Shooting For a Client


Getting Started in Professional Food Photography


Lesson Info

Shooting For a Client

All right, so we've just finished a natural light shoot, we're gonna be going into artificial light. Just nasty artificial light that nobody likes. I don't really like the term artificial, I use it because I have too, but I really love the way these new lights reflect on food, they're amazing. They put a lot of work into creating tools, especially Westcott that are portable, and create a really nice, even light. It's almost impossible to tell the difference at this point between the two. So I'm gonna show you, this is much more of a commercial style shoot, where we have, I don't know if we can get a camera kind of up in the actual oven. But I kind of want to showcase the actual set that we have going on. And then I'm gonna describe a commercial photography shoot, how it flows, what to look out for. Because there will come a time in your career, where you're gonna be asked to shoot, packaging, it's a really exciting time. When you're starting to really start to get big jobs. But it's a ...

lot of pressure, and you've gotta know what you're doing, and you can't, and one bad job can not be good. So you want to really have all of your ducks in a row before you start taking these jobs on, it's really important. So, basically what we have going on here, is we just have, we're gonna do a roasted chicken shot, and this would kind of be a shoot that would feature this as a product itself. This would be like an oven shoot. And we're gonna have a nice roasted chicken within this pan, we're gonna have lots of vegetables, we have a camera inside the oven, which is going to capture a lot of the steam that I'm gonna push in there with the fog machine. And, we're gonna kinda trouble shoot this because in a simple shot like this where there's just a chicken and some vegetables, there's nowhere to hide. Every single component is, if you get it wrong, and especially when you're dealing with reflective surfaces, we're not fully going into that in this instance. Because we're not photographing the whole oven, it's just more of an inside shot. When you're dealing with both food, and reflective surfaces in the same shot, like if you have a hamburger and a beer, that really gets complex. So we're gonna delve into that, and kinda how to solve some of the problems that will be caused by those two interacting together in the same scene. So, that's what we have going on. This is an actual, this is a one foot by three foot Westcott flex light that just came out. These are fairly new, this was one of the prototype models, but it works really well, and so we're gonna create, you can actually fold it up into the oven, and they do make a one foot by one foot, so you can actually just tape that particular unit. I don't have that one, so I just folded this up, and this actually goes in my luggage when I travel. And I have a strip light with me, and I also have a regular soft box with me wherever I go. But these are really flexible, no pun intended. And they can go anywhere, so we're creating a downward light that if you were using a traditional light would be completely impossible. If you were actually to put a strobe or something else, it just wouldn't work. You would have to actually use the oven light itself, if it's a home oven. But in this instance, there is no light. It's a commercial convection oven. So we're gonna go in, I'm using the 180 millimeter lens that I mentioned earlier, that I really like. And we're using the Nikon D100E 140th of a second at F3.2, so this is way out of left field for me. I don't shoot, I haven't shot an F3.2, but this, for a client, I would do this. Because this requires it. When you're a commercial photographer, you have to do what the client asks you to do. So if you want to knock out certain areas that aren't necessarily pleasing to the eye, or they want to have a certain look, you've gotta be able to dial it down. I can use light to knock down the back end, but I'll kind of show you how to trouble shoot that too. Maybe we'll end up shooting an F16, maybe we can do that. So we'll give it a shot, we'll mess around. We'll see what we can do, what works, what doesn't. But before we delve fully into this, I'm gonna kind of go over the act of having a commercial photo shoot, say, in the studio. That brings me to my first quote, "The most important skill a photographer can possess "is the ability to shape light in any way imaginable." and I know it's a very broad statement, but it really is the most important part of your job. Is to not just, I mean, I could shoot my style all day long, put two strip lights down, fill, that's fine. I know that, and I'm pursuing to, I continue to modify it as I grow, but I do shoots that are high-key show about the field all the time I did a packaging shoot that was just on this natural white board and with some fruit, that was it. Shal hooked up the field, Jack worked with me on that project, and it was a lot of fun and it's something different so it, every time I host a shoot, it's completely different, there are not standard shoots so that's where you have to be really flexible and you almost have to be almost McGyver in a sense that there's different riggings that have to happen, you have to know that this is even possible and to try it and to, I mean, I had this planned ahead a little bit, but I'll get stuff out of left field, there's actually somebody who called me yesterday about doing a shoot that was in tandem with a motion shoot so there's a TV set being built, a TV commercial being filmed and they're asking me, not necessarily to just do production stills, where I'm just taking shot of the image kind of in a random kind of way but to actually create aesthetically pleasing commercial shots as if it were in my own studio with cameras moving around with all the chaos of talent and we would be piggy backing the talent a lot of it's out of my control. I don't have control over a lot of elements in that realm so I've gotta go show up on location, if the job is awarded, to New York or L.A. and actually shoot on location, with, knowing nothing but having my team with me, going in just cold, there would be a brief, obviously but to start from the very beginning, somebody will call you and they'll say, for the first time, you'll freak out and hopefully you'll have templates ready for estimating, have an understanding, and we'll go into that in the business section, in depth. But they'll call you and they say, I've gotten everything, actually, from a phone call saying, "Hey, we're a restaurant, "we want an estimate right now "for a restaurant shoot, and we "don't know how many pictures "and we don't know if it's a restaurant, "we just, are calling you." (laughing) All the way to, they'll send me a full layout that's completely hand-drawn and it's beautiful and I know that's the project for me. So, they vary so much and you've gotta be able to handle those calls as individual projects completely on their own, how you deal with people is very important and how you estimate projects accurately is very important, so you'll get a request for a bid, or, for an estimate you'll put together the estimate based on what you think it's gonna cost and we'll go into that more later. And then you'll deliver the estimate and they'll say, usually it's in my case, they're like, "Oh, that's a lot. "That's a lot of money." And it's because