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Live Shoot: Plate #4

Lesson 28 from: Business of Commercial Food Photography

Andrew Scrivani

Live Shoot: Plate #4

Lesson 28 from: Business of Commercial Food Photography

Andrew Scrivani

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Lesson Info

28. Live Shoot: Plate #4


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 #4

So and you are? Marcy. Marcy. Chef Marcy is gonna show us what we have here which is-- this one, not this one. Right. Who's is this one? That's yours too? Yeah. Good, that's why we saved that one for me. (laughs loudly) Tell me about your dessert. It is a blood orange curd tart. Now is this how it's plated at the restaurant? No there would be orange segments on that. You're gonna put that. Yeah. Terrific. What I'm seeing from a creative perspective is that this is a really beautiful detailed shot up close. What we might do is drop that camera back down or if it's easier to put the 100 on first. Let's try the 100 first so we don't have to move the tripod. Why don't you come around? Here's what I'm thinking. We're gonna shoot it the way it is up close and then when we decide to pull away, I wanna replate it in a different way so let's try it and then we'll talk to chef and we'll decide how that's gonna work. Perfect. Great. While we take this out the set and y...

ou can work with Leigh, she's got some tools for you to help you garnish that and we're not gonna worry about surface right now because I'm gonna shoot a close up so again, workflow is important and you're thinking about how you wanna pace yourself and if you know you're gonna do a close up after a longer shot, you can just leave the surface where it is because you're not gonna really even see it because you're gonna get right into the plate. Now I've already pre-warned Leigh that we're gonna shoot it this way close but then once we pull away from the table, I'm gonna wanna reset. I'm gonna wanna replate once we have a shot that we're comfortable with, I'm gonna wanna replate it cause I have another idea and I wanna be able to show that to the client side-by-side. Now are you able to give me a side-by-side if I wanted one? And we'll do that once we get to that point. When we get to that point, I'm gonna have Nick pull up a side-by-side so the client has the opportunity to make an honest comparison between the first shot and the second shot and we may do that throughout a photo shoot where we have this or this and then you can actually make those editing decisions right on the fly. You notice that she's using tweezers which is the classic food stylist stuff. I know chefs also use tweezers very often. Lot of times in our studio we use chopsticks instead of tweezers but being able to put things in a very precise way when you're doing these kinds of things is important. When you're doing a single plate, I know there's no right answer to this but I'm gonna ask the question anyway. Do you spend about an hour on a plate? It really depends. Sometimes you get the shot right away and to try to drag it out for an hour might be overkill. I think you budget that much time because you never know what's gonna go wrong and you do wanna give variations and you sometimes do your best work after you've already gotten the shot then you feel free to explore and do something different and that's where you start to push yourself a little bit creatively once you've gotten the safe shot, once you've got the money shot that you're comfortable with but I would say yeah, you gotta budget that much time you might as well try to use some of it but then after a while, you gotta remember the food has a shelf life too. It's not gonna live on set forever depending on the food. Gotcha. You gonna take it (mumbles) batteries. I'm just splitting the battery and the camera. Camera. Yeah. There was one right there. I think it's charging back there. Throughout the day on a shoot, the night before a shoot, an assistant would typically be charging all the batteries and this is what we were doing earlier today, charging the batteries for the cameras, charging the batteries if you're working remotely with lighting that doesn't have a power pack, sometimes you'd be charging that stuff and that way when this stuff happens, we have something ready to go right away because the last thing you wanna have happen and this is solely falls on the responsibility of your assistants, everything needs to be charged and ready to go. Extra CF cards need to be cleaned and formatted and ready to go. All of those things are the responsibility of your assistant so that you (mumbles) around and that's happening without you even discussing it. He recognizes the battery was going, he knew where the batteries were, probably ran a PA over to get it or a line producer in this case but the idea is that that communication was seamless. I didn't even know that was happening unless I had turned around to look at it and that's how it should be. All of that should be operational and they should be able to work that out. This is an auto, this should be fine. I'd like to tweet along. Maybe. I don't know, I wanna get close. Is it auto on? Let's see it's on full. It' on auto focus here. Is it on the back? It should be here right? Yeah. It's not working, didn't work yesterday either. Okay. So it's not a big surprise. I'm just gonna put to now your focus here so-- I wanna see if that's a good guess with my terrible eyesight. Hold on. And we're at a sixth of a second and we're ready to go. I like it. You wanna pull one off Nick? You got a page on? Yeah. Did you put the shoot on her back where it belonged again? Yeah. Thank you. It just walked away. My lighting is wrong right now. I need to push back a little bit because now that we've gotten closer, the details of the lighting is a little different so what we're gonna do is we're gonna get a white card. John, could we put a white card in the front please? Small? Small yeah. Just to get a