Food Photography Portfolio Tips
So I've been really working towards creating an experience, not just showing just my work and saying, hey, I'm good, hire me. With an experience in my portfolio I'm looking at every little detail and combining more images. You know, with my first portfolios they were very much about just the image, so I actually shot horizontally to fit the page. So it was one image per page and each image would feed off each other that was on the left and the right. And I love big shots so I had, you know, I got a larger. This is a frosted portfolio from the Lost Luggage, it was just right down the street. They're very common and I like them because I can change my logo and not regret paying so much for a custom portfolio. Now this a little one I'm gonna stick with for a while but I don't know that for sure, so you never know. So I like ones that you can actually put an image behind and it'll come through. And my portfolio as of right now is very literal but they feed off each other. The print stuff's...
, you know, dramatic. You can see all the sharpness, there's nowhere to hide. But then my potential rep, who's just a legend in business and a fantastic person, really kind of said, okay, we'll team up with you but you've really got to up your game in regards to the portfolio stuff. So I worked on an iPad Portfolio and the iPad Pro came out, which is like an actual reasonably sized iPad perfect for portfolios. 'Cause the regular I've got it's just, it's not quite big enough. And so this is almost the size of a, you know, a traditional small portfolio. But the resolution on the Pro is three, over 3,000 pixels wide, it's very good. So I just use an app called Portfolio and let me see if I can get the. So it just starts off like this and you'll go through and you'll see images. The thing is, you have to really, if you're gonna have images feed off each other, which is really the point, to make the sum more than the sum of its parts, however it goes (laughs). You can't do side by side shots on a iPad so each image has to be, the image that follows has to really resonate or make sense. Or you can do smaller, you know, minute items that all feed off each other. They're part of a series, that's really powerful too. And the back lighting really helps stuff that's back lit. Like if you have a back lit photograph and you put it on a back lit iPad it's like double duty and almost looks like it's coming out of the page. And this is the image that I shot on accident, which is my two hands and a camera on the timer. So you can get cool shots, this is one shot with no Photoshop. However, my other ones are very much not that way. This is just a luck shot. So this, you know, and the blacks are really deep, they're much deeper than paper, generally speaking. There's some glossy images that are a little bit more, you know, glossy papers that are a little bit more deep. I have my four overhead shots. What I'm noticing I'm trying to, I have to have different portfolios for different. So if I go to an editorial meeting, which is rare, I'll have a separate portfolio on here for that person. Or if I know, so it's good to have multiple portfolios, which you can have, they're put together. I use InDesign to actually create the portfolio so that's another thing you have to learn. But exporting it to a pdf is, it's a really good way to work and it's efficient. So there are some side by side vertical images, I didn't completely abandon that. But it's really, it's an effective tool and this is all I brought to New York, this is all I had. So you travel light, you don't have to have this which makes your bag all wonky and you don't have to worry about it getting dirty or scratched. These are kind of going, I think with the iPad Pro, the size of it, I may travel a lot less with this. 'Cause people were so impressed with the colors you get out of this. This is the end result of a lot of these efforts anyways. So if it's a formal meeting I'll have this and I'll have two of these printed iPads which I'll pass around the room. And I have people just keep them. There's an agency in Seattle that still has one of these and they have a couple months, and there's one, but they're people I really want to work with so I don't mind that they just keep these. It's almost really expensive dealers but I will eventually get them back. But these are a good value, I mean, I just have a printer over there and I do my own printing so I have control over it. And that comes from my landscape photography disc so the skills I learned for getting a perfect print for fine art really helped me kind of create this and do it on my own, I know what to look for. 'Cause it can be expensive if you have someone print it, it can be like $600.00 just for the prints, if not more. Question.
How do you determine the order of your images, and is that something that you work on yourself or do you get, maybe, someone to help you out on that?
The image order, I start off with the best image I have, always. It's the first impression. Then I choose the last image which is always the second best image I have. And then I sort of, kind of, go up and then down as far as drama. 'Cause I do wanna show some shots of me just shooting wine bottles 'cause people want that. So there will be shots that aren't, they're not all complete eye candy. Some are very like, really, well executed images that people want. So it kind of goes down in drama a little bit and then sort of down the middle I sort of put my third best image at the very middle to late middle. It's kind of like a song, like it starts off with a bang and it kind of goes with a verse a little bit and then it finishes off with, like, two choruses and then it ends, bam, and it's done. It doesn't fade out, it ends with a big drum beat. So you wouldn't know but you want that to be sort of, you want it to move people. When you do images side by side they move people a little bit. Or when you do four in a row or something that really. So, and especially the printed paper's really nice. So I try not to want to get away from that but I eventually will.