I'm really, I charge for, if they do want a copyright buyout, I'm charging a lot for that, and that's becoming more and more common, so I'm just, I'm charging 'em. And then we can negotiate back and forth and see, but a lot of people want ownership of the images right out, but usually what I'll offer them is, I'll change the verbiage, I'll say, Let's do a copyright, let's do a full license, that you can use it however you want for an unlimited duration, but I retain the copyright to use for stock, at a certain point after you're done using, you know, for a year, for something else. That usually brings down the cost a little bit but that's still a pretty broad license. So just the art of understanding what license in a commercial shoot that you're gonna offer and what they want, I mean, 'cause you have to ask. So if you get awarded the job, you're freaking out again, you're like "Oh!" If it's your first, especially, You don't know what to do, it's such a vast, but you really sort of get a handle on it the more you do it, you will fail and you will lose a lot of jobs. I didn't. I got, right out of the gate, I was charging a fair amount and I got 80% of my jobs, which is unheard of for the first year. And they were bigger jobs, they weren't really big but as I progressed, I actually started to get less, I started to kinda go into the normal 50 to 20, you know, there's always competition, and they usually have three photographers or so bid for a job. So what I did is, I think it's just a matter of, there's an excitement, if you're new in town, people wanna kind of work with you, some do, some don't find your style appealing to what their brand is, it's just a, you find the right people who you like to work with, both companies and art directors and art buyers who like what you do and you sort of form these relationships, no matter where they go, they'll always kinda like know you and want to work with you. So, we'll really dive into that, this is just sort of an overview of an actual shoot. The teams that you'll see on a commercial shoot if you're awarded it, there will be pre-production, we'll go into that, but the team is not just my team, it's also the client, it's the art director, it's the creative director, who's usually not on set. There's an art producer, who is probably the one you spoke to at the agency who found you and gave your name to all the art directors. But they'll be on set. They'll be working with you to kind of make sure that the creative is being executed the way they want to see it executed. And they'll work with you, it's a team effort, it really is, it's almost like the food stylist and the photographer, they make you a lot better. They'll come to you and say, "This isn't quite," you know, and it always ends up being better when you work with a really good art director. So, it's both Jack and Melina, and myself, usually on a bigger set, it'll be an art director, it'll be also a brand manager, typically, and they're their to look out for things about the brand are or not being represented the way that the brand is used to being represented in. There's a lot of hands in the pot, and that's just during the shoot. There's stuff before and after. During post production I'll do Photoshop work on an image, send it in. They'll ask for a revision, they'll sometimes ask for three revisions before we get it right in Photoshop, if it's a really complex shot. So there's a lot of work both before and after. So, overcoming those obstacles of the things that will go wrong in a shoot, there are numerous things that will go wrong in a shoot, always. Your camera will break down, I've never had a shoot where just nothing goes wrong, it just doesn't happen. So when you run into that, when you're a pro, you've had enough experience to just kind of let it, I've had computers fail and people say, "You're totally relaxed about that." I'm like, yeah, it's his problem. (laughing) No I'm, but, no, no, but, it's a matter of overcoming it without letting it get to you on set, because they can kinda tell and it's okay to be new, I mean, there's people breaking into this industry all the time, a few years ago I did it, and it was just a matter of learning from your mistakes and not repeating them. You have to get the image done at the end of the day, you have to be at least as good enough to execute anything, even if there are a few errors along the way, and deliver that file. And for the photographer, you saw when we did the shoot, I wasn't up on the camera, hanging out by the, I wasn't Camera Guy, I wasn't looking through, jostling, focusing, I knew the angle that I wanted, I was very, there are some photographers who will search out an angle, they'll kinda move around, that's kinda what I do at the beginning, but when I lock down, it's Lock Down time, because there's usually a layout that determines the angle that you're going to be shooting in. And I just make sure, using tricks, that that angle is executed and that things are propped up, I've had to do shoots, we did a baby food shoot where there were two elements, there were two different packages they were deciding on, they didn't know which one they were doing, and we were shooting. We were in a shoot, they had no idea but, it was in a testing phase. And so they wanted to decide which was the best. So, we were shooting two of the same types of packaging, but one was completely vertical and one was a three-quarter shot in a very natural wood environment, which they eventually, I believe, were deciding it on. But I had to use an entire tub of Vaseline to get the stuff to stand up on top of the, 'cause we we were shooting directly, and there was a crate on the package and they wanted the produce to look like it's coming out of the crate. So, you have to use trickery to force the food to do what their layout says you're going to do. As opposed to just kinda like, well, it's not as loosey-goosey as that, you've really gotta execute the story, or the mood board and the actual layout as closely as possible. So, I was kind of away from the camera and I was just kinda zoomin' around, you know, handling client, handling, you know, talking to Jack about stuff, you really are a director, and photographers are becoming more and more directorial in nature, because there's a lot of clients who will ask for motion, and stills and cinemagraphs, which we all provide. The cinemagraphic side's newer on our end, but we're getting into it. So, you need to be able to provide all that, so I just become the full, just, the vision, and so I see if something's not being executed, I tell, there's a lot to do and you're in a lot of places so, to be bogged down by technology is not a good thing on a set like this. That's where digital tech is so crucial, in those roles. But I have done some solo, I've done a lot of shoots solo, that are packaging, so, it's a lot of work and you can miss stuff. So, how does a shoot work start to finish, I just went through that! I just went, no. (laughs) So, you'll deliver the files, you'll execute the shoot, you'll deliver the files. There'll usually be a couple of rounds edits that go on, not always, a lot of times, they'll take the images right out of your hands and work on 'em themselves, 'cause they have a team in the agency, or whoever, or in the in-house department who works on these images, so you'll lose some control over the final product. It's just how it goes. You have to be okay with that.