little bit back up on the tart cause I feel like we're losing a lot of light on our blood oranges and maybe we even take it down to seven one instead of eight and give ourselves a little room there. So by calling out aperture and shutter readings to my assistant, I am able to work remotely, move around and pay attention to my entire set and I can trust it that's gonna happen and also the more you memorize and understand where you are, make sure you remember where you are, you cannot actually do those things. We're giving in check focus. Yeah, we're soft. Wanting to know how important is depth of field in the image. How narrow can you go in terms of creative freedom or better said, are clients always wanting all the food in focus? It all depends on the creative. I think there is gonna be a time when you are being-- that is definitely part of discussions in the creative process when you're working with a client that you wanna express to them how much depth of field do you want, how much focus do you want? What kind of feel do you want and that's where the comps come in so when you're working with a client, you would offer them comparable images or comps. So if I were to talk to O'Cyrus about that before we went on this shoot, I would say to her pick five images from my portfolio that you think fit your look and if it's I like this one I like this one and this one then we could talk about the structural dynamics of those pictures, are they shallow, are they overheads, the light is it backlit and you go through all of that creative process to say "yes, I like this" and that means I'm gonna set my cameras and my lighting and everything to please the client's wishes on the comp photos so that way, we can have some kind of a dialog prior to stepping on the set where I don't want her looking at the monitor going "why isn't everything in focus, I don't get that." That's not good communication beforehand. We got focus. We got focus and those blood oranges are really dark so we're gonna have to try to maybe push that up here, when I look at the other monitor which is a little brighter that works, so why don't we push up our ISO? We're gonna take our ISO up to get a We're at 400 right now. Little bit more light in the camera and that should give us something that looks more like the client monitor on our monitor but it might blow her monitor out. How's Nick's monitor look? That's a good one up. Nick's monitor is very similar to our show monitor and it's still a little bit dark but this is a classic example now of having to be happy here and there at the same time, so that's probably gonna get pushed a little out and be a little too hot where we would have to make an adjustment but the idea is that I'm aware of that and I'm talking through it cause I wanna make sure, now it looks like our exposure looks about right so even though-- Now that we feel like I have an exposure that works, I may come back over and say "alright I feel like we have this shot, I like where we are, this is how the restaurant originally envisioned it." You check in with the client, how do you feel about this in comparison to the other shots. I know it's over-exposed and where do we want to be with this and how do you feel about replating in some way? In person, I thought the little plate would be a good idea but now seeing it in a photo, I'd probably just do white. Great. That's great feedback because her being able to express to me that when she first envisioned plating this food that the yellow plate seemed like a good idea but in real life, once you see it on camera, it doesn't seem that way so when I walked over to the table and saw it on a yellow plate, I was like most likely that's not gonna work but I'm not gonna express that right away because that's just my experience talking. I want the client to see it for herself and then be able to express that to me the way she did to say "you know what I really thought it was gonna work but maybe white would work better." And that would be my instinct white or wood or something that goes along with the palette that we've been working in here so that now let's going to swap it out because we like the way the food looks, we like the way the light is bouncing off the blood oranges. Everything is clean on the edges. We have a beautiful color so all of the food styling works cause we're comfortable with the way the food looks so chef has done her job to get out to our table in a way that makes everyone happy now the rest of it is up to me and the rest of the team to get that done so what we'd like to do is break that set down. Let's get a light-colored white surface and plate that on a white plate and we're gonna do the best we can not to disturb what we have on the top of that plate. From what we've learned and what you are expecting to see when I was up here, do you feel that the communication seems forced or do you feel it sounds like it's natural because it's important to understand that from our perspective too because I am exaggerating a lot of the way I'm speaking to people but I want you to hopefully process the nature of the way I speak. I would love a little feedback as to what you feel you're watching if anybody wanted to take the mic and tell me what they think. I think that I was expecting it to be a little bit more stressful so watching you, how calm you are and you're deliberate and what you think about, you take the shot and then you take time to think about it and then you communicate it in a way that's clear to the client-- Sure. You go in-between shoot mode and then client mode and it's nice to see you bounce back and forth. And that's the toggle, that's what we're hoping for. The reason you have to be calm is for that very reason. We're working with a chef that maybe hasn't been on a photo shoot before, is nervous that there are cameras running in and that there's 45 people around. I don't know, maybe. (loud laughter) But the reality is that giving her moral support about the