so I can see what it looks like. So... Just kinda peeking, probably peeking in from the corner. Or missing it completely. (audience laughs) Damn you live view. Okay, try that. (camera beeps) So I just wanna get a look and see what we have and determine if I want to add that in. Yeah, maybe. Just some more depth and the way it plays off light and just kinda creating some kind of environment around the food. The food is complicated. There's a lot going on there. But it doesn't mean that it can just live in the set all by itself. So we have those. Let's get those out on set and we'll see what that looks like. Now, again, there are some photographers who ask the stylist to do everything, move everything, touch everything. I'm a little bit more hands-on and once things are out there, I might start moving stuff myself and looking around and seeing the way I want it. I may adjust it and look at it in a live view, which I might do right now by going up on the ladder. Don't get scared. I'm a professional. Okay, I gotta do this in here. Okay. So one of the things from the styling aspect of this is this kind of feels a little bit better now. But I want it to feel a little random, intentionally random. So I may move 'em around a little. I may put one up. I may move one up over here, right? Get 'em a little further away, one closer, one further, one on top. And give me, hold on... What were my initial settings? F8, ISF400. Just tell me when I get there, 'cause I readjusted things so I could see it in the monitor. It's about there? There you go. Okay, good. All right, so let's take a shot here. Whoa, camera shake. Okay, good. (camera beeps) Okay. So at this point maybe I'm saying all right, I really like this. I feel like we have a nice setup. I want to go over and consult with the client. And I may say... So I might come over and I would stand with the client and say, "What are you thinking? "What is it about it you like? "What is it about it you don't like?" And then be able to respond to that. I just feel like it's too much wood and I don't like the placement of the green onions. You don't like 'em up on top? No. And I would probably angle... Instead of it being totally square? Yeah. Okay. Which I like, because normally I wouldn't square things off like that, but when we first started we put it that way, so we went with that. But that's great input. Okay, so not loving a lot of wood. A little too woody because we're using a wood plate plus a wood surface. And maybe a little bit of a different placement. So how 'bout this? And you're gonna need to work together 'cause I want you to handle the food and I want Leigh to handle the props. But I have a solution that might work a little better first. Use that as a runner. And then we're gonna have that plate kind of on a caddy and then we can take the green onion off of the thing and we'll work with that. Okay, so let's start there and then we'll frame it up. One of our users was wanting to know why you chose to underexpose a little bit. Because the idea is that when you're pulling things out in post production, the fact is a digital file responds better to adding things later than trying to take it away. So if you blow out your whites or you find that your overall exposure is too hot, it's very hard to pull that back into a normal range, where when you capture information that's a little underexposed and try to bring it out in post, it definitely has a much better result. And that's been the course of time working with digital files and with the camera I use. 'Cause every camera is different, has different profiles, different contrasts. So, for my style working with the Canon camera and that particular chip sensor that's in that camera, that's exactly how it works for me. But it might be different on Sony, it might be different on Panasonic, so you have to play with your camera to figure out whether or not that's something that works for you too. But generally, under is better than over. Perfect. Cool. How are we doing? And this leaving the crew to themselves at this point is not unusual. So we have to kinda get a better kind of set here. We still have to have the entire plate in the frame or else it's not gonna look right. And I like the idea that we're using the runner, but not in a very linear way. So we're kind of going a little crisscross. We got some angles in the wood. All of these things add depth and dimension to the plate. So, let's see. I'm gonna go up here and do this, because I feel like if we keep doing just... Okay, pull it towards you a little bit and make that go towards 12 o'clock a little more and then down toward me this way. A little bit more and then back down towards nine o'clock. The other way. Okay, I'm gonna jump in a little 'cause I can see things you can't. And I wanna go corner to corner. Now, the client's instinct that she wanted this to look like a corner-to-corner look instead of a straight across the middle look was actually how I would have normally set it up. But I wasn't sure exactly how they wanted to present it, but that actually made me happy to know that we wanted to go like this in a horizontal frame rather than like this. It feels a lot freer. And this is a very loose and free dish, clearly. We eat it with our hands, right? So we wanna invoke that in the shot. But now we're drifting into creative. So, gimme a shot. (camera clicks) And I don't need to stand here, 'cause I can stand here. Okay, and magic. There it is. Okay, so we're overexposed because I forgot to put the camera back where it was. But we're still, we don't really have enough real estate to go that much on an angle. So I'm gonna have to kinda angle back a little bit this way to get our corners back in. Now, it's not always necessary to fit the whole plate in, but we are trying to get it here. Okay, so now we're there. And we're gonna go like this. And, Osiris, did you have an objection to anything being on the board or just those green onions? You didn't like any of the small cups on the board with the food? I just didn't think it looked balanced with the other, or I didn't see the sense in it being there. That's fine. Fine. (audience laughs) That was the bubble over my head, not what I actually said in real life. Okay. Oh, I didn't... John is doing it because John anticipated my needs before I actually asked him, 'cause he saw me make another mistake. That's his job. Make the boss look better. (camera beeps) Okay. So I'm gonna bring it down just a hair. Wouldn't mind this actually-- Towards you? Yeah, I'm gonna pull all of this just down this way just a hair and actually let that run out of the frame a little bit. And let's try it again. (camera beeps) Okay. I'm not gonna belabor the fact, because we're not trying to make a perfect shot here. What we're trying to exemplify is what it's like to do these kind of interactions on set. So we're gonna call this a completed shot at this point. We're saying okay, great. We got what we wanted. Client is happy. Smile. There it is. (audience laughs) And it's wonderful to be able to be the director and the photographer on the same set because now I get to control the way the client behaves, which is even better. (audience laughs)

Ratings and Reviews


I highly recommend this course! Andrew is an engaging and thoroughly knowledgable teacher. This class is less about how to photograph food - although there are some terrific tips - and more about the "nuts and bolts" or rather, "bread and butter" of running a successful business. A lot of the information is relevant to business in general, but the specific tips about food photography are especially exciting to implement! I found the hands-on portion during the morning of day 2 especially helpful in assimilating the general or more abstract ideas covered in day 1, which laid a fantastic foundation. 5 stars!

Delaney Brown

Andrew is not only a funny, incredibly entertaining person, he's a seriously great teacher. Being in the live studio audience for this class was such a treat. I was able to learn a lot of the nitty gritty lived-in details of what it takes to be a successful food photographer. Things that are hard to come by in books and online! I would highly recommend this class for anyone who wants to take their passion to the next step: making a living.

Amy Vaughn

While I'm not quite ready to focus my business on food photography, this class gave me a much clearer idea of what options and challenges there are in the food photography industry. Andrew covered everything from what jobs might be like when starting out on a tight budget to what options open up as the photographer becomes more experienced and successful. I already did my own internet research about the food photography business before the class, but this was more comprehensive and easy to understand in a short amount of time. Now I feel more confident about setting my business goals, who to look for to collaborate with on projects and eventually the kinds of clients I'd like to work with. He also gave many tips that are immediately applicable in my current photography business that isn't yet focused on food.

Student Work