Introduction to Food Photography Class
Well hi, everyone. Some of you I know, everyone here I've met, and uh, out there in the internet. I'm hoping that a lot of my friends and people that I've met over the the years in this are also watching, and lots of new friends as well. So welcome, internet. All of you, on the internet. (audience chuckling) So what I want to do first, is I want to give you an overview of what we're gonna be talking about over the next three days. We have a lot of time together. And there's going to be a lot of topics that we're gonna take, and I think I want to encourage you to ask questions when you feel that you have something on your mind, because when we keep going, we're gonna go right into something else. So if you have something on your mind, I want you to say it. Also, on the internet, if there's things that you feel that you'd like to know, or a little bit more depth, the detail of what I'm talking about, then by all means, please chat with with us and let us know what you're thinking, becaus...
e this is interactive and I like it that way. Okay, so today on day one, there first thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go over a basic overview of food photography. We're gonna go through a slideshow, I'm gonna talk about some of the pictures I've made, and what they mean to me, and what the motivation is for making these types of pictures. From there, we're gonna talk about propping, food styling, and then gear. So in the propping section, we're gonna talk about all the things that go into making the ancillary parts of your pictures. Now, propping isn't just plates and dishes and spoons and forks. It's also other food items and other things like the surface that you're shooting on and the linen and napkins and glasses and wine and all the things that we use. And what are the motivations there for why we use them? Then we're gonna talk about food styling, and basically it's the composition within the composition, so when you talk about composition in food photography, you have two. You have your overall composition, which includes everything that you see, but then you also have to compose your plate particularly well to make it look right. So understanding that concept that we're making two different pieces of art and putting them together is gonna be really important to understand how to build, from the ground up, a good food photo. And then later in the afternoon, once we come back back from lunch, we're gonna talk about the gear that we're gonna use, and the gear that you can use whether it's things that you already own, things that you wanna purchase, things that fit into your budget, and things that may fit into your space. Because if you are like me, and you grew up in a space like Manhattan, we had very limited space when I first started in food photography, so I need up living with my work. And many of you are probably doing something very similar at this point, and when you are a food photographer and you decide that you wanna do this, you end up also becoming a collector. A collector of equipment, a collector of props, a collector of food items, and all of a sudden, your entire space becomes a food studio. Which, this is a familiar kind of look for me, even though we're on a set, but honestly, having all these things around me all the time, you know, are not just my work, but it's also the things that inspire me. Because I'm walking around here and I'm looking at things on the shelf, going "Mm, I can't wait to take a picture of that." I wanna use that in a photograph. And that's the motivation, those are the inspirations that you have. When you're involved in food photography, it's that you walk around and you're taking pictures with your eyes all the time. So I'm really excited to be here and I wanna just also, let's go into what else we're gonna, okay? Day two, we're gonna talk about the camera settings, so everything that we're gonna talk about is chronological, in a sense, to how you build a food photograph. From propping to food styling to gear to camera settings and on into your shooting, actual shooting, then your post-production work flow, and then we're gonna talk about business, starting day three, and we're gonna also, we have something really exciting, we're gonna talk about blogging, in particular, with our guest blogger, Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl and a chef. She's a personal friend, but also somebody I met working workshops, and she came to me earlier in her career to learn a little bit more, and she's gonna come and sit with me and talk about how food photography has influenced her blog. So I'm excited about that. You should be as well; she's a really great person, and she's a lot of fun and a good instructor as well. So, um, then toward the end of day three, we're gonna talk business in the beginning. We're gonna take a good, long time about business, because when we're discussing the business of food photography, it's not as simple as taking a great picture of food. I'm sure all of you can take a great picture of food. That's only step one. When you're talking about doing this as a business, talking to a client, negotiating price, understanding the industry, understanding the differences between editorial and publishing and advertising and all of the kind of gray areas that exist within those things, are really hard to negotiate. It takes a lot of time and energy to learn those things and understand your place in it. And then, how do you translate the work that you're able to create into a business that's flooded with also very talented people? So I'm hoping that the things that I've learned and I can share with you are gonna help kind of, you can can kind of wrap your mind around it a little bit and say, "Okay, now I can whittle it down "to something that's manageable." Both emotionally and intellectually, where you can really focus on the things that you can do whether it be right now, and set a five year plan, or whatever it might be. But we'll get into that in real fine