work as well as being constructively critical at the same time is a skillset that you hopefully develop when you're working with people in these kind of environments because being empathetic and being sensitive is never a bad starting position but if you come out like a ball of fire and people are afraid of you on set. I don't want people to not respect me. I have to project authority but I have to project authority in a way that's not intimidating and that for somebody who looks like me isn't always easy. I'm not soft and cuddly with the bald head and the New York accent, people are expecting me to be a certain way. They expect me to be much more forceful than I am. They expect me to maybe a little louder than I am and then when I come out and I put a different spin on my personality and it puts people at ease and they're calm, I get a lot more out of people and then they respect you and they respect your authority without having to feel intimidated or frightened because people don't work well when they're intimidated or frightened. They make mistakes, they get nervous, they drop stuff like cameras. That was directed directly at her but it's okay. And notice I haven't picked on chefs at all. (laughs loudly) Because I notice that our chefs today were so nice and they weren't giving me all kinds of attitude so I was really nice to chefs today. Yes. Hi speaking of chefs, I feel like you're guiding her a little bit to a vision that you have, that maybe you both have, I just feel like you're doing a really good job of guiding her to where you would like to be. Yeah, I think so and I think they hired you for a reason and that's one thing you gotta remember. Now obviously in this relationship they didn't hire me cause this isn't the real deal but in the real world, the client already hired you, they already like what you do so they are relying on you in a certain way to interpret their vision so being able to communicate what it is that they have already expressed to you that they want and you're already confident that they like what you do. It's natural to wanna consistently have feedback and be able to-- cause if I'm on a shoot and I don't go check in with the client at least a couple of times during the first couple of hours of the shoot, they're gonna think I'm standoffish and I don't wanna deal with them and that builds up this wall and then it gets a little tense but you break the ice right away and you make it clear you're listening then all of a sudden, that dissolves and then they start to form a collaboration but there have been situations where you make that critical error where you don't connect with the person who's making the decisions right away and then it just falls apart and then I had a job one time recently within the last few years where we had one person on that set that was a ball of tension and that person was a decision-maker and it was clear to everyone around us that if that person wasn't happy and she wasn't happy because I don't know what it was about the dynamic but she wasn't happy on set and I spent an extra 20 or 30 minutes just keep going back, kept going back, kept asking her opinion because her opinion really mattered and she wanted to feel like she was part of it. She didn't wanna feel marginalized and I think what was happening in the creative process because of agency and all these layers of people between her and me that she felt like her vision and her needs weren't being met by me because there were all these people in-between her so I skipped over all those people and I went right to her and I said "do you wanna go and work with the stylist a little bit?" It was unusual for the client to be working with the stylist but I knew that's what she wanted to do. It was clear, she was hyper-focused on the stylist and I was like "you wanna go work with him a little bit?" I think he could probably use your help. Done, that person was the sweetest person the rest of the day. All the tension dropped away, we got what we needed. She was happy, client was happy, everybody worked and it was just great and we got through a very, very difficult shoot but it's about your job to identify that person and figure out if you can fix it and sometimes you can't. Sometimes it's just not fixable but sometimes it is and it's just about reading the situation, listening, hearing, watching body language. The same way we have to be aware of our own body language and our own attitude, we also have to read other people and this is a people business. Don't be mistaken, it totally is. So things are happening without me. (loud laughter) As it should and I am really happy. I'd like the way that looks and I'm hoping that you like the way that looks because what you said to me is right on, we went white but I went white, white. I said let's get a white surface, let's get a white plate and now what that means is that this is really just jumping out off the screen at you into your lap making a mess and crumble. Obviously, this is a better scenario for us because now the food is really the star, we're not losing something in a colorful plate or something else. We're not trying to force the issue. We have something beautiful to work with. Why are we gonna force the issue? If she wasn't so sure about the changes we made, maybe that was something we know she was pretty certain about it but the reality is if she wasn't, we could've done so to give you a real clear side-by-side and that's one of those great things that your tech can do to make your life easier. If you are happy with that presentation-- Yes. Then from that point now I can start to move around and make changes and maybe make some close-ups or some pull-backs or whatever it might be but I'm really happy and she's really happy and I think clearly we just completed our photoshoot, so thank you everyone. (loud laughter) Awesome. (loud applause)

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.

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