Class Description

With the advent of social media foodie culture, food photography is everywhere. The market is saturated with top-down smartphone images of cappuccinos, barley salads, and elaborate toast. This represents a real opportunity for photographers looking to expand their businesses. Professional photographers are in a position to provide high-quality, captivating images of delicious food for clients eager for an alternative to stock photography and social media images.

Join veteran photographer Steve Hansen for this comprehensive basics course, and you’ll learn:

  • How to shoot a beverage, main course, and dessert.
  • How to light and style your shots to get the most compelling images.
  • How to build out your basic studio gear to get the most out of your food styling and photography.

Steve will walk you through the basics of becoming a food photographer by drawing on his own experience as a chef, certified food stylist, and photographer. You’ll learn about the equipment you’ll need; how to interact with food and prop stylists, and direct them during a shoot; how to work with digital technicians and editors; and you’ll learn Steve’s tips for marketing food photography. 


a Creativelive Student

This class has appeal for the beginning food photographer as well as the photographer that is already a bit further advanced on the path. There is quality info about gear and other logistics for the beginner that is absolutely necessary and establishes a strong baseline of knowledge. When Steve starts to shoot then the magic really starts to happen as we get to see into his creative process, how he styles, how he problem solves, how he continues to push the envelope until he comes up with his incredible images. That was the most enlightening part of the whole class...being able to observe an artist in his creative zone. Steve is a master at what he does and whether you are a beginner, intermediate or even advanced photographer, there is something for you in this class. It is well worth the minimal cost of the class. Part of the value of purchasing this class is that you can watch it again and again and again and each time you will walk away with boatloads of info. It is one of those classes that you will go back to again and again and use as a reference point for improving your images. Thanks Steve for being willing to share your gifts and talents to help others! Awesome day!