detail for quite a few hours on day three. Then we're gonna have some fun, and we're gonna do some low-budget, kinda indoor fun stuff with how you can fix your light. You know, you're cooking in your dark kitchen, you're eating in a dark restaurant, you don't really have a lot of daylight, and we can show you how to fix that on a really kind of tight budget and be able to make some cool pictures that way. And then we're gonna finally, you're gonna throw yourself to the gauntlet, and you're gonna let me critique some of your pictures. (audience chuckling) I actually neglected to talk about homework. Well, it's not kind of homework, because you're not going home with it, but you are gonna have an assignment. You're gonna have an assignment at lunchtime of day two, where you're gonna take some of the things that we've learned, because by that point, we're gonna have gone through propping, we're gonna have gone through styling, we're gonna talk about your gear, we're gonna talk about the set, you're gonna watch me shoot, and then you're gonna shoot at lunch, and you're gonna be able to create some images that, those will be the ones that I critique of yours at the end. Alright, so, about me: You know, you've seen my work. And you're here because we've had so much Twitter publicity over the past couple of weeks, that you obviously know what I do. But one of the interesting stories is about how I got started. I reinvented myself in this world. I was a teacher, and I was a coach, and I'm a jock from school, way back. But I happened to make a friendship many years ago with a man who's now my best friend, he's been my best friend for 30 years, who is a photographer. And he started to teach me about photography, and our colleges were across the street form one another. And I was studying one thing, and he was studying photography. I got much more interested in what he was doing than what I was doing. And even though I went and finished my education and I worked as a teacher for many years, I never forgot about photography, and I always practiced as an amateur. And then later, when I had an opportunity, I was also somebody who learned how to cook when I was young. My grandmother had nothing else to do with us except teach us how to cook and play cards, so don't play poker with me. (audience laughing) Grandma was a good card player. (audience chuckling) But she was also a really good cook, and um, she taught me a lot about being in the kitchen. And my grandmother and my great-grandmother were, they grew up in the same house as a lot of, you know, extended families and immigrant extended families did. My great-grandmother was the cook. My grandmother wasn't allowed to cook in her mother's kitchen, so had to learn how to bake. So I ended up learning both skills from different people. So I had this really valuable set of skills, and then when I was 18, I decided, "Oh, I'm gonna eat vegetarian." My mother was like, "Well, you're gonna cook your own food." (audience chuckling) Again, I had to learn another set of skills. So by the time I was an adult and into photography, a lot of people knew this about me. They knew that I could cook, and word got through to a couple of editors and other people that I was hanging around with through my other friend that I could shoot and I could cook. And somebody called me and said, "We have an emergency." "It's Christmas Eve and we need a picture "for a hangover remedy, but there's nobody available. "Nobody's around, nobody can cook it, nobody can shoot it. "Can you do it?" I was like, "Yeah, who's the client?" "The New York Times." (audience chuckling) It was an incredible stroke of luck, but it was an incredible opportunity. And, well, opportunities like that only come around once in a while, especially when it's something you really care about and things you love. And I've said this before, and Paolo will tell you, I'll say it again: When the door's open a crack, you kick it down. You don't peek in. So I went at it, I went right at it, and I made these pictures, and I sent them in, and I followed up, and they did very well. And they continued to call me, and they continued to send me out on smaller assignments. I didn't get another big assignment like that to cook and shoot for quite a while, but they trusted me and they allowed me to go out and take pictures in restaurants, and take pictures at events and other things where I built a reputation, I built a portfolio. And then they started to trust me with the big food shoots, and then from there, we got here. So it's a matter of sometimes just one catalyst event, one small piece, that pulls all the skills that you're collecting now, and have been throughout your life, and put them into something that you really love. And that's my story. That's an unusual one, I know that in this business, and that at beginning of my career, it was one I was almost self-conscious about. Because being with other photographers and stylists and people who have been in the business a long time, and all of a sudden, I'm the new guy who got the big opportunity without much to show for it. I had to prove myself every day, and I feel that way now. I mean, I'm deep into my career. Obviously, people know who I am and what I do, but the reason I think I continue to make good pictures is because I'm motivated by that feeling that you're only as good as the last picture you took. So if you're not quite engaged that way, where you are constantly striving to get better, then you don't want to do this. Because this is highly competitive, and you need to really put all of yourself into it. You can't be afraid. You have to take chances and risks and be really motivated to do it. And obviously, there's a whole lot of eye contact here, and I'm sure that the people who are watching on at home as well. I spent a lot of time in front of classrooms of people, and watching, and I know when people are engaged just by looking at your eyes. And everyone here, obviously, has got a little bit of fire in their belly, ready to go. (audience chuckling)