Could you just tell us again please what size that particular portfolio is?
This is the 11 by 17 and so they make 11 by 14 which is, you know, a shorter, more reasonable version of this. I just like the crazy, I like anything that's not normal and so I just get the wide even though I'm not a wide shooter. I actually do love panoramas because that's where I naturally progressed. But in my next portfolio I'm actually gonna take my image that's on the banner of my website and create a full panorama throughout the two pages. So that's really impressive when you can do that. But this is the Ice Nine portfolio, I believe, in the 11 by 17 and they make paper, whereas a lot of custom portfolios that are really good, if you can afford to do it a custom engraved portfolio is really impactful but this is really economical. So I do have one that's really fancy that I pull out when I want to but it's extremely hard to reprint because they have to custom drill the holes, they have to custom square the paper. You can buy the paper for these portfolios from Lost Luggage, and they're just down the road so I go visit them and grab paper when I need it. So they're a good resource to have locally, for sure. But you can order online, too.
When it comes to your portfolio and the mailers and all of that, do you hire a graphic designer to fine tune it? Do you get them printed at a photo lab or do you do all of that yourself?
I should, I do everything myself from website design to everything, everything you see is me in Creative Suite. So I had to learn Illustrator, I had to learn InDesign, but you don't have to. But I did it for not only the experience, so that if someone sends me an Illustrator file for a design project I know what I'm dealing with, I can at least navigate that. I'm not a master of it by any means and I should be hiring a designer, but that's probably my next move because no matter how good you think you are at representing your brand or creating a logo or doing something, designers know. They just, you have to let people do their jobs eventually, you really do. I'm very much a control, I like to be in control of my vision and stuff like that. That's why I tend to not work with, you know, consultants who, you know, like will do your brand for you or help you develop your own style because that's not how it works. It has to come from within and their perspective is just on a more global scale. You know what you need to do to fit in in your region, you know, you just know better than they do, typically. Now they'll be able to provide, other people that you speak to in the business like designers, they'll be able to provide really good information. I work with designers on shoes and I'll actually, during the down time I'll be like, what do you think of my site, or, what do you think of my logo? And I got called out for like a photo on, it looked like a story book or something, something corny, and that helped me change my logo to what it is now and it's since evolving. But eventually you do have to settle on a logo. You don't see Starbucks changing their logo. They have a wood marked version, they have a logo that's just a word which fits in certain areas really well. And then they have this which is more graphical and it tells you what, you know what I shoot when you look at my logo, right? He's a food shooter, or, he crafts images. I don't like the word picture so I use images. Picture sounds cheap, I don't know why. Images sounds expensive. But that's a really important part of this, to really hone your style. And it'll progress, you're not gonna start day one as a food photographer with the best portfolio on the planet and the best, it just takes time and money. And so if you're new to it you're just not going to have the resources but if you know, like I know inside what I'm now currently capable of and it doesn't match even what's in here. And especially with the motion side of it. So we're really gonna work hard to rebuild, you know, our image library and then go market again in waves. So it starts off, you do a lot of testing, you market like crazy that new material, and then from that hopefully comes projects that you earn the money to reinvest back in to your, hopefully pay yourself one day and reinvest back in to your business. And especially on the marketing side which is the most important part. What other components? Word of mouth is a big one, and I haven't gone over the direct meetings in full detail. The direct meetings are, sometimes you just have to, your work has to be good but direct meetings are gold because you have their full attention. And even when, you know, I have photographers, and dealing with a rep, too, I've had photographers who are repped and who are not repped and they're equally as good, especially in the food world where it is kind of its own entity. Where I'm doing, I'm doing a lot of packaging, education, font or print stuff. Advertising is only like a quarter of it and I'd like it to be more but you're married to a rep and there's a certain percentage that they'll be receiving from everything that you do whether you bring it in or not, generally speaking. So you have to be ready to make that leap which I'm sort of getting to because I like the advertising side more and they have such a, many of them have such an amazing reputation in the business that people I've talked to in direct meetings have mentioned, you know, I really like this, or this person, or this person. There's only a small group of those agents who are just at the top of their game and who are really beloved in the industry and to get in with them is helpful but it depends what you want to do. If I wanted to do only packaging I would have no need, not a huge need for a rep. They're not always going after in house accounts like packaging and those pay well and they're fun. I like the constraints of a package issue for some reason, it's weird. So, but when you meet with somebody in person you're showcasing your work, you're discussing, they're getting to know you. And if you're repped you have to also maintain that level of intensity in your marketing regardless. It's not the end of marketing when they rep you, it's just the beginning. You have to actually really give it more than you were before because they're counting on you to make a splash in the industry and you need to be ready to do that. So we're on the cusp, we're ready to. It's a terrible pun to mix, with liquids especially, because I've been known as kind of a liquids guy which is like a double edged sword 'cause now you're the liquids guy. And we don't want Liquids Guy doing the packaging and so we can't have, you know, so, but they don't all see it that way. Especially if you get to know people and tell them. You see, you have to prove you can do just about all shots. 'Cause I've shown people who work with us, major brands, and as far as liquor goes they love this flash image but they may not have hired me for something had I not had a basic bottle shot. 'Cause they're surprised, oh, you can do that, too? For as a photographer I'm like, yeah, of course I can, it's like day one, you know, bottle photography. Which takes a lot of work to understand and I'm still learning it but I can do it. So you have to show that, you can't assume anything. So you have to have different elements of your portfolio that showcase different scenarios like packaging scenarios, bottle shots, but all in your similar style, if that makes sense. Whereas mine's extremely high key, extremely low key, a lot of cross lighting, drama, motion, splash. That's kinda it and it's constantly being refined. So the in person meetings, you usually call up together. In an in person you kind of just have to be bold, you have to find the hard buyer who just is in charge of sourcing the photographers. And I tend to not do cold calls, they don't like that. If you call somebody out of the blue and they're busy and they have to talk to you about your, I can feel their hand shaking on the phone. Some like it, I don't know, it used to be where you would do a lot of cold calling. I just can't do that anymore 'cause I feel like it really makes you pushy and makes you, if they want to work with you they're gonna end up working with you at some point, I think, just via other efforts. So you can always call them up after you've worked with them and say hey, or I typically email them and they will get back to me. 'Cause it's on their time that they can get back to me as opposed to forcing something on them. So it really helps to have an email back and forth but not these massive blasts. But the in person meetings are where I've gotten most of my work so getting those is just a matter of go do it.
So you said that art buyers (inaudible) a contact and I was wondering if that's also the case with editorial work? Because it kind of seems like some magazines may not have an art buyer but they have an art director.
They have a photo editor and that's the person, that's the art buyer in a, typically, in a magazine. But they're, they don't like me. The work I do is just totally, I mean, I can try and pretend, I can create a separate portfolio that has editorial work on it, but. And especially with my landscape background, I can go out and I can get an epic landscape and an epic shot of architectural stuff and also the detail so I'm really able to do those shoots but I lack, what I lack, intentionally lack the aesthetic that they tend to look for in magazines. And I wish that were the case, I wish there were, I think there are a few that really are interested in, you know, really dynamic, crazy photography that's composite, that isn't based necessarily in reality, it's just fun. But I think at the end of the day they're trying to tell a story and you need to get it in one shot. And that I can do, but you can't be everything. You can't be, you almost have to choose, are you gonna be an editorial photographer or a fine art? 'Cause the leap is just too, every day you focus on being a good editorial photographer, of course stuff translates to commercial but a lot of it doesn't. A lot of it is completely the opposite, the freedom you have and the, you know. So I just never got asked in that, and you know I pursued it on occasion 'cause I just think it's fun and I think I can provide some cool images that would be up their alley but at the same time I know if I got the job I'd start to composite and just, like, get the itch to just throw liquids in the air. It's kind of in my nature so I don't, but that's not, and the industry, it's not in trouble but it is shrinking. There's fewer doing some really good work, like Lucky Peach is fantastic, I love Lucky Peach. And Wine Spectator, I still love print magazines, I hope that doesn't die, I just hope the quality goes up and there's fewer of, you know, like, they put their heart and soul in to these printed pieces of art that come in your mail every so often. I think that's worthwhile and I think it's worth saving. And the online is important too but that's a whole, I'm not an expert in editorial, I'm very commercial. Did that answer your question? But it is, it's the photo editor (laughs). And don't be afraid to reach out to them 'cause they're always looking for new people to work with and that is a good way to get your foot in the door of shooting anything. If you have a good camera, you have a good aesthetic and a good eye and you're willing to get out there and you think you're ready it's a good actual way to test yourself for future commercial work. But never give less than 100% to editorial work either, that's what they're paying you